In this article by Joe Workman, the author of RapidWeaver Beginner’s Guide, we will learn the basics of RapidWeaver. Mainly, we will cover the following topics:
- What is RapidWeaver?
- Installing RapidWeaver
- Creating our first web page
- Publishing our website on the Internet
So strap your seat belts on and let’s have some fun!
What is RapidWeaver?
RapidWeaver is a web development and design application for Mac that was developed by Realmac Software. It allows you to build stunning, professional websites very easily. RapidWeaver has both the novice and professional web designer covered. If you don’t know (or don’t want to know) how to code, RapidWeaver supports full code-free creation of your website; from blogs to site maps, photo albums to contact forms, you can build your entire website without a single line of code!
RapidWeaver’s theme engine is a godsend for those users who are design challenged. However, it’s also for those who don’t want to spend time developing a site theme as they can leverage the work that some amazing theme developers have already done. Yeah, this includes me too! RapidWeaver ships with over 45 stunning themes built-in. This means that you can have a website that was designed by some world-class web designers. Each theme can be customized to your liking with just a few clicks. If you ever get tired of how your website looks, you can change your theme as often as you like. And your website content will remain 100 percent intact.
Once you have your website fully constructed, RapidWeaver makes it very simple to publish your website online. It will be able to publish to pretty much every web host around through its native support for both FTP and SFTP. You will be able to publish your website for the world to see with a single click.
iWeb versus RapidWeaver versus Dreamweaver
RapidWeaver is most commonly compared with both iWeb and Dreamweaver. While there are definitely direct feature comparisons, we are trying to compare apples with oranges. RapidWeaver is a great tool that falls somewhere between iWeb at one end of the scale and Dreamweaver at the other end.
Apple’s iWeb was their first foray into personal web development software. In true Apple fashion, the application was extremely user friendly and developed beautiful websites. However, the application was really geared towards users who wanted to create a small website to share family photos and maybe have a blog. iWeb was not very extensible at all. If you ever wanted to try to steer outside the bounds of the default templates, you had to drive directly into full custom HTML. One of the biggest downsides that I came across was that once you choose the look and feel of your site, there was no going back. If you wanted to change the theme of your website, you had to redo every single page manually! For those of you who love the drag-and-drop abilities of iWeb, look no further than the RapidWeaver Stacks plugin from YourHead Software.
Apple has acknowledged iWeb’s shortcomings by pretty much removing iWeb from its lineup. You cannot purchase iWeb from Apple’s Mac App Store. Furthermore, if you look at Apple’s iLife page on their website, all traces of iWeb have been removed—if this is not a clear sign of iWeb’s future, I don’t know what is.
Now, let’s jump to the opposite end of the spectrum with Adobe Dreamweaver. Dreamweaver has a much steeper learning curve than RapidWeaver (not to mention a much steeper price tag). Dreamweaver has a lot of capability for site management and can be used collaboratively on projects, and is designed to play well with Adobe’s other design software. The Adobe Creative Suite with Dreamweaver is the package of choice for very large organizational websites being developed and managed by a team, or for complex dynamic sites. I am talking about websites such as http://www.apple.com or http://www.nytimes.com. For individual and small to mid-sized business websites, I can’t think of a reason why one would prefer Dreamweaver to RapidWeaver.
So as I stated at the beginning, RapidWeaver provides a perfect middle ground for novice web designers and geeky code lovers!
It’s more than an app
So far, I have talked about the RapidWeaver application itself. However, RapidWeaver is so much more than just an application. The user community that has been built around the RapidWeaver product is like nothing I have seen with any other application. The RapidWeaver forums hosted by Realmac are by far the most active and useful forums that I have seen. Users and developers spend countless hours helping each other with tips and tricks on design, code, and product support.
It’s a worldwide community that is truly active 24/7. You can find the forums at http://forums.realmacsoftware.com.
A part of the success of the strong RapidWeaver community is the strong third-party developers that exist. RapidWeaver provides a strong and flexible platform for developers to extend the application beyond its default feature set. There are currently three primary ways to extend your RapidWeaver application: Themes, Plugins, and Stacks.
As you may guess, third-party theme developers design custom themes that go above and beyond the themes that ship out of the box with RapidWeaver. With the number of amazing theme developers out there, it would be impossible not to develop a site that fits your style and looks amazing.
RapidWeaver ships with 11 page styles out of the box.
- Contact Form
- File Sharing
- HTML Code
- Movie Album
- Offsite Page
- Photo Album
- Styled Text
However, RapidWeaver plugins can create even more page styles for you. There are a plethora of different page plugins from calendars to file uploads, and shopping carts to image galleries.
To illustrate the power of RapidWeaver’s platform, YourHead Software developed the Stacks plugin for fluid page layout. The Stacks plugin created an entire new class of third-party RapidWeaver developer: the stack developer! A stack is simply a widget that can be used as a building block to construct your web page. There are stacks for just about anything: animated banners, menu systems, photo galleries, or even full-blown blog integrations. If you can dream it up, there is probably a stack for it! If you have visited my website, then you should know that my origins in the RapidWeaver community are as a Stacks Developer. I think that Stacks is amazing and should probably be the first plugin that you should consider acquiring.
Realmac Software has added a section on their website in order to make it easier for users to explore and locate useful third-party add-ons. So make sure that you go check it out and peruse through all the great themes, plugins, and stacks! You can browse the add-ons at http://www.realmacsoftware.com/addons.