We like design. We like web tools on the Mac. We have favorite tools, and a list of tools we don’t like.
Enter version 4.0 of Freeway. Pro and Express. Finally, there’s something to like.
Whatever you’re using on your Mac to create web pages, we’ve used it. Among our favorites we count the right stuff from simple and free to expensive and feature laden.
From TextWrangler and SEEdit mini (free) to the Dreamweaver and Firworks combo (expensive), we’ve tried every tool and settled on those that work best.
In between the low end and the high end are a stable of Mac applications that still find a place on our Macs at Mac360. Rapidweaver, BBEdit, NVu, HTML Creator, HTML Optimizer, PageSpinner, StyleMaster, TacoHTML Edit, CSS Edit and many others. You get the idea.
Among those on the List to Avoid™ have been the gargantuan Adobe GoLive (was good many years ago, but what happened?) and the confusing Freeway Pro and Freeway Express.
Both applications have their friends and family and fanatics, but haven’t compared well to the list of tools above. GoLive is middle aged and showing its age.
Freeway seems to get a little better with age. Just like Bambi.
The latest iterations of each deserve some consideration if creating web pages is what you’re after, and quick results is what you demand.
Freeway’s claim to fame has always been the ‘page layout’ approach to creating web pages. Think of InDesign or PageMaker and how intuitive page layout programs can be.
That was Freeway. That is Freeway. Except the new Freeway has had an extreme makeover event, is loaded with new features and sports a new interface.
Both Freeway4Pro and Free4Express get the makeover and become worthy of attention, consideration, and a trial.
One of the previous complaints about earlier versions of Free was the HTML and CSS code. Messy code was a phrase you’d hear often when referring to Freeway.
Today’s Freeway4 generates strict and transitional XHTML code and pristine CSS, just like Rapidweaver. While Rapidweaver goes heavy into the templates arena, Freeway stays true to its page layout roots.
WYSIWYG was important to earlier versions of Freeway, and remains important today. That’s no mean feat for an application using a design metaphor.
XHTML and CSS, for all the hoopla, don’t always generate on screen what you have in your brain. Freeway comes close.
What I like about the new versions is straightforward. It’s easy to get into the page layout metaphor as many of us already have roots there.
Adding precise CSS control is an excellent touch and Freeway’s implementation is simple, accurate for absolute positioning, and relative positioning of web page content elements.
Standards compliant XHTML and CSS is a must, but Freeway still excels at the effects generation of boxes and text effects. They’re a touch that make Freeway-designed pages look fully different than what you get with Dreamweaver and Fireworks, yet at much lower cost.
Creating master pages in Freeway is not a snap. Again, the metaphor for design is different than what most of us are used to. However, once you see how easy it is to create multiple master pages (those elements that get repeated again and again on different pages), you’ll stop using templates in Dreamweaver.
Freeway’s layout tools are as intuitive as they are plentiful. Drag and drop is a Mac hallmark and it’s a breeze to drag and drop elements into a web page design without messing up the underlying code.
Another feature I love and which is showing up in other design applications is the Safari/Webkit. That means Freeway’s preview function uses the same rendering engine as Safari. Safari’s page rendering may be the best on the web, though you’ll still need to check your code against MSIE and Firefox (Mac and Windows).
I was never happy with earlier versions of Freeway’s tools interface, even though I’ve used PageMaker and InDesign for years on print projects.
The Freeway4 experience is a welcome change. There’s an Inspector (similar to other Mac applications) that resizes based on the tools you need for a specific selection.
Pop up menus are contextual and work with Control-Click or Right-Click (as God intended). Every graphic requirement I could think of is already built-in, thanks to Tiger compatibility.
Freeway comes in two versions; Freeway4Pro and Freeway4Express. With Pro you get multiple output options, different encodings, an automated link map, better palette control, and the ability to use full CSS styling and layout. Even document spelling is available in the Pro version.
$99 gets you Freeway4Express. $299 for the Pro version. That’s pricey, but there’s also a free trial version so you can check it out over a period of time.
SoftPress’ Freeway has, like the Mac, a loyal following and a ‘think different’ attitude. They’re Mac though and through, as evidenced by their site being powered on Mac OS X Server.