Serif likes jumping up version numbers in twos and WebPlus X4 is the immediate successor to WebPlus X2, which itself followed version 10. Given the good feature set of X2, it’s something of a surprise that there’s so much new in the latest version.
WebPlus is a web site maker from the desktop publishing school. Although there are plenty of professionally-designed templates included with the program, so you can put together a site almost entirely by clicking and dragging, you also have the freedom to adjust the positions of all elements on a page and to design a site from the background up.
The new version brings in lots of improvements, such as the QuickBuilder Bar, a second tab on the Media Bar beneath the main editing window, which holds a lot of page furniture that can be dragged straight onto a page. Things like text frames, images and navigation bars are supplemented by a number of different styles of fully animated photo gallery and access to Serif’s Smart Objects. These server-side elements provide everything from a visitor counter to a full blogging system, with visitor comments.
To improve the look of sites, particularly those with lots of images, the integrated PhotoLab applet offers quick and easy adjustments for many aspects of an image, as well as a number of fun visual effects (when used sparingly). Images can be cropped in situ, but also panned around within their frames, to show just the parts required.
Pulling in support technologies to brighten up site pages is a theme of the new version and there’s direct support for Flash navigation bars and GoogleMaps. You can also add YouTube videos to your pages and even set them to run automatically when viewed, though this can be annoying to visitors with slow connections.
WebPlus X4 isn’t just for personal sites, and there are new extras for those running small businesses, too. AdSense adverts are supported, to derive direct revenue from visitors, and the program can now handle the sale of subscriptions and receipt of donations, as well as dealing with conventional sales, through use of e-commerce services like PayPal.
Site maintenance is made a lot easier by a one-click update to the Web and by the ability to access and tweak your site from any Internet connection, even without WebPlus available. Serif offers 18 months of site hosting as part of the £80 price tag, with up to 250MB of Web space and 2GB bandwidth per month, perhaps a nod to rival offerings like Mr Site.
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