RapidWeaver targets people with little to no web design experience seeking a simple way to produce a professional-looking, standards-compliant, and highly customizable mixed-content website. It’s a stand-alone, client-side web design tool. As a content management tool, the built-in capabilities of this app are easy to use; and the user interface is much friendlier than most other web-based content management systems. It’s also easy to set up and maintain. It’s used by experienced developers, too, because it’s a handy way to quickly build and deploy a site with minimal fuss, and it’s fairly easy to create custom templates.
great themes from RW and third-party developers; customization options are outstanding for most themes; dedicated user base; great forums and customer support; outstanding third-party add-ons; easy to modify a site for beginners; frequent updates and improvements; Snippets library makes it easy to drag and drop bits of often-used code
Not free like WordPress; blog commenting is handled by HaloScan, so it's not well-integrated with the app; many third-party plugins are relatively expensive; some paid plugins seem like they should be core features; occasional quirky and/or buggy behavior; loading up a large site is slow; publishing a large site is still a bit slow and occasionally doesn't work (see next paragraph); some of the site customization/configurability options are not very obvious or well-explained; not easy to mix and match dynamic/static content on a page; doesn't integrate with MarsEdit for blogging
1. Could I figure out how to use the application with minimal fuss (preferably without referring to documentation)? Like chess, RapidWeaver is easy to learn but hard to master. It takes some time and dedication to learn how to customize sitewide preferences, page-specific preferences, sidebar content options and meta options. This is mainly because it takes a while to get used to the wide array of pop-up menus that contain all the customization and optimization tools. While it's easy to get a site up quickly, most users will need to dig into the manual and online forums to take advantage of all that RW offers. 2. Was I still enthusiastic about using the application after a week of use? Oh yeah. I really enjoy using it. It may be daunting for newcomers to grasp how some aspects of the program work, but it's still much simpler than most other tools out there relative to the sheer amount of user-control possibilities. 3. How easy is it to modify? It's among the best. The coolest part is how a user with no CSS experience can robustly adjust site appearance (to include drop-dead easy manipulation of sidebar location, as well as page width for many themes). The developers have clearly put a tremendous amount of effort into creating a user interface that makes it possible for novices to customize a site beyond what most other website creation tools offer; added to this, the developers freely share developer kits to give more experienced users complete control over their sites, or to develop commercial plugins and themes. 4. How easy is to set up a website and publish content? Quite easy, but you will need to have a web host and know how to set up an FTP account (you can also publish to .Mac). 5. How well does it handle lots and lots of pages and blog entries (scalability)? I've previously noted that I have some concerns about this. According to the developers, this issue is a top priority for future releases. I'm confident they'll work it out. 6. How did the program 'feel?' How 'Mac-like' is it? This is where RapidWeaver really stands out. I think the developers do a great job at striking a balance between simplicity and power to meet the need of most users. The design is clean. Mac users will find most controls are familiar since the tool is built with Mac OS X's native language. That also means that it integrates tightly with the Mac OS. I say it's as slick as Apple's iWeb, just twice as powerful. 7. How many plugins, add ons, etc. are available (expandability)? Better by the day. Check out the Add-Ons on the developer's site for a taste of what's available. Overall, I think RapidWeaver is a wonderful tool. It focuses on simplicity, minimalism, and style — but it packs a lot of choices, features, and customization options within. While there is certainly room for improvement, RW is rapidly evolving: since version 3.6 launched at the end of last May, seven significant updates have already been released. And version 4.0 is just around the corner. If you want to get a great-looking site up fast and want a simple way to maintain it, this is probably the best tool out there for the Mac.
I reviewed the WordPress.org open source package (not to be confused with the WordPress.com installation), which is a free blog publishing system for Mac, PC, or Linux. It is first and foremost a tool for the weblog, designed to support things that bloggers need most. If you don’t want to pay any money upfront, flexibility and customization options are important to you, and you have some (or great) knowledge of CSS and HTML, it’s a solid choice. If you don’t know anything about web design, you will still get a lot out of it because the basic administration tools are robust and there are tons of plugins and themes available to make your site unique. Also note that there is a multi-user WordPress option if you want multiple blogs from one installation.
free; easy to set up; tons of free templates; plugins abound; edit your site from anywhere, or mail in updates; great integration with MarsEdit; fairly easy to upgrade; newly redesigned Dashboard much cleaner and easier to use; one-click updating now available for most plugins; great online documentation
theme modification difficult for those with no web design experience; limited support if you use WP.org installation; the multitude of site settings may be daunting for some users; web interface is great, but no match for simplicity of RapidWeaver
A major new version of WP was released hours after I posted my review. I posted a summary of the big changes and have spent the past week getting used to the new features. The big news with WordPress 2.5 is certainly the Dashboard (admin Panel): it's completely different. I have to say I think it's much better than the old design. The starting page of the Dashboard is now much more useful and is now user-customizable. Another nice feature is that you no longer need to update plugins manually, which saves time and effort. I also like the new built-in function that enables easier gallery creation. And if you upload images with EXIF data, WP now reads this metadata automatically so you can integrate it into your template. Check out this WP blog entry for a full list of new features and a great screencast.
I started this series because I noticed that a lot of people were reaching the site upon searching for a comparison of these two applications. What's apparent to me after taking a closer look is this: if you want the easiest possible solution and you don't mind paying $49, RapidWeaver is the way to go. If you want open-ended flexibility and care primarily about blogging, you may prefer WordPress. And now, a message from our sponsor. Just joking. There are no sponsors. I'm looking at these two web publishing tools solely because I want to and I've used both of them quite extensively. I have no ties to the developers. Of course, there are many other website creation tools, blogging tools and CMS platforms out there. My recommendation: try out two or three before making up your mind. I've said this before, but it's worth repeating: you can easily test out a variety of web-based platforms locally on your Mac using the freely-available MAMP. And, of course, RapidWeaver offers a timed trial (as do almost all Mac third party apps) which will give you plenty of time to make up your mind. If you were expecting a clear winner between these two publishing platforms, you may be disappointed by my conclusion that WordPress and RapidWeaver are both great choices. In fact, you might consider using both tools: WordPress for your blog and RapidWeaver for everything else. This great suggestion came from reader Brab, who runs Moveable Type in tandem with a RapidWeaver for his site. It's a good way to go if you're looking for total blog control but also want the style, ease and flexibility of RapidWeaver. The idea of combining the best of both tools is very appealing. My biggest concern is how well I could integrate the two, but I came across a tutorial which indicates it's entirely possible to make WP and RW coexist seamlessly. I might have to try this out. So, that's about it for the RapidWeaver Vs. WordPress series. Hope you get something out of it.