Since I got my first Mac several years ago which was a iBook G4, one of the first applications I purchased for it was RapidWeaver. I believe it was version 3 around that time, and I have been keeping up with the new versions ever since. For those not familiar with RapidWeaver, it is a template-based website creation app that offers lots of flexibility and features for both experienced site designers, and those who are out to make their very first site. The latest iteration of RapidWeaver is version 5 and this update brings a plethora of changes that are sure to please old and new users alike.
The most obvious change in v5 is the updated user interface which has changed quite a bit, but still keeps the general “feel” of RapidWeaver that previous users will be familiar with. Icons are much cleaner and the layout is more intuitive. There are over 45 themes bundled with RapidWeaver and you can download many, many more from theme developers for free or for a nominal fee. The included themes are more than enough to get started, and most have options available which allow you to change items in the theme like colors, header images, sidebar properties, etc.
If you have never created a website before, you can literally have your own site up and running with RapidWeaver in a matter of minutes. Just about everything can be done via drag and drop or just a click or two. More than 10 page types are included so you can get started right away. For instance, there is a blog page that sets up a blog right in your site. No need for advanced content management systems, just a few clicks and your new blog is setup. Maybe you want an image gallery or just a page of styled text; yes there is a page for that! While just about everything you need to get your site built comes right out of the box in RapidWeaver, what makes it really special is how it can be extended using a variety of plugins from developers such as YourHead. My favorite is Stacks which allows you to drag and drop these “stacks” into a page to easily create more advanced pages than what is in the default page. That is just one of many plugins available, and I’m not going to go into much detail because this is about RapidWeaver itself, but take my word for it that RW is very expandable via 3rd party plugins (or Addons).
Another area RapidWeaver has improved upon is more of the “behind the scenes” features that you don’t necessarily see visually on the page, but are very important to your site. A new plugin that comes with RW automatically creates an XML sitemap. Previous versions you had to do this manually or use a 3rd party addon, but now it is integrated in to RW. Having a sitemap makes your site more visible to search engines and keeps them up to date with changes to your website. Statistics is another new feature which lets you easily use Google Analytics and GoSquared LiveStats right inside RapidWeaver.
There are three key points that make RapidWeaver a winner in my book: Ease of use, expandability, and high-quality output. Although I focused a bit on how RapidWeaver is fantastic for beginners to web design, it is also perfect for more experienced users who want to use HTML or mix it within RW. It’s this flexibility that I can easily give this 5 stars, and of course the great looking sites it produces also contributes to that. To see what an actual site created looks like, I used RapidWeaver to create a personal site for myself as an example. This was completely built with RapidWeaver and done in a very small amount of time.
RapidWeaver 5 has a free trial download available, and can be purchased for $79 either through the developers site or via the Mac App Store.