First Look : iWeb – Part of iLife ’06

January 18, 2006

iWeb is the glue that holds the iLife ’06 suite together, sliding in so naturally, it feels like it’s always been there—or should have been there.

Replacing HomePage, .Mac’s online Web-building app, and drawing from a host of new updates to all the iLife apps—iPhoto, GarageBand, iDVD, and iMovie—Apple integrates everything into a Web site-building application that lets you post your photo albums, movies, podcasts, photocasts, and blogs, while using RSS feeds to let people subscribe to them. A single mouse click transports your new site to your .Mac account, though you can also use iWeb to create a site and place it to any server.

iWeb differs from the older HomePage because it is a desktop app rather than an online one, and it gives you opportunities to incorporate more kinds of media within your site. It also embraces popular new online activities, such as podcasting and blogging, making it easy for beginners to get started.

Templates

You cannot edit HomePage pages with iWeb. However HomePage and iWeb sites have distinctive URLs so that you can set up links between them.

Since iWeb is an entirely new addition to iLife, let’s walk through some of its main features. A full review of this application—along with the other updated apps in iLife ’06—will be posted at Macworld.com in the coming weeks.

Templates assure precision

You begin building your Web site with templates. The program’s 12 built-in templates, each with six page variations, are designed to suit the dominant theme of each page. Coordinated page styles give your site a sophisticated, professional, look.

After you decide what type of page fits your content best—photo album, blog, podcast, video, or some combination of elements—you can pick a page type specifically designed for that content.

You can mix templates and create multiple Web sites with different templates. You can change colors, backgrounds, fonts, and type sizes. You can also add links to other Web sites and the iTunes Music Store. iWeb uses OS X’s built-in applications such as the Font palette to access fonts and colors. iWeb has some of the same photographic controls as iPhoto. You can rotate, layer, and mask images to your heart’s content directly on the page.

Podcast templates
(Click images to open full screenshot)

Blog and podcast templates

It’s a good idea to use a blog- or podcast-specific template page for blog and podcast entries because those page types are automatically encoded for an RSS subscription.

Each Blog and Podcast page contains an Entry panel where you create, name, and import your podcasts from iTunes or GarageBand. iWeb creates separate pages for each entry, but the viewer will see only a cover page with a list from which to choose a podcast or blog. Any spillover from a blog or podcast page goes automatically to an Archive page, which is linked from the cover page. Placeholder text lets you customize and add your own narrative to your pages. To top it off, you can even import images to illustrate your blog or podcast.

Toolbar controls

The iWeb toolbar, which holds the program’s main interface controls, always appears at the bottom of the program’s main window and is your entry to almost all of iWeb’s controls and palettes. You also can use menu items to perform certain operations. Your Web site template elements, such as text and images, are in the Webpage canvas.

Page specific controls are on the left; global site controls are on the right. The Text button lets you create resizable text boxes for captions, headlines, or other text anywhere on your page. A Shapes pop-up menu gives you a slate of shapes such as a star, arrow, and thought balloon—in addition to squares and circles—to which you can add text.

The Mask button lets you crop images visually (though the actual size of the image remains the same); Backward and Forward buttons let you rearrange the order of layered items. Commands that are available for a page or selection are bright; commands you cannot use are dimmed. Directly underneath the tool bar are three buttons: the Plus (+) button adds pages to the site from any template you chose; the Publish button sends your completed site to the Web; and the Visit button takes you directly to your site so you can see what it looks like online.

Toolbar

iWeb is integrated with OS X’s Colors and Font panels, accessed from the toolbar, so you can use any fonts already on your system and any colors you like for backgrounds and other elements. iWeb automatically detects if you have typed a Web or e-mail address, automatically making it a link on the page (though you can remove the link if you wish). The Adjust Image window gives you access to some simple image-editing tools that adjust exposure, brightness, contrast, and sharpness.

Adjust window

Site Organizer

The Site Organizer is a resizable drawer to the left of the canvas. There you’ll see your site navigation and have access to all your pages. As you add, remove, and change the order of your pages, iWeb keeps track of those actions and automatically updates the navigation.

To change the order of pages, just click and drag; to add or remove pages, use the Plus button or the Delete key, respectively. You will have to upload the site to your .Mac account or an FTP server in order to see what you have changed. You can immediately tell which pages are online by looking at the site organizer—items in blue have been published, while items in red have not.

Media browser

Media Browser

The Media Browser, accessed from the right side of the tool bar, is one of the program’s main palettes and does what its name implies: It gives you access to your iPhoto images, iMovies, GarageBand or iTunes podcasts, and iTunes music, and lets you drag and drop these elements into your template. Images must be imported into iPhoto for you to access them in the Media Browser. Similarly, music must be stored in the iTunes library. You can also drag and drop elements directly to the template from the Finder; however, those elements won’t be accessible in the media browser.

