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Review: Freeway 5.5 Express

Is this the perfect step up from iWeb?

If you are a fan of iWeb you’ll no doubt have been left a little deflated when Apple updated iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand, leaving behind its entry-level website creation tool. We understand your pain but think that you should see this as an opportunity to go out and find an alternative.
One of the many options available to you is Freeway. It comes in both Pro and Express flavours. We are looking at the much cheaper but more limited Express version. You’ll be happy to know, however, that even Softpress’ less feature-packed offering makes iWeb look like a one-trick pony. When you load the software you are greeted, as you are with most software these days, by a template chooser. Once you’ve picked a baseline design to start you off, you enter into the editing window. Here, you will find the interface looks a little more sparse than the iWeb interface and as a newcomer to the software it may not be immediately apparent what you need to do to get started.

Click Image to Enlarge

We highly recommend that you take a minute or two to check out the video tutorials on the Softpress website. They reside in the Support section and are the perfect way to see just how easy-to-use the software is. We readily admit, however, that the website being created in the video isn’t as inspiring as it could be. It’s certainly not as vibrant as anything Apple would do. Don’t let that hinder your learning curve though, as there are some important elements in there you’ll need to grasp the basics of the software. Once you’ve done that you can return to the app and begin the process of building your site.
Unfortunately you can’t load iWeb files into Freeway and continue the evolution of your existing site. You can, however, create everything you can in iWeb using Freeway with a ton of perks on top. The main similarity between Freeway and iWeb is the most important one; both let you create websites as if the software were page layout rather than code-based. So, in Freeway Express, as in iWeb, you can drag and drop elements onto the page, drag them around and add all manner of cool elements to the website as a whole like image galleries, videos, links, text and loads more.

Of course you’ll have to get used to the way things work in Freeway. The toolbar at the top of the interface allows you to add different elements to the page. Once you’ve added these elements, contextual menus using a right-click can be actioned to manipulate, arrange and refine the new contents of each element. Should you add these elements to the master page (located top-left of the navigation section) the changes will be applied across the entire breadth of your website. This is an important and useful feature that you can take full advantage of to make sure your website has the correct continuity. Our other favourite feature is the ease with which you can preview your site, something that can become laborious in iWeb. In Freeway, you can use a click of the browser icon to instantly generate your site into your web browser. This lets you see the site as it should look, and includes live links to make the whole thing handily navigable. Photo galleries are created by another app called Showcase, which simplifies the generation process. You load all the images into Showcase and then simply send that file into your Freeway design. That way any changes to the slideshow can be completed without fear of it altering the look or functionality of the webpage. MobileMe customers can use one- button publishing, just like they could with iWeb, and those using hosting can also upload easily in a couple of clicks.

As a step up from iWeb, Freeway is the perfect app for those who’ve grown out of Apple’s built-in web design app. The software isn’t as instantly accessible as iWeb, but handy online videos and a logically organised feature set make it easy to manage with a little effort. The benefit of a sparser, more clinical interface is a setup that can gr

ow with your skill-set, offering many more advanced features to build cooler, classier webpages.
Freeway isn’t available on the Mac App Store but it still offers stunning value as a direct download. The benefit of not being on the store is that you can download a demo and test the software before shelling out, something we highly recommend.