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First Look: Freeway 5 webpage designer

updated 01:25 pm EDT, Mon April 21, 2008

First Look: Freeway 5

Designing webpages is often a compromise. Hardcore enthusiasts may prefer hand-coding entire pages, which allows precise control in exchange for complexity; novices often prefer simplified programs, with templates that do most of the work for you, but this often comes at the cost of customization. Even professional programs like Adobe's Dreamweaver requires designers to learn the complexities of HTML coding in order to create the results they want. If you'd rather spend your time designing the appearance of pages rather than learning the complexities of HTML or Javascript coding, you may prefer Freeway 5, which feels more like a desktop publishing program that lets you precisely drag and position items on a page.

One convenient feature is the program's use of master pages. Essentially, a master page contains items or layouts used in multiple secondary pages. For example, if every page contains a company logo in the upper-left corner, and the same background image along the left and right margins, you could design this on a master page rather than separately on two or more copies. As the design of a master page shifts, Freeway automatically alters the content of any associated file.

For greater flexibility, the program even allows you to create multiple master pages. One master might define the layout of pages displaying text, while a second might define the appearance of pages that need to display mostly pictures.



To help you align items on a page, the program offers guide lines, which appear as colored items that you can hide or display. If you need to precisely align elements, you can type exact dimensions into an Inspector window that defines the position and size of every item on a page.

Every website design tool lets you insert text boxes and pictures, but Freeway goes one step further and lets you add elements such as checkboxes, buttons, navigation bars, Google maps and advertisements. Choose what you want to add to a page, define its size and position, and Freeway worries about the details of the actual HTML code needed.



Since text makes up the bulk of most websites, the program offers multiple ways to display text in different shapes, fonts, colors, and styles. If you need to add graphic elements to a web page, the program can import Illustrator and Photoshop files, along with commonly-used JPEG and GIF images and any pictures stored in your iPhoto library.

After placing an image, you can resize, rotate, and even reshape it. Instead of relying on a rectangular format, Freeway can mold the shape of an image into an oval, ellipse or any other shape you're willing to take time on, through dragging and manipulating edges. Shadows and glow can be added for greater customization.



Most sites meld text and graphics, but few pages these days are static, with developers preferring to focus on interactivity. To create such interaction normally requires knowledge of a programming language like JavaScript, but Freeway eliminates this problem by offering a library of pre-built JavaScript functions called Actions. One Action, for instance, is used for when site visitors mouse over a menu item, and changes its colors to indicate a live link and not just a decorative graphic. With other programs, you might be forced to write (and test) this code yourself.

Most websites consist of a collection of separate pages, so to help you keep track of the way they're linked together, the program displays a handy link map. By glancing at this map, you can see exactly which pages connect to a others, including the one you're concentrated on.



When you're done creating your site, the program offers a built-in FTP client for posting your files to a .Mac account or regular hosting service. To save time, the program examines your existing files and only posts the updated versions.

If your current design program is too limited or too complicated, then Freeway may be the program you need. Novices might prefer the simpler Freeway Express ($79), while more advanced users may want the additional power of Freeway Pro ($249). Freeway may take some time getting used to, but once you get comfortable using it, you'll find that it's more flexible and powerful than most of its rivals.




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    any good?

    anyone know if this Freeway is any good?

    I prefer to hand-code pages but it would be great if there was a WYSIWYG which generated compact, W3C-compatible code and also understood (or could be 'programmed' by the user to understand) the quirks of different browsers (shaking fist at IE).

  1. MyRightEye

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Its almost a scam

    The software has not changed since about version 1.5. Just tacky additions while all the bugs remain. I use version 4 for some remaining projects I initially built with freeway, but I build all my new site in RapidWeaver using the blocks plugin and the BlocksBox theme. A much cheaper and much better solution than freeway.

    Really this software should be called freeway 2.2.

    Please don't waste your money.

    And note to Softpress. Your once great product is old and stale. Sell the business to someone that can actually push it forward, and who knows, it might once again be a good product.

  1. thatkeith

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Actually very good

    I've used Freeway - and BBEdit and Dreamweaver - for many years. I hardly need to say that the web publishing landscape has changed dramatically in the last 5 or 10 years, and yes, Freeway has changed - a lot - in that time too.

    This is a program that is ideal for 'RSD', or Rapid Site Design - something that designers and design-aware site builders have been wishing for for years. I use this professionally and for my own experimental web design projects (http://www.panoramapostcards.co.uk/ is a recent one), and for design work there is nothing faster and more designer-friendly. The code it produces is automatically accurate, browser-robust, and validates - yes, your layouts WILL validate AND work in IE, with NO effort! And you can switch the desired output from HTML 4.01 Transitional through to XHTML 1.0 Strict, and your work remains the same. (I don't bother with HTML 3.2, but that's there if you want it too.)

    I know people get very emotional about their choice of web production tool, but telling the truth is important. MyRightEye... I suggest that you check your glasses, 'cause I think your prescription needs to be stronger!

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    panos

    I'm a pano photographer too

  1. chirpy22

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    RE: its almost a scam

    > Just tacky additions while all the bugs remain.

    Ah, just like Dreamweaver, then.

  1. MacTheRiverRat

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Freeway is just fine!

    I think its just fine! Life of working on the Mississippi River. Built with Freeway!

    http://tinyurl.com/2dfhmo

  1. tortenteufel

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    works for me

    made with Freeway : www.marley-music.com

  1. Plewis

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Quick and accurate

    I like Freeway. Sometimes it crashes but what app doesn't. I have created several sites with Freeway and got them up and running quickly. I'm not sure about the code it generates but I don't want to think about that junk... so, I use Freeway.

    Two sites made with Freeway Pro.

    http://www.gli.org/

    http://www.lawsonlawfirm.com/

  1. MacTheRiverRat

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Freeway is just fine!

    Hey thanks to all those Mac users out there who looked at my site of "Working on the Mississippi River". It was done in a older version of Freeway Express 4 not the new Freeway 5 Pro version. I will be updating to Freeway 5 Pro as other's have posted sites using the new Freeway 5 version.

    Life of working on the Mississippi River.

    http://tinyurl.com/2dfhmo

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