Master-Title

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November 2010

Freeway 5.5 Pro

FreewayProboxshot1

by Paul Rego

Rating:

  • Features: 4.5-Clicks
  • Ease of Use: 4-Clicks
  • Documentation: 4-Clicks
  • Value for the Money: 4.5-Clicks
  • Overall: 4.5-Clicks

Pros:

  • Palettes now stay together better; Color Editor is very handy; Different color guides for Master and Standard pages; Multiple quality areas for each imported image; Style Sheets for text; CSS; RSS; MySQL support; iPhoto import; Shopping Cart capability; Handy font controls for HTML and graphic text; and MUCH more!

Cons:

  • Requirements on box are wrong; Only one level of Undo/Redo; Color list doesn't alphabetize properly; Can only nudge objects a set number of pixels; No "live", auto-alignment guides; Can’t manipulate more than one object at the same time; Anti-Aliased text not displayed while editing; Search function doesn't allow for "Framed" pages.

Configuration:

  • Version Reviewed: Freeway Pro 5.5.2
  • Reviewer’s Configuration: iMac 2GHz Core Duo; Mac OS X 10.6.5
  • System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.5 ("Leopard") or later.

Company: Softpress Systems Limited (www.softpress.com)

Cost: $229 (“Pro” download); $69 (“Express” download) There are also senior, educational and non-profit discounts. M.A.C.S. members can get a discount by downloading the "Mail Order Discounts" file from our "Members Only" section.

What Is It?

Freeway is a web-page-design and maintenance program. Beginners shouldn’t be concerned about all the “technology”. You don't even need to know what "HTML" is. Start with a blank Freeway page or choose from the many included templates. Just place photos, videos and/or text on your page. When you're ready, Freeway will upload all the pages and pieces to the Internet and your web pages will appear just the way you designed them! Freeway always keeps track of "what" needs to go "where" and does all the hard work for you.

  • "HTML" is a programming language. If you do want to add some HTML code, Freeway is ready. Otherwise, Freeway will handle all of the programming for you. So there's nothing extra to learn!

Don't let the casualness of this M.A.C.S. site fool you. Freeway is also capable of helping you create professional-looking web pages, complete with perfectly-aligned columns of text and a pop-out menu at the top... or anything else you can dream up.

As a first-time Web designer, you may have used Apple's "iWeb" program (part of "iLife" ). Although iWeb is easy to use, it's also very limiting. You may have heard about Adobe's "Dreamweaver" program ($399). Yes, this is a very powerful program but is really overkill for most websites and the learning-curve can be HUGE!

Enter "Freeway". Even Freeway Express ($69) will allow you do create just about any type of website you can think of. I used the "Express" version for many years to create and maintain this M.A.C.S. website. Later, I switched to the "Pro" version because of some of the behind-thescenes helpfullness it offered. I've been very happy with the Pro version ever since. It not only allows me to take advantage of all the leading-edge functions Softpress had poured into Freeway but it's sometimes just reassuring to know that I'm not limited in any way. This allows me to spend more of my time on "ideas" and almost no time on "I need to find a work-around".

Talking about “Freeway” shouldn’t exclude professional web designers who require the best tools. Freeway 5.5 Pro offers Standards-Compliant CSS and XHTML; Shopping Cart technology; Flash movie capability; Illustrator, Photoshop, TIFF (and more) file import; Layer control; Multiple Master pages; Link Map; Java applets; Unicode (mix languages on the same line); etc. Here are some other features which Freeway 5.5 Pro offers over Freeway 5.5 Express (from the Softpress Web site):

