iWeb makes site updates easier
Like many of the other iLife and iWork apps, iWeb has always made it easy for novice users to create polished and professional-looking projects -- in this case, Web sites. The range of tools and templates makes it easy for anyone to create a customized and beautiful site that features photos galleries, video, blogs and podcasts with little effort or experience. While always good overall, iWeb has always been lacking some major features that Apple has now introduced with the new version.
One of the catches to iWeb's ease had always been that publishing a site anywhere other than to Apple's MobileMe service (previously called .Mac) was not as easy as creating the site. The process required publishing the site to a folder on your hard drive and then manually uploading the entire site to your Web host using a separate FTP tool. Since it was impossible to publish just-changed files, minor updates such as writing a new blog entry or changing an image on one page often required a fair amount of time and effort.
Web '09 finally includes the option to publish directly to a server using FTP. The interface is easy to navigate, more so than most FTP applications, and it allows testing the FTP settings when creating a site. Alongside this is support for multiple sites, each published to separate FTP servers, MobileMe or to a local folder. More important, each site can now be published independently of any others. Without a doubt, this single feature makes iWeb '09 a must-have upgrade for iWeb users, though it would have been nice if it hadn't take three versions for Apple to get around to adding it.
For the most part, iWeb's features and interface remain unchanged outside of multiple site and FTP support. Apple has integrated the iLife media browser along with a widgets browser directly as a drawer in the iWeb window (as opposed to being a floating palette), which makes incorporating music, photos and video into sites a little easier.
The widgets browser itself includes seven prepackaged widgets that directly embed into a site features such as Mobile Me galleries, YouTube content, Google Maps, Google AdSense, photos or video from a Mac's iSight camera, a countdown timer, the contents of an RSS feed (useful for embedding a feed from a non-iWeb powered blog, Flickr, Twitter, or other source), and HTML snippets for embedding your own HTML code or that of other services. While some of these, like Google AdSense or HTML snippets, aren't new, they all are useful features for novice Web designers or anyone who just wants to add these features easily. All of the widgets are simple drag-and-drop operations and work fairly well to help further customize a site or offer services commonly found on the Web.