Apple’s iWeb is a great consumer web design tool that makes it easy for users, including those who have never created a web page before, to design very professional looking sites quickly. The interface is intuitive, easy to grasp, and makes it a breeze for anyone to create a photo album, blog, podcast, or any other type of web page. Its integration with Apple’s .Mac server makes publishing sites to the web as easy as clicking a single button (publishing to another web host via FTP isn’t quite so easy, but it isn’t traumatically difficult).
With all its ease of use, iWeb is not the only consumer web/blog/podcast tool available to Mac users and to .Mac subscribers. There’s an argument to be made that it isn’t even the best option. Although powerful, iWeb requires a lot of system resources, is not always the most cost-effective tool (although the other applications in the iLife suite make the package as a whole well worth the cost), and is cumbersome if your site will be hosted on a server other than .Mac. The five tools below offer many of the same features as iWeb (including easy publishing to .Mac), but with a smaller resource footprint, the ability to run on earlier Macs than iWeb (iLife ’06 can run only on G4 machines and better), more streamlined interfaces for specific tasks, and much easier publishing to other web hosts via FTP—making them the top five shareware alternatives to iWeb.
Blog.Mac is an application designed for blogging and podcasting. If you are looking solely for an easy-to-use blog tool, Blog.Mac is a great choice. Its interface is completely GUI and intuitive. Like iWeb, it relies on template files for several design elements (including the background and font selections of the published blog). Several templates are included, and a template editor is available, enabling you to create your own templates.
Blogs published by using Blog.Mac look more like standard blogs than iWeb’s default blog designs. They include a header and sidebar that contain several customizable components—including recent articles, updated images from an attached or built-in iSight camera, currently playing iTunes song, archives, links or blog roll, and external RSS feeds. Blog.Mac also generates its own RSS feed and has an option for automatically generating email invitations for announcing your blog. Blog.Mac also includes built-in integration with the Haloscan free blog-commenting service, enabling you to easily enable comments on your blog.
Blog.Mac can also be used to create podcasts. Although it doesn’t offer the ability to record audio, it can generate and publish a podcast, provided that you have an existing audio file. That file can be stored on the Internet or on your computer. The podcast editor in Blog.Mac is straightforward and enables you to easily enter descriptions and podcast categories and related tags for use in the iTunes podcast directory.
Like the iLife applications, Blog.Mac includes the iLife Media Browser for easy access to photos stored in your iPhoto library—as well as music stored in iTunes and files stored in your music, movies, and pictures folders. It even enables you to embed iPhoto photo albums as album pages in your blog or podcast pages. Like iWeb, Blog.Mac supports one-click publishing to .Mac accounts. However, it also includes built-in support for easily uploading to another web host via FTP/SFTP and the option to export the raw HTML files of a site for uploading or copying to a server using another tool.
Blog.Mac is actually much easier for users who have never used a blogging or web design application than iWeb. Although it isn’t a full-featured web design tool, its simple interface and unique sidebar features (some of which typically require a good deal more skill to implement well), combined with the professional look of its output, make Blog.Mac a great alternative to iWeb if you want to create one or more blogs easily and quickly.