Softpress – Freeway Pro 5 review

Web site creator for the Mac
Photo of Softpress – Freeway Pro 5
£123

If you want to design a Web site using an Apple Mac, you’d probably consider iWeb if you’re working from home, or Dreamweaver if you’re in business. Perhaps you ought to think Freeway Pro, for both high-end home and simpler business sites.

Freeway Pro, just out in version 5, majors on design and typography. It provides multiple master pages and templates (though not many) to base sites on. Neat tricks include an ability to use any font on your Mac; non-standard faces are automatically rendered as graphics. There are new text effects like Crack and Wobble, and Unicode fonts for better alphabet support.

The program includes full compliance with W3C XHTML and CSS standards and implements compatibility with Internet Explorer 6 and 7, still the most important browsers to cater for. It works much more like a desktop publishing program than a Web site creator and is all the better for that, certainly if you’re coming to Web design as a graphic designer rather than an HTML coder. The full implementation of CSS means some features, such as multi-level menus within your sites, are particularly easy to set up.

The interface isn’t going to shock anybody used to mainstream Mac OS X applications (Freeway is compatible with OS X 10.4 and above). As well as the main editing pane there’s a context-sensitive Inspector dialog, which shows parameters for the particular object you have selected at any time.

You can do quite a lot extra with HTML boxes and lists, including adding effects to them which previously you could only add to graphic items. New shadows and glows can make your pages more lively, without being garish.

Freeway Shop is included in the package and this incorporates Mal’s e-commerce shopping system, offering a shopping cart and transaction processing together with a script to install the necessary Actions into Freeway. Actions are plug-ins, like Quark’s and Adobe’s Extensions, which enable SoftPress and third-parties to expand Freeway in the way you want to go. A site called www.freewayactions.com details 30 Actions, some free and some shareware, which work with the program.

For all the emphasis on design and strong typographical support, there are one or two things Freeway doesn’t do as standard. Adding a forum or bulletin board to your site, for example, isn’t a straightforward procedure, as you have to hook in a third-party package and work via your ISP. It would be good to have at least basic functionality for this included with the application, as with the e-commerce package.

Company: Softpress

Contact: 01993 882588


Verdict
Freeway's strengths still lie in its excellent design controls, nearly all of which can be used without resort to manual coding. While it's still not possible to take over an existing site - you need to create one from scratch in the program - it now has most of the features needed for sophisticated site design. The missing ones may soon be supplied as new Actions.