An Overview of Rapidweaver Features
Rapidweaver 4 by Realmac, is billed as a complete, advanced, user-friendly web design app out of the box. After using this software in version 3 for 6 months and version 4 for 3 months I would have to say that Rapidweaver 4 is "nearly" complete, beginning to intermediate in capabilities, and somewhat user friendly.
Rapidweaver 4 is a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) design platform for Mac users (Mac native app) that enables a beginner to create sites from the 40 included design themes or for an intermediate designer to create one from scratch using HTML, PHP, or CSS. I find that I can even add html within each theme that allows for a bit of "side by side" design.
The Themes of Rapidweaver 4
The 40 themes cover a variety of uses and uselessness. There are primarily great blog looking themes, a couple business themes, and a few "hobby" style themes. To get really cool and more original themes, additional theme addons will need to be purchased. The text and text style of each theme can be modified somewhat easily and some themes offer modification of header images, color, and texture look. However, to really drill down into the artwork color and size precisely, an additional plug in (RW Multi Tool) will need to be purchased (get used to that phrase!).
Rapidweaver 4 Page Types:
Rapidweaver ships with 10 different page types that can be used to create your website. The most commonly used style is the "Styled Text" page, which incorporates the look of the theme in header and side bar(s) but is customizable in the body using text, images, or video.
The second most important page style is the "Contact Form" which I absolutely love. It is easy to set up and somewhat easy to customize to accomplish a very professional contact form for businesses.
The other page styles are: Blog Page, File Sharing page, iframe, html (to create or import a page from html), Movie Album, and Quicktime (which both seem to accomplish the same thing), and something called an "Offsite Page".
The 10th page style is the worst of the bunch: Photo Album page using iPhoto - first of all, iPhoto is miserable photo management software to begin with. It was bad under Tiger (10.4+) and is even WORSE under Leopard and Snow Leopard (10.5+). But that is a different review.
The photo album page in Rapidweaver 4, works? with your iphoto library and, like iphoto, offers NO customization of handling or appearance and always looks hokie and hacked together. To put decent photos together in a photo album page style...are you ready for this? You will need to purchase an additional plug in.
Another page style that is missing from the basic set is called the "Site Map" page style. Every professional site should have a site map (not so important for personal sites) and if you want to build a site map quickly and easily, you guessed it, you will have to buy an additional plug in. The plugins are usually about $10-15 so they are still reasonable but it seems that so many are needed that the price of the software can nearly double just with functional plug in buys.
A person can easily add keyword, description, and title meta tags to each page of their design quite easily. I found that I could also quickly and easily add my favicon and Google analytics code to my entire site by pasting the code in a pre-determined box in the site set up menu.
The Rapidweaver 4 Interface:
Nothing special, and that is an understatement. It looks like the developers at Realmac are stuck in 1997 and don't realize that many serious computer users today have systems utilizing dual screens. When Rapidweaver first opens, it is a big single bulky blank screen with a few unintelligible buttons along the top. Once you select the "Add" button, a selector window pops up with a list of the pagetypes you can create. It disappears once a style is selected which keeps it clean for single monitor users but is annoying for people with monitor real estate to spare.
The button bar at the top is customizable like the standard OS 10 windows which is nice. However there are a couple critical design menus that need to stay open constantly but "disappear" after a modification is made. This would be the "page info" and "setup" boxes. They used to remain open in version 3 but that feature has regressed in version 4.
The main window is annoyingly designed for one screen as well in that it requires toggling back and forth to see a preview and the editor menu. Unlike Dreamweaver, Photoshop, or any other design app, there isn't a feature to customize your window layout. It would take nothing at all to put a feature in like this but now in version 4 they seem to be going backward to "pull down" menus for functionality.
Publishing with Rapidweaver 4
This function works pretty well but has its "glitchy" moments. Once you have finished designing your site and are ready to publish it to your domain. You can either select "publish" from the pull down menu or you can customize the toolbar above the main (only) window by adding the publish 'button' for a shortcut. It will then ask you for your ftp information and away you go! Rapidweaver chokes on large files and will utterly seize up. Apparently, Rapidweaver designers, as I've previously pointed out don't quite understand that we live in the 2010's and big files are a part of life for website design, however, as long as you keep the file under 85mb you should be OK.
This causes a problem for video producers like me that have to ftp files for clients to approve
The software allows you to "republish all files" and has a second choice to just "publish site" neither of which are clear as to what function the command is actually carrying out. That is an annoying change with version 4 as version 3 used to have "publish site" and "publish changes to site" which made it clear what was being sent up.
This becomes a problem when you find that Rapidweaver is constantly republishing large files that you already have online, whether you want it to or not.
Another publishing glitch is if you have a blog page registered with Technorati, you will get an error code EVERY time you try to ping Technorati with changes to your blog. Just get used to it. There is no getting around it.
One nice feature for iweb users is the ability to publish to your MobileMe account as opposed to your ftp address. Lastly, if you are clueless as to the first step about launching or hosting a site, realmac offers website hosting which works with Rapidweaver. Keep in mind, this is very similar to buying a bag of popcorn at the movies. You will pay a fortune and receive a fraction of what you could buy "on the outside".
I haven't yet had issues with Rapidweaver that I couldn't rectify (or live with) myself and when I have had weird issues like I mentioned above, there is a large forum on the realmac site and a thriving Rapidweaver community throughout one or two of the internets.
The manual is in PDF form and is basically just a glorified brochure with a glossary. It did help me get started and work through some very basic issues but if you want to REALLY get into this software, don't look to the manual.
Rapidweaver 4 Bottom Line:
Yes, I know I have bagged on this software for 3 pages but I do like what I've done with it so far (examples: [...] etc) It is software that is heads and shoulders above iweb and Sandvox, is not as advanced or difficult to learn as Dreamweaver, and, in my opinion, has an overall cleaner and more professional look than Wordpress. Its chief competitor is probably Freeway by Softpress. Freeway is twice the price of Rapidweaver but when you add all the obligatory plug ins on RW the price difference is drastically reduced.
Overall for the price, Rapidweaver is worth every penny so far, despite the glitches and interface shortcomings.