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iLife 06 Review Part 3: iWeb

This is the third in a series of articles reviewing Apple’s iLife 06 software suite. Applications will be reviewed in this order: iPhoto, GarageBand, iWeb, iMovie, iDVD, and iLife summary. I will not be reviewing iTunes because iTunes 6 has been out for a while, and it’s ubiquitous. Also, the score on this page reflects this application only, not the suite as a whole. Hie thee, make haste! Read forth!

The concept of an easy-to-use web site creation application has been around for quite some time. Claris Home Page comes to mind. More recently, applications such as RapidWeaver have been developed to fill this market. iLife itself has had some very rudimentary web creation capabilities, but those have been limited to photo albums in iPhoto and such. Enter iWeb. iWeb brings a more complete set of web creation tools (and a decidedly plain name) to iLife 06, such as blog creation. While iWeb will be a boon to most home users, more advanced users (e.g. those who have moved beyond iWeb but not into the realm of professional toold like Dreamweaver) will find iWeb much too limited.

iWeb’s user interface borrows from other applications such as iTunes and iPhoto, with a touch of Pages spliced in for good measure. The application window has a source list to the left, an editing pane to the right, and a small toolbar along the bottom of the editing pane. It’s a vintage Apple UI in its simplicity. Creating a new page is as simple as pressing a “+” button located in the lower left corner of the main window (a button to publish and visit your site also live down there). Like the other iLife 06 applications, iWeb sports the smooth metal look that debuted with iTunes 5.

Uploaded Image

iWeb document handling is rather unusual. At first, you might wonder if iWeb is broken, because it does not ask you to save a project file the way that iMovie does, for example. It took me a while to figure out that iWeb does not create any HTML pages until you click publish; it stores all the information on what you create in a file called “Domain” at ~/Library/Application Support/iWeb/. As such, iWeb can be considered a web design tool, but not an HTML editor. Your HTML code does not exist at all until you decide to publish. It’s a little odd. For the basic user, it’s a non-issue, however it does limit you from, say, copying a project from one computer to another (say, from an iMac to an iBook). I don’t know why Apple took this approach; I can only assume that Apple assumed that users would be scared by HTML code (in which case, they could have made iWeb create a document package, much like what iMovie does).

Uploaded Image

iWeb comes with a number of themes to use with your site; each theme has templates for a welcome page, blog, photo album, “about me” page, movie, or podcast page. The themes are polished and generally attractive. True to form, Apple has made it absurdly easy for users to create good-looking web sites with very little effort. iWeb supports inline editing, so there is no need to toggle between an edit mode and preview mode. As such, iWeb is very much like Pages, and it makes editing pages about as easy as it could possibly be. iWeb includes an image adjustment panel straight out of iPhoto, so you can tweak the saturation, contrast, brightness, exposure, etc… of an image easily. I’m disappointed by the fact that there is no blank template for each theme, or blank theme. Also, there is no way to use iWeb to edit the code itself (see above for an explaination why). On top of that, once you choose a theme and template for a page, you can not change it later on. If you want to use a different theme than the one you picked, you’ll have to recreate the page (I think Apple accidentally left this feature out; it’s so obvious!). These aspects make iWeb seem rather inflexible.

The application itself is generally responsive. For example, images resize smoothly and there seems to be little lag time most of the time, even on my 1.2 GHz iBook G4. However, there are some areas where performance could be improved. For example, scrolling through the iPhoto tab in the media browser can be painful. Some of the image adjustment tasks can spawn a beachball. I’ve also run into points where iWeb hangs for a minute and eats up my processor cycles, bringing my entire system to a screeching halt. Overall, though, responsiveness is not bad for a 1.0 application. iWeb is a disk space hog, though, weighing in at a beefy 630 megabytes! Yikes! If you know what you’re doing, you can get it down to about 130 by removing the extra language support files. Still, that’s way heavy, considering the competition can do similar tasks as iWeb and only take up roughly 13 MB of disk space. The actual executable is 3.6 MB; most of the bloat is due to resources (image resources, localizations, themes, etc...) and frameworks. Of course, what makes it worse is that each language has its own set of templates, which greatly adds to the app’s girth. I hope Apple realizes that a lot of people don’t have 160 GB hard drives yet and works to streamline the next version of iWeb a bit.

Uploaded Image

iWeb is heavily integrated into .mac. If you have a .mac account, uploading a site to .mac is as easy as clicking the “Publish” button. iWeb will also ask you to make sure you are not violating any copyright laws before publishing. If you are not willing to pay $99 per year for .mac, you can still use iWeb, but must publish to a folder. Most likely, this will be on your hard drive. If you use FTP to upload your site to your server, you will have to pay for an FTP client or use a free one like Cyberduck. The lack of FTP support in iWeb is annoying to say the least.

