I have been using RapidWeaver to publish Egg Freckles for over one month. RapidWeaver brings blogging back to the Mac in the form of a beautiful Mac OS X application that gives users more control than iWeb, and more options than services like Blogger, Tumblr, or WordPress.com.
RapidWeaver is not a webpage creation tool. It is a website assembly line. You pick the template, supply the content, configure the settings, and RapidWeaver bakes your ingredients into a standards compliant, professional looking website. With RapidWeaver there are no tags to learn, no programming languages to master, no server software to install, and no cache to configure. All the latest web technologies are included. RSS, podcasting, photo slideshows, XML sitemaps, a contact form, and comments are only a checkbox away. You can write in rich text, raw HTML, and drag and drop images and video straight into your body content. What you can’t find in the default installation you can purchase from the included RapidWeaver add-ons store. No matter how you choose to assemble your site RapidWeaver makes it beautiful, packages it up, and publishes your ideas for the world to see. There is no such thing as a bad looking RapidWeaver website. It even does its own FTP.
In short RapidWeaver allows you to create a professional looking website on you Mac, and publish the results to any web server without learning HTML, configuring server software, or holding a fancy design degree.
I have been working with professional web publishing software for more than ten years, but I have been a Mac user for over twice as long. I am not afraid of HTML, CSS, or server side scripting, but I prefer to use a beautifully crafted Mac app whenever possible. I am surprised and disappointed there isn’t a professional web publishing product for the Mac that is friendlier to use than the command line, and better suited at blogging than Dreamweaver. I want an application like Mail.app that instead of sending and receiving correspondence, manages a collection of blog articles, packages them with a theme, and publishes them to the world at the push of a button. I have tried creating my own GUI based blogging apps using BBEdit includes and MarEdit exports, but neither tool is right for the job. Surprisingly RapidWeaver, an app most pros would relegate to beginners, is almost the perfect tool for GUI based blogging. All it needs is a few improvements aimed at web professionals who have an existing website, know a little HTML, and prefer to write in plain text.
Importing from other content management systems is difficult. No two content management systems are the same, and in today’s word of mixed media blogs it is hard to differentiate between a text, link, quote, picture, or multimedia post. At present RapidWeaver has no way to import an existing blog from any CMS. (I had to copy and paste all of Egg Freckles’ existing posts by hand.) For RapidWeaver to be an option for pro bloggers, or anyone with an existing website, it needs to be able to import RSS entries into its blogging module automatically. I am not asking for perfection here. Just a way to import a large quantity of existing work without manually entering the title, body, slug, and date for every article.
RapidWeaver’s blogging module is a powerful platform for posting articles with dates, customized permalinks, categories, tags, and an optional summary. It handles RSS, podcasts, and archives with varying options. It’s three paned view should be familiar to anyone who has ever written an email before, and its consistency with other first class Mac OS X applications means that it rarely gets in the way. My biggest problem with RapidWeaver’s blogging module is that it assumes I want to write in a rich text format all of the time. On the bottom of each entry is a beautiful formatting toolbar with all of the usual HTML formatting commands presented as easy to click buttons. The code these buttons produce is spot on, but as a web professional I would prefer to control my own output by writing in HTML or Markdown. Syntax coloring, a choice of font size, and typeface would be appreciated. The option to ignore formatting for a selection of text is nice, but it seems a shame I have to ignore formatting on every entry I write when all I want to do is write in plain text.
One of RapidWeaver’s most powerful features it the ability to preview any page with the applied theme before pushing the Publish button. Unfortunately in the blogging module RapidWeaver only previews the latest articles viewable from the root level of the blogging page. Why can’t the presentation on the preview pane reflect the currently selected blog entry instead? Better yet can I get a real-time preview of what I am writing as I type it? RapidWeaver renders pixel perfect previews, but please bring that view to every article.
Archives & Pagination
RapidWeaver keeps track of everything I write, but the presentation of those archives are limited to a list of weeks, months, or years in the sidebar. I would love to see a separate archive page with more archive options. The Sitemap page could perform double duty as an archive page, but it ignores blog entires even though the sitemap.xml does not. (Egg Freckles’ Archive page is coded by hand.) The ability to configure a specific archive interval with pagination links between articles would be appreciated.
The world wide web was built on links. It would be foolish for me as a publisher to break the links to my articles each time I adopted a new CMS. One of the reasons I can migrate to a new CMS so easily is because I choose content management systems where I have control over the permalinks to each article. At Macworld 2012 Nik Fletcher of Realmac Software showed me RapidWeaver’s permalink field and I immediately wanted to try it for myself. RapidWeaver makes customizing your articles’ slug easy, but I would like to see this process automated with options similar to WordPress. No post should be published with a serial number for a URL. How about including options for the date and title? Finally I would also like to see the option of customizing the directory that blog entries are published to. You can do it for any blog page that is not the home page, but why do all of the blog entries I publish on Egg Freckles have to be located in the files directory?
RapidWeaver keeps track of the pictures, files, and resources I embed in my website. Unfortunately those resources could be scattered all over my Mac’s hard drive. I would like to see the option to embed all of my site’s resources, including the theme, inside the RapidWeaver document file just like Pages, Numbers, and Keynote package resources inside their various file formats. This would give the RapidWeaver file format additional portability. Furthermore it would be nice if these resources could be previewed locally with links that automatically resolved when the assets were published on a remote server. RapidWeaver might be designed for single user web publishing, but now that most computer users have more than one machine it is important that RapidWeaver documents can be transported without breaking links.
RapidWeaver is a great blogging platform for beginners, but in order to attract more attention from professional bloggers who will sing its praises, design beautiful themes, and build powerful addons it needs to include a few more features pros will appreciate. Realmac Software I implore you listen to your fans, ride the recent popularity of baked blogs, and bring blogging back to the Mac by adding more pro features to RapidWeaver.