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Making iWeb Your Own: Creating Your Own Themes and Templates for Apple's Web Design Tool

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Do you like iWeb's ease of use but feel stifled by having to rely on Apple's cookie-cutter selection of themes and templates? Here's some great news: You can create your templates and themes for iWeb. Ryan Faas walks you through changing and adding to the reference files and ultimately creating your own personalized iWeb themes.
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If you’ve worked with iWeb, you know that creating a new page involves choosing one of Apple’s prefab templates and then replacing or modifying the placeholder text, images, and other elements built into the template to create your page. Apple includes six or seven template types for pages organized around different themes (Welcome, About Me, Photo Album, Movie, Blog, and Podcast—and Blank, if you’re using iWeb 1.1). Each of these themes has a different look created by Apple’s use of text formatting, backgrounds, and other images.

This template-based approach makes it easy for novice web designers and those who want an easy-to-use tool to create professional looking websites and pages very easily. iWeb’s drag-and-drop approach to working with graphics and other media, coupled with its integration with Apple’s other iLife applications, make modifying these stock templates a breeze. Even with this ease of use, making your pages look like yours and not just like cookie-cutter templates can be time-consuming and somewhat frustrating.

However, it is possible to create your own templates and themes for iWeb. Creating your own theme enables you to create a custom look for all the pages in your site(s) but to still have the cohesive look that Apple’s themes offer. It also gives you the advantage of just creating a new page and selecting the templates within your own theme instead of having to select a template from one of Apple’s themes and then modifying it.

Creating your own templates or themes is not the easiest task, however. It involves modifying the files inside the iWeb application—and it does require a certain amount of experience with graphics tools and with XML and/or XHTML. If this is beyond your comfort level, you might want to consider the following alternatives to building your own themes.

Using the Duplicate Page Command to Create Pseudo-Templates

With the iWeb 1.1 update, Apple added a much-needed feature to iWeb: the capability to duplicate an existing page. This facility enables you to take a page that you have already modified from Apple’s stock template and use it as a type of pseudo-template. Select a template for the first page of your site, modify all the elements the way you want, and then select Duplicate Page from the Edit menu (or use the Apple + D key combination). You then get an exact copy of the page that you can modify as your second page (or third or fourth or fifth, and so on). This approach can work well if you are working only with a single type of page in iWeb. For example, if you initially use a Welcome or About Me page template, you can’t use this technique to create a blog or podcast (although the approach does work for duplicating blog and podcast entry pages).

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