This past week I have been trying out a few WYSIWYG HTML editors for Mac OSX. The three I tested were Rapidweaver, Sandvox, and iWeb (in that order). I figured after trying each application, I would give them a quick review to help others who are looking for the best of the best…or so I thought.

Before I dive into the review, let me give you a tidbit about my technical background and what I was looking for from a WYSIWYG editor. This will help give you readers a better understanding of my needs and will help determine if my review is valid for you: I know very basic HTML, I work with XML, I’ve taken one Java class, and I don’t know a lick of CSS or any other design language/tool developers use to create beautiful websites. 50% of my day involves surfing the internet and reading blogs. If the internet could sprout little legs and arms, I would beg and plead ‘Netty’ to be my best friend and we’d live happily ever after. I can build a computer and errrm to sum it up, I’ve worked in the IT department and now the eCommerce department for one of the most powerful telecom companies in the U.S. go figure…

My expectation for a “perfect” editing tool was extremely minimal in my opinion (as you can see on my site). All I wanted/needed was a website that contained my blog, about me section, and contact info. I could go without a welcome splash page, but chose to as an ‘accessory’. The traffic I intended to attract was friends and families with a few stragglers along the way that stumbled upon my site when they were bored. Also, I wanted to bring more exposure to my Flickr account. I wanted a low cost to free application as I didn’t want a full blown bad ass website that can throw flashing lights and make your eyes twinkle. Basically to put it into perspective, I wanted a Blogger, WordPress, Blogspot, etc that I can personalize and host myself.

Enough about me, let’s dive into the review. I am going to Tarantino this and let you guys know which one I chose (and that’s not because you’re looking at my site already) and then give you my perspective of each tool. Out of the three, I chose iWeb. It met most of my needs, had some annoyances, but it just worked. It’s definitely far from perfect, and could use some more simplistic features. The site is easy to upload using FTP. When viewing the source code on the site, it’s quite messy, but just as messy as the rest. Even with the limited features that are missing when not using a .Mac account, you can rest assure that you will produce a personalized website that is compatible with today’s web standards. Here is what I thought about each tool:

rapidweaverRapidweaver: A cutting edge tool that has a user-friendly interface, but lacks the friendliness when it comes to customizing the functionality of your website. The cost of a license is $49 without upgrades. Upgrade cost is $25. After unzipping the DMG, the total size of the application is roughly 35MB +/-. The demo offered will allow you to use all of the features that a licensed copy has, but will limit you to creating only 3 pages of a website (perfect for me!). They are on version 3.6 (as of this post).
Pros: User-friendly interface, 30 modern themes (even more with user created themes), effective blog option, offers tags/tag cloud, good category feature, cleanest source output out of the three, low cost, helpful support forum, publishing with ease through FTP
Cons: Knowledge of CSS for a fully functional website is needed, Looks great using the Safari browser, mediocre on Firefox, and terrible on Internet Explorer,  applying images next to text is a challenge
Recommended User: For those who are slightly more advanced at coding with a taste and simplicity of a WYSIWYG editor. If you lack that knowledge, then your site will lack as well. If you do have that code knowledge, your site can and will look fantastic. Spending extra time on the forum is a must.

sandvoxSandvox: Innovative tool that mirrors the UI of iWeb. They are somewhat a newer company with the latest build being version 1.2.6 (as of this post). The cost of a non-pro license is $49 without upgrades (not sure on cost for upgrades). Pro being $79, allowing you to edit “Raw HTML”. After unzipping the DMG, the total size of the application is roughly 65MB +/-. The demo offered will allow you to use all of the features that a licensed non-pro copy has, but will limit you to uploading 1 page of your website.
Pros: User-friendly interface, No need to learn code, 40 modern themes, low cost, pagelet for Flickr
Cons: No tags, Category feature is lacking, Blogging….where do I start…if you want a one page blog site that doesn’t summarize each entry, can’t go beyond 20 entries, and doesn’t have a “next/previous” button…do not use Sandvox, Tree navigation system needs work starting with minimizing and expanding option, reminds me of a single paged Web 1.0 website, (I didn’t even make an attempt at publishing since I wasn’t happy with the end result)
Recommended User: This editor is for the extreme basic user. It doesn’t require any knowledge of code whatsoever (good for me). If you were looking to create a website for your business, school, or any commercial use, I highly recommend this tool. For a more versatile and fully functional personalized site, stick with the other tools.

iwebiWeb: This tool is part of Apple’s iLife suite so you can be sure that it has that fluid Apple-designed interface feel. The tool comes pre-installed on all Mac computers or can be purchased separately for $79. The total size of the application is roughly 156MB +/-. Apple is on version 2.0.2 (as of this post).
Pros: User-friendly interface, modern themes, most simplistic blog tool out of the three, offers blog archive, published with ease, drag and drop images without media tool
Cons: Need a .Mac account to use all features, annoying pop-up warnings/reminders, only 18 themes to choose from, No tags (need a how to), No categories (need a how to), ummm no blog comment options without a .Mac account? Looks great using the Safari browser and mediocre on Firefox and Internet Explorer (as you can tell by the alignment of the images)
Recommended User: Although annoying at times with the pop-up warnings/reminders (thank some god for the “never show again” check box) and the touchy preview interface, the final outcome is a personalized website that works functionally as expected. The crafty artistic users will probably get the most kick out of the themes as they all fall under Apple’s traditional style.

Closing Comments: My number one recommendation is downloading each demo, or give the pre-installed iWeb a trial run before committing to any purchase price. Each tool has a personality of its own and each has their own strengths and weaknesses. The major deciding factor comes down to what type of website you are aiming to build. The tools are well thought out and I have seen amazing sites built by each one. Until I figure out this lack of “blog comment” issue, please shoot me an email with any questions, concerns, thoughts, fighting words, hostility, etc.

Entry photo courtesy of Flickr user: Vincent Maher