  • Native import of PSD, TIFF, AI, EPS & mor
  • CSS-based layout + Relative Page Layout (Action
  • Full support for the vast array of 3rd-party Actions
  • Multiple output options (HTML 3.2, HTML 4.01, XHTML Transitional and Strict)
  • Full choice of output encodings
  • Complete color and text style management across your entire document
  • Accessibility reporting
  • Employ multiple style sheets for each document
  • Full CSS text styling
  • Ability to specify relative and percentage positions and dimensions for layout items
  • Specify padding, wrap, margin and border (HTML items only) separately for each side of an item
  • Advanced visual effects on your Web site using Scriptaculous Actions
  • Specify link styles on any CSS-positioned HTML item
  • Link map: overview and maintenance of all the links in your document
  • Multiple windows open for the same document at once
  • Snapping palettes for easier workspace management
  • Extended transformation options: Skew, Scale and Mirror content separately from its box
  • Freely combine and manipulate shadows, glows and other graphic effects with greater control over their appearance
  • Save items and pages as images

This Softpress page shows most of the "Pro" versus "Express" features side by side.

More Features

The "Link Map" not only shows all your pages at a glance but it also indicates which pages are linked to other pages within your Freeway file or somewhere else on the Internet. While viewing any of your pages within Freeway, clicking the "Link Map" button (in the Toolbar) will display a Link Map starting with that page at the far left.

Below, you'll see that I started with my Frames page (on the far left). On that page, I have two Frames. This allows me to display the M.A.C.S. green "navigator" in the left (non-scrollable) Frame and all the other information in the right (scrollable) Frame. So, in this Link Map, you see that the Frames page holds the "Navigator" and "Welcome" pages. The blue lines extending from each of those pages tells us that they are linked to those associated, blue-line, pages. The small page icons represent other Freeway pages within my Freeway file. The blue dots represent links to other pages on the Internet.

Freeway also allows you to fine tune your Web pages for viewing on mobile devices, such as an iPhone and iPad.

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A few of the features I really take advantage of, in the "Pro" version, are

  • Leading,
  • Space Before,
  • Space After,
  • First Line Indent,
  • Left Indent, and
  • Right Indent

Each of these allows you to make finite adjustments to characters, paragraphs and the amount of space between them -- “above”, “below” and “beside”.

Let’s not forget about the very powerful “Style Sheets”. With this feature, you set all the attributes for a specific kind of text. For example, let’s say all of your page titles will be 18-point, black, Times, centered and subtitles will be 14-point, green, Helvetica, left-justified. You would create 2 Style Sheets. Then, any time you want to create a page title, you simply enter your text, highlight it, then click the appropriate style. The beauty of this is two-fold. First, all of your text areas will be consistent. Second, any time you decide to change one of those areas (such as titles), you simply change it in the Style Sheet dialog box and Freeway will automatically change every instance of it, throughout your document! So, in my example above, if you decided to make all the subtitles "Times" instead of "Helvetica", you simply make one change.

If you want to be sure your Web pages will look good in different Browsers, Freeway offers two helpful functions:

  1. Freeway provides a Preview menu, which allows you to view your Web pages in any Browser that's currently installed on your Mac. This allows you to see your pages before they're available on the Internet.
  2. Freeway offers an "Accessibility Report". This can be used on a per-page basis (through the "Page" menu) or for the entire document (through the "File" menu). This report offers suggestions and explains various problems and indicates which page and which item needs a little more work. Here are some "Accessibility Report" examples:
    • Not enough contrast in hue
    • Not enough contrast in brightness
    • Too much graphic text ("Graphic text" allows you to use any font installed in your Mac and you're able to apply various graphics effects, such as rotate, skew, mirrow, shadow, glow, etc.) The downside is that "graphic text" takes longer to load than "regular" text and cannot be searched by Visitors to your site.
    • An HTML item containing text overlaps a graphic item (HTML is a strange programming language with limitations. It's what most Web pages use, so we're stuck with it, for now. Freeway does an excellent job of creating all the HTML instructions necessary to make your pages look just as you designed them. There are a few rules, however, which we must follow. One of those rules is that HTML text boxes (real text) should not overlap any graphic boxes, including "graphics text".

Personally, I don't use the "Accessibility Report" because:

  1. The sites I design for are meant for Macintosh-only computers, and
  2. Freeway will indicate any serious text problems by temporarily hiding the text and placing a large "X" inside its box.