Inspector Window

Text Inspector and Colors pane

iWeb’s other major panel is the Inspector Window, a composite palette with seven tabs that help you govern the visual presentation of your site and let you control everything from the size of your page to the RSS feed.

The Site Inspector tells you the name of the site and how much room you have left on your iDisk. The Page Inspector lets you name your pages and designate the dimensions, colors, and images for your backgrounds. The Blog & Podcast Inspector controls subscription and additional information about your blogs and podcasts. The Text Inspector lets you set line and character spacing, alignment, colors, margins, and other text attributes, as well as text wrap and bulleted lists.

The Graphic Inspector lets you set colors, borders, shadows, opacity, and other features to text and image boxes and other objects on your pages. The Metrics Inspector lets you adjust the size, position, and rotation of any image or shape on your page. The Link Inspector lets you set up or remove hyperlinks on your pages.

Swift and easy

Designed with the novice in mind, and targeted to people who use one or more iLife apps, iWeb’s ease of use lets even the least technical of users participate in the Web’s most popular activities with literally a click and drag. iWeb lets you construct and post your Web site with a minimum of time and effort and maximum style.

The Review is from MacWorld.com


iLife ’06 : Quick Review

January 15, 2006

For the same £55/$79 as last year’s product, Apple has strengthened the Web focus of its iLife ’06 creativity suite, with new multimedia-sharing features just shy of full-fledged social networking, podcast-creation capabilities for GarageBand 2, and brand-new iWeb, a Web page design application.

The media-sharing features are most pronounced in iPhoto 6 and GarageBand 2. The former gains a performance boost; a higher limit of 250,000 photos; full-screen photo editing; one-click effects; and improved book, calendar, and Shutterfly-like card publishing. In addition, the new version includes “photocasting,” which Apple calls “podcasting for photos.” With iPhoto 6, you can invite friends to subscribe to a photo album; each time you update it, all subscribers are notified, and if they have iPhoto 6, their copy of the album is automatically updated. You can also subscribe using any RSS-compatible browser or RSS reader.

GarageBand 2 includes features such as automatic ducking, voice recording and the ability to record interviews over iChat; all this can be compiled into a podcast with one click.

iWeb, the new Web page creation application, lets you build template-based sites by dragging and dropping images and selecting and entering text–no HTML experience required. This Web design application also gives you access to all your iLife media so that you can also easily integrate podcasts and iTunes playlists, as well as create blog entries.

New to iMovie HD 6 are animated themes, real-time effects and titles, new audio tools and sound effects, one-click export, and the ability to open multiple projects at once. Similarly, iDVD 6 gets new themes, improved slide shows, and the ability to make wide-screen DVDs.

Upside: For those who want to show their lives online, Apple’s overall integration of apps makes iLife ’06 perhaps the simplest and most powerful solution for creating, managing, and presenting multimedia over the Internet. And though Apple strongly recommends its .Mac service (which costs an annual fee) for hosting iWeb sites, you can upload them to other remote servers. Though other improvements are less flashy, regular iLife users will certainly appreciate the iPhoto speed and library-size improvements, as well as the visual boost iDVD 6 and iMovie 6 get from animated menus.

Downside: Depending on your point of view, the £55/$79 is either a bargain or a robbery. On the one hand, the ’06 package includes the new application iWeb and strong revamps of iPhoto, iDVD, iMovie, and GarageBand; on the other, there is no upgrade path for owners of previous versions, meaning that users virtually end up paying a subscription fee to keep their apps current. If you have little desire to share your creations with others, then new creation tools alone have to justify the $79 price. For experienced Web developers, iWeb will not be a viable solution. If you’re on a budget, iPhoto’s new book, calendar, and card features (which all cost to order) could be tempting enough to break the bank–consider yourself forewarned.

Outlook: Though it seems an odd choice for filling that role, GarageBand 2 could take the podcasting world by storm. If you’re already hooked on the Internet, or you want to be, iLife ’06 gives you the tools you’ll need in one convenient package. And it’s great that iLife ’06 ships with both Intel- and PowerPC-native versions, so it will run at the best speed whether your Mac is new or old.

Review from CNET.


iWork ’06 : First Look

January 15, 2006

There was some heavy irony in Steve Jobs’ keynote earlier this week. Despite the fact that the entire presentation was done using Keynote (part of iWork), the release of iWork ’06 received very little attention during the keynote. Basically, Steve spent about 30 seconds saying “iWork ’06 is also released; it’s a cool product with great new themes and features. Check it out.” Huh? At its introduction last year, iWork got the full song and dance and features review; this year, it barely merits a mention.

