Softpress Systems’s Freeway 5.5 (http://www.softpress.com), a new version of its web design products, Freeway Express and Pro, has brought new functionality to the design solutions for those who don’t want to master HTML and/or CSS to build a web site.
The new Freeway Showcase offers even absolute beginners thousands of fully-customizable options so that they can build professional, feature-rich galleries and slideshows from scratch quickly. You can import images for use into the application via drag and drop from the Finder, or from iPhoto/Aperture libraries displayed in the app itself), or by direct import. A variety of appearance and layout options are available including borders, shadows, reflections and more. Freeway Showcase supports common web image types as well as TIFF and native Photoshop files.
With the relative page layout (RPL) in version 5.5 of Freeway (the Pro version only), you can create complex CSS layouts that respond appropriately when content on the page changes in size or is added/removed dynamically. And you can do all this without having to learn CSS.
Apply the RPL Action to a blank page (before you start designing) or to a layered design you’ve already made, and your page will work as a relative in-flow layout in all modern browsers. Plus, it will expand naturally with added content (including footers) and changes in browser display size.
Another Pro only feature is site search, which lets you add search facility to your sites. This search functionality can be used on all sites, even those hosted on MobileMe, Apple’s $99-per-year suite of Internet services.
Every aspect of the search is customizable to suit your particular site design. You can choose the font, colors and layout options. The search works without the need of server-side technologies like PHP or ASP so there’s nothing to set up and configure. You can even run the search while viewing your site on a local machine.
The latest version of the Softpress solutions also offer HTML email generation. The Create Email Action allows users to design emails with fewer restrictions. When the page is published, Freeway will convert it into “email-friendly” HTML that can be opened up in Apple Mail, or dropped into a sending service such as MailChimp or Vertical Response. For example, the Create Email Action simplifies the production process of creating an HTML based newsletter by applying a number of alterations to the underlying code of your Freeway page to ensure it has the best chance of displaying correctly in as many email clients as possible.
The Site Mapper Action in Freeway 5 will keep search engines up-to-date by automatically generating Google-friendly XML sitemaps, and Yahoo! URL lists, each time you update your site.
An Amazon affiliation connects your site with Amazon sites that will pay you cash for all sales originating from your site. Amazon USA, UK, France, Germany and Japan are all supported.
As for version 5.5, Freeway now supports secure uploads through SFTP and FTPS, in addition to existing upload methods (FTP, MobileMe and File Copy). Finally, there are new and improved templates — all of them free.
Freeway requires Mac OS X 10.5 (“Leopard”) or above, and runs on both Intel and PowerPC Macs. Freeway 5.5 Pro and Freeway 5.5 Express are both available for pre-release purchase from the Softpress Store. Full versions of Freeway 5.5 Pro can be purchased for US$229), and Freeway 5 Express is $69. Pre-release upgrades from earlier versions of 5 to 5.5 are offered at prices starting from $25 for Express or $49 for Pro. Those who qualify for education, senior or non-profit discounts will receive a coupon for a full 20% off any listed Freeway price. For discounts on multi-seat installations, contact sales.
Another nice touch is the support for iOS devices. Designing a web page for the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone can be tricky, but in the end is very similar to creating web sites for desktop browsers, so Freeway sports an iPhone simulator. Feeway will automatically detect the iPhone simulator when you hit the Update button in the Browser Setup menu (don’t forget to add the new Preview in Browser toolbar button to the toolbar from the Customize Toolbar sheet). You can then preview your sites on the simulator directly from Freeway with just a couple of clicks.
However, you should note that that the simulator doesn’t have the Google Maps or YouTube applications installed. Also, it also doesn’t allow any third party applications to be installed.
And Freeway 5.5 continues the software’s great transparency support. You can use layered, transparent Photoshop and Illustrator files directly in your layout and ue 24-bit PNG files with 8-bit transparency. You can create transparent or translucent graphics directly in Freeway 5.5. And you can output PNG-24 (8-bit Alpha channel) images for true transparency in the browser.
With Freeway, you can use graphics of nearly any format and resolution. It has Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) support and built-in resampling and compression. You can composite images automatically, slice images automatically and composite images with editable graphic text.
Freeway is also fully Unicode compliant input, for multilingual publishing in a single document. Plus, its ocalized interface matches your Mac’s language setting.
Freeway has always provided a clean interface that’s relatively simple to learn. Version 5.5 continues that trend. What’s more, advanced designers will appreciate how the software supports layered transparency from Photoshop and Illustrator (with overlapping) using anti-alias blending directly in the site layout. You can export those images into a huge range of file types.