The Extras In Version 5.5

From the "What's New In Freeway 5.5" PDF...

  • Showcase: A new application sitting alongside Freeway which allows users to effortlessly create sophisticated gallery presentations and slideshows in thousands of different configurations.
  • Relative Page Layout: Automatically converts absolute layouts to relativei n-flow layouts. With this ground-breaking Action applied, you can just design your page, publish it,and let Freeway produce pages that just work in any browser.
    • NOTE: Because I use "Table-based" layouts for all these M.A.C.S. pages and because I almost never use "Layers", this new "Relative Page Layout" feature isn't needed for this site.
  • Create Email Action: Use Freeway’s interface to create highly-functional HTML and text-only emails which will alleviate much of the burden of HTML email production.
    • NOTE: Although there are a few extra steps involved, this new feature will allow anyone to create interesting eMails for family, friends and business.
  • Simple Site Search Action: An Action that will automatically generate simple JavaScript site searches.
    • NOTE: Because I use "Frames" on all the M.A.C.S. website pages, the new Simple Site Search is not flexible enough for me to add it to this site.
  • Site Mapper Action: An Action that generates Google-friendly XML site maps and Yahoo URL lists at the press of a button.
  • Amazon Associates Action: Adds the ability to create affiliated links to Amazon items.
  • Built-in Support for SFTP (SSH) FTPS (FTP over SSL) and FTP uploads: The file upload abilities of Freeway 5.5 have been completely overhauled so it now supports secure uploads using SFTP (technically known as SSH File Transfer Protocol) as well as FTPS (also known as FTP Secure and FTP-SSL). Both allow users to upload their Freeway sites knowing that their log-in details are secure.
  • FLV Player Action (Update): New skin and better functionality for presenting Flash video.

This Softpress page provides information and short videos of the new features in version 5.5.

Documentation:

118-page “Using Freeway 5” PDF. 468-page “Reference” PDF (the font used in this one is more difficult to read). The boxed version of Freeway Pro comes with the physical "Using Freeway 5" manual. Both manuals are used for the “Pro” and “Express” versions. Each carefully points out which features are “Pro” only. The Softpress site offers several tutorials -- some are QuickTime movies! They also offer a newsletter and online discussion boards.

Wish List:

  • Although you can specify an angle when rotating objects, I wish it were possible to hold down a Modifier Key (maybe the Shift key) when drag-rotating objects, in order for them to snap into position every 15-degrees. Also... It would be helpful if Freeway could provide live, rotation-angle feedback while manually drag-rotating objects. Right now, if you know you want something rotated 30-degrees, you have to guess while dragging. Of course, you could use the “Transform” dialog box for precise manipulation but sometimes it’s much faster to simply alter objects manually.
  • Check spelling “as its typed”.
  • Although you can design a Web page and tell Freeway not to Publish (upload to your website) one or more text or graphic boxes, I wish it were possible for Freeway to not Publish an entire "page". In this way, I could create a new page or edit an existing page and not have it show on the website until I was ready. This would also allow me to take my time finalizing those changes and still be able to make changes on other pages and Publish them whenever I want.

Pro or Express

At this point, I’m pretty sure everything on the current M.A.C.S. web site could have been done with the “Express” version. I didn’t use any Layers, Flash, CSS, etc. If you’re an entry-level or basic user, Freeway 5.5 Express ($69) will give you all the control and expansion you’ll probably ever need. Later, if you wish you had purchased the Pro version, you can simply upgrade for just $169.

Notes...

Click here to read my in-depth report on how the new M.A.C.S. Web site was made. (This is also accessible by visiting our "Welcome" page and clicking on the coffee cup.

Be sure to visit the Softpress site and download a trial copy of Freeway. Try it for yourself. Even for simply sharing your vacation photos with your family, Freeway Express is a great way to go and an excellent value for just $69!

This page was updated on 11/25/10