Luckily, iWork ’06 was basically immediately available, and I’ve been using it somewhat extensively this week—I updated all of my presentations to take advantage of some new features in Keynote, and I’ve taken a look at the changes in Pages. Since not everyone can get down to the Expo to check out iWork for themselves, here’s a more detailed look at the changes in iWork ’06.

Suite-wide improvements

• Free-form shapes, curves, and masks: Many of the shapes in the suite now have adjustable point counts. Take the star, for instance. When you add a star to your document, you’ll get your typical five-point star. But using a very slick interface, you can easily increase or decrease that number:

Just drag the slider, and the point count on the star changes in real time. You can also change the size of the circular center by dragging the small white circular control in the center of the star. Make the circular area smaller, and your star has longer, sharper arms; make it larger, and you’ll get short, stubby arms. You can also use any shape you create as a mask for images, leading to all sorts of creative cut-out ideas. (A mask will hide anything in the image that lies outside the area of the shape you’re using as the mask). There’s also a free-form curve tool for drawing your own shapes.• Tables with calculations: Instead of rows and columns of static numbers, you can now create tables that have calculated values in them. While far from Apple’s own version of Excel, the ability to do some basic math in table cells is a huge timesaver.

In addition, you can format table cells to add currency indicators, show a different number of decimals, and insert thousands separators.

• 3-D Charts: Using 3-D charts, you can add pizzaz while improving readability and adding a ‘wow’ factor to your data. Apple’s come up with a pretty good interface for controlling the appearance of your 3-D charts.

• Onscreen image adjustments: Just like iPhoto, you can now make onscreen adjustments to your images.

Brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness and more can now be modified with the semi-transparent overlay.Within Keynote, there are numerous small improvements, but I’ve found the following to be the most interesting and/or useful:

• New themes: In addition to the existing Keynote themes, the new release adds six new themes, two of which are available in HD resolutions (up to 1920×1080).

White Corners and Modern Portfolio are the two HD themes, available in sizes up to 1920×1080; the others offer the Keynote standards of 800×600 or 1024×768.

• New transitions: There are seven new transitions in Keynote, six of which are in 3-D transitions. I’m particularly fond of the “opening door” and “reflections” effects. Both are visually interesting without being too distracting. • Interleaved bullet builds: Wow, that’s a mouthful! This is the feature I was most thrilled to see added to this version of Keynote. So what are they? Here’s a definition by way of example.

In prior versions of Keynote, if you had a slide with a bulleted list, and you wanted each bullet to appear one at a time, that’s all you could do—have the bullets appear, one after the other. You couldn’t, for instance, have an image appear and then vanish after a given bullet. This is a key aspect of many presentations, as you might want to show a visual for each bullet on a slide. Well, in the new version of Keynote, it’s easy to do this—there’s a checkbox that allows you to then insert additional actions between slide bullets.

Pages

While I haven’t had a ton of time to work with the new version of Pages as of yet (something about four sessions to present, booths to visit, and weblogs to write), I did spend a little while exploring some of its new features. Here are the ones that I think stand out as the most notable changes: Template improvements: While the first version of Pages offered a decent selection of templates, there are more than 25 new templates in the new version—66 in all now. There are also new categories of templates, including Flyers (five types), Posters (six), Business (four), Creative (three). See screenshot at left for an example.

One interesting fact is that some templates are automatically tied in to your Address Book. I opened the For Sale flyer, for instance, and was somewhat surprised to find it already populated with my home phone number! This feature is controlled through a new Merge tab on the Link panel of the Inspector; you can pull fields such as name, email, and address. This is a powerful addition, as it makes creating individually customized documents a snap. You should, however, be careful when using certain templates to make sure that the proper information is being pulled from your card!• Auto-correction: Similar to Word, there’s a new Auto-Correction preference. Using this panel, you can specify a bunch of shortcuts that will be automatically replaced when encountered—type (c), for instance, and Pages will insert the © symbol.

You can add and remove shortcuts, and set preferences for “smart quotes,” capitalization fixes, and e-mail/Web address detection.

• Pages sidebar improvements: The sidebar in Pages, which is confusingly also titled Pages, shows a thumbnail of each page in your document. In the new release, this feature has been improved to show facing pages as they would be printed.

This makes it much easier to get a feel for how your printed document will appear. You can also drag and drop to reorder pages in the sidebar, or delete them entirely.

While Keynote has received the most visible improvements in the iWork suite, the changes to Pages help make an already-solid product even better.

Review from MacWorld.com