Now we’re diving into some geeky territory: the quality of the HTML and CSS code that iWeb generates. I took a simple photo gallery page (full of MWSF photos) using the “Black” theme and “published” it to my desktop (more like “saved"). I ran the HTML document through the W3 Validator, and the code turned out to be valid XHTML Transitional. As always, it’s good to see Apple--and any company for that matter--embrace web standards. However, the generated code itself is rather ugly. Here’s a small sample:

<body style="background: #000000; margin: 0pt; " onload="onPageLoad();">
<
div style="text-align: center; "><div style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; overflow: hidden; position: relative;  background: #000000; height: 3236px; width: 700px; " id="bodyContent"><div style="height: 46px; left: 0px; position: absolute; top: 0px; width: 700px; " id="nav_layer"><div style="background: transparent; border: 1px #000000 none; float: none; height: 46px; left: 0px; margin: 0px; position: absolute; top: 0px; width: 700px; z-index: 1; "><div style="background: transparent url(MWSF%2006_files/navbar_active.png) no-repeat scroll center; height: 36px; left: 305px; position: absolute; top: 7px; width: 90px; z-index: 1; " id="id1"></div>
</
div>
</
div>
<
div style="height: 3040px; left: 0px; position: absolute; top: 46px; width: 700px; " id="body_layer"><div style="background: transparent; border: 1px #000000 none; float: none; margin: 0px;  height: 66px; left: 35px; position: absolute; top: 117px; width: 630px; z-index: 1; " id="id2"><div><div><div style="margin: 4px; "><div class="paragraph Body" style="line-height: 20px; padding-bottom: 0pt; padding-top: 0pt; ">Some totally awesome photos from Macworld San Francisco 2006.</div>
</
div>
</
div>
</
div>
</
div>

In case you do not have any web design experience, what you see above is an example of what not to do when coding a web site: divitis (the overuse of ‘div’ tags). And the use of inline styles? That’s what CSS stylesheets are for, Apple! Yuck.

iWeb is a solid 1.0 release. It covers most of the basics and the output is beautiful. However, iWeb is definitely not a very advanced tool. If you toyed with iWeb and are looking for the next step up, something along the lines of RapidWeaver or Sandvox (in public beta) may be worth checking out. Either way, despite its shortcomings (and there are a number of them), iWeb is a welcome addition to iLife.

Previously in this series

  1. iLife 06 Review Part 1: iPhoto
  2. iLife 06 Review Part 2: Garageband

3.5

Pros:
+Makes creating web sites ridiculously easy
+Templates are attractive, well designed
+Integrated well with other iLife apps

Cons:
-Is thin on more advanced features (like, you know, changing the theme or template after creating the page)
-Eats a lot of hard disk space
-Document handling strange, un Mac-like
-Generated HTML code bulky, sloppy
-No FTP upload support

  • Developer: Apple Computer, Inc.
  • Price: iLife 06: $79 US
  • Website: http://www.apple.com
  • Requirements: PowerPC G4 or G5, or Intel Core Processor; 256 MB RAM (512 recommended); Mac OS X 10.3.9 or 10.4.3 or later (10.4.4 recommended); QuickTime 6.0.2 or later (7.0.4 recommended); DVD drive to install

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thinkback

1.

iWeb does share the same idea as RapidWeaver - make attractive website creation simple for everyone. But the two programs have different methods of accomplishing that goal. iLife does indeed borrow a great deal from the Pages interface. Website design with iWeb truly is WYSIWYG. RapidWeaver lets the user toggle between edit and preview modes which isn’t quite as friendly for the beginner. But the payoff is the ability to enter HTML code where that type of control is beneficial.

Check out my blog for a comparison and my thoughts on the two programs.

2.

Save some hard drive space (~300MB!) by deleting languages you don’t use.  Find the application icon in the Finder, pick info, select the languages you don’t use in the Languages box, then click Delete.  Empty the trash.

3.

I’ve been using Home Page, but worry about its age and dependance on Classic mode.
But I can drop a spreadsaheet onto it to create a table.
I haven’t seen any comment about iWeb’s ability (or inability) to do that.

4.

Neville,
As far as I could tell, you can not do that in iWeb.

5.

I agree. 630 is insane. I’m getting a bit peeved at Apple making its applications bloatware—iWeb is probably the best example of that yet. So definitely remove those language files and check out this neat little tool: DesInstaller.

6.

Although it won’t make a bit of difference to the general user, the ~/Library/Application Support/iWeb/Domain.sites file is actually a package.

By control/right clicking on Domain.sites and selecting ‘Show package contents’, one can see the files that were copied and saved into it during its creation.

7.

iPhoto, GarageBand, iWeb, iMovie, and iLife summary.

What about iDVD?

8.

iDVD will be after iMovie.

9.

Has nobody but me looked at the file size that iWeb spits out. In some designs, they’re downright criminal. In all cases they are way, way beyond anything you’d want for any but the absolutely fastest connection, which over 75% of Americans don’t have. It’s like putting a lawnmower engine in a Ferrari. Great looks, nice user interface, verrrrrrry slow download speeds for the finished pages.

10.

Ohhhh, yeah; the code output is awful. The app itself is packing on the megabytes too.

11.

Tracked: glaucousnesses

Deep Thought: iLife 06 Review Part 3: iWeb

Tracked on: glaucousnesses at 22-Feb-13 22:25 PM

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