iLife’s integration is not a taste of the future for computer users. It’s here now. It works. It’s cool. Apple’s new iWeb application, included in iWeb, will change how web pages are constructed. Goodbye BBEdit.
I don’t want to gush, but I’m having difficult controlling my view of iWeb. My first web pages were built using a simple text editor. We’ve come a long way, baby.
I cheered when building pages became point and click. Tweaking code by hand is OK and I’ve done my share, but it’s tedious and usually generates migraines.
Rapidweaver and now Sandvox have taken web page design to new levels of quality and professional look. Steve Jobs’ graphic in the keynote was telling. Ugly pages are easy. Beautiful web pages are difficult.
That ends with iWeb. Very beautiful pages are very easy.
iWeb lets you use drag and drop, point and click to build XHTML and CSS standard web pages. Publish to a .Mac account or to a folder on your Mac (to upload to your web site, or burn to a DVD or CD).
The former is automatic, the latter is just easy.
To get an idea of how well iWeb works for producing beautiful web pages, look at the rest of the iLife suite of applications. iTunes handles music as good as it gets.
iMovie and iPhoto are best of breed in combining ease of use to what are really complex tasks. Garageband is a very powerful recording application (considering the price). What’s easier that iDVD?
That same approach finally went into a web page development application. In fact, I can’t even call it “web page development.” It’s really a “web site” that you build. “Development” doesn’t match your effort to build the site.
Why? There’s no effort. I’m not kidding. Look, I’ve been doing this for over 10 years starting with building pages by hand. I’m having difficulty figuring out how iWeb could be any easier or how you could make the pages look any better.
iWeb starts with a site theme and page templates. Apple gives you a bunch from which to choose.
The themes are attractive web pages which would take awhile to code, let alone add content.
When you select a theme, you’re presented with additional pages, called templates. A Welcome page, an About Me page, a Photos page, a Movie page, a Blog page, and a Podcast page.
They’re prebuilt. They’re attractive. They’re integrated. There’s 12 themes with six templates for each. They’re just waiting for you to enter or paste or drag and drop content.
Even though they are templates, you can modify each page however you wish without touching the underlying XHTML or CSS code. Ever.
There are some drawbacks to this template approach as a site gets larger, and I’ll cover that later. For now, enjoy it.
Select a site theme and a page template—say the Welcome page (as the home page for the site). After that, it’s all drag and drop.
iWeb also uses the iLife Media Browser which lets you drop in Music from iTunes, Photos and Albums from iPhoto, a Podcast (photo or video) from Garageband, and Movies from your collection or iMovie.
Photos and graphic elements can be repositioned as if you were using iWork or a page layout program. All the page elements can move around, lay on top of one another, or be resized—just like page layout elements.
Except it’s a web page as part of a web site—all managed by iWeb. No, not just a single site. Manage many sites, one after the other. I haven’t determined if there’s a limit to the number of sites or pages.
Starting a page from a template is easy. Remove the sample text from content or headlines and replace it with your own. Resize as needed. Reposition as needed. Move things around until you’re pleased with the layout.
Add more text content, photos, movies, music, buttons, and other web page elements, including links to other pages or web sites. No XHTML or CSS worries.
If you’ve seen iWork in action or used a page layout application, you’ll get the idea rather quickly.
Elements on a web page now work just like the elements on a page layout app. Apple takes care of all the XHTML and CSS requirements behind the scenes.
Moving photos or images into iWeb is equally simple. iLife now has a Media Browser, so pulling photos from iPhoto or Albums is drag and drop.
You can even drag a photo and drop it into a photo zone already set up in the page template, or drop it anywhere and move it around. Trust me. It’s that easy.
Double-clicking the image lets you scale it larger or smaller (it tends to adopt the size of the template). Then use the Inspector (another tool from iWork) to add shadow, modify the color, rotate the image (try that using XHTML and Photoshop), even add the nifty “reflection” on the bottom of the image.
Images have handles on the edges. Drag out to make the image larger, drag in to reduce the image size.
Guess what? Images and graphic elements can overlap or rotate. Or both. Try it. Text can be modified to “wrap around” a graphic element or image (takes some work, though).
The Inspector takes a little getting used to as some tools show up in multiple places, but it’s avery minor annoyance.
Changing an image or text in the main viewer work space results in instant changes. So far, everything I’ve thrown at it looks the same in Safari as a fully rendered XHTML and CSS page.
I accidentally grabbed an Album from iPhoto which had 30 photos in it, and dropped it into a photo template in iWeb. Wooooosh. My page had 30 photos, perfectly positioned (though long) and laid out. Sweet.
You don’t even have to be in iWeb to bring photos from iPhoto. iPhoto has a menu selection which allows you to send photos to iWeb for inclusion in a Photo page or a Blog page. Back to iWeb to add captions or re-arrange the photos.
Remember those image tools from iPhoto? They’re in iWeb, too.
Adjust an image on the fly in iWeb so it matches the web page color scheme. Can you say “sepia tone?”
Apple builds a Blog into iWeb as a page template. While not as comprehensive as a professional CMS application using PHP and MySQL (Mac360), the average Mac user will be able to create a very attractive Blog in minutes (Mac360 took longer—trust me).
Each new entry to the Blog shows up on top of the last, including a photo (if you had one). iWeb even builds the complicated Blog Archive page. Automatically.
Photos are still drag and drop. Music, too.
Podcasting is all the rage these days. Ron and I will cover that in more detail in the Garageband and iMovie reviews. Suffice it to say, creating a Podcast for a web site cannot be much easier unless you hire someone.
Garageband does the recording. Mix and match music background, different voices, iChat voices, photos and movies, and send the whole production as a finished Podcast to your iWeb Podcast page.
iWeb handles the RSS update, the links, and everything else needed. Podcast pages work the same as Blog pages. New ones on top, older Podcasts below, the Archive page is generated automatically.
Did I mention that you do NOT need a .Mac account for all this? Publish in one click to .Mac, or one click to save the whole site to your Mac. Burn it as a CD or upload to your own web site.
iMovie HD integrates with iWeb, too. Create a video Podcast using your video camera and iMovie HD, then click it over to iWeb for publishing. iMovie and iWeb collaborate to make the video Podcast the right size for the iPod.
iWeb then adds a “Subscribe” button so users can click and subscribe to your Podcast and be notified automatically when you update it. Hello? Do you know how much trouble all that used to be? You know? Waaaaay back last week?
Each page in the web site (the template pages) gets an automatic navigation link to the other pages so you don’t have to worry about building links to connect all the pages.
If you’ve always wanted to do a web site but were afraid of the complexity, the fear ends with iWeb. If you’ve done web sites, the only fear is that nearly anyone can build an attractive web site with all the multimedia goodies in a fraction of the time.
What’s missing? Automation tools. For example, let’s say you’ve built a web site with a dozen pages. If you want to change the header or footer on each of the 12 pages (add new address, or graphic element) you have to do so one page at a time until all 12 pages are updated.
Cut and paste makes it easy, but 12 times (or more, as the site gains pages) makes it cumbersome.
Professional CMS applications let you make a single change that’s automatically updated on every page in the site. I expect to see that kind of tool in future versions; say, next year when we pay the annual Apple iLife Tax again.
iWeb is a great tool for web design and integrates media very well. So well, it’s worth money by itself. As it is, combined with the other iLife applications, makes for a very compelling reason to buy a Mac.
Integration and sharing. Apple knows how to do that. Look for more. Image how Apple would redefine an Office application. Hmmmm.