Sandvox by Kareila Software will celebrate its fifth birthday this year. The festivities begin with Sandvox 2.0, a major update to the WYSIWYG Web editor for the Mac. With more than 5 dozen new or improved features, such as the super-handy Objects Menu and full HTML5 compliance, Sandvox 2 is ready for weekend Web warriors and small business owners alike. Here's my look at Sandvox 2.
Web editors like Sandvox are meant for those who wish to create websites without touching HTML. That's a large number of users, like new parents, baseball coaches and small business owners. The common thread among them is the need for simplicity. Fortunately, Sandvox 2 meets that need.
The main UI window is familiar to anyone who's used iTunes, Pages or iWeb. On the left-hand side you'll find thumbnails of pages. On the right is the page you're currently working on. A customizable toolbar allows easy access to your favorite functions.
Working on a page, be it a blog, gallery, form, etc. is as easy as editing text. Simply type (or paste rich text) and Sandvox handles the code for you. Adding interesting elements -- what Kareila calls Objects -- is also a breeze, as this article will point out later. Also, an inspector lets you fine-tune page elements. Adding YouTube videos, Amazon product links and more is drag-and-drop easy.
As for looks, Sandvox 2 ships with about 60 themes, while third-party theme developers extend the options even further. In short, Sandvox 2 looks good, and the UI is simple enough for its intended audience.
Let's get this out of the way now. Some people dislike WYSIWYG Web editors. We hear you. Less-than-stellar code, limited output or upload options and other troublesome areas turn some folks off. You'll be glad to know that Sandvox 2 produces HTML5-compliant code out of the box and offers full access to the raw HTML to those who want it.
Of course, the app's core demographic isn't interested in any of that.
Let's talk about creating a site that looks great and performs well without burning a whole lot of calories in the process.
The Objects Menu
The Objects Menu is new to Sandvox 2 and quite handy. For the first time, Sandvox users can combine elements, such as photo galleries and video, on the same page. There are 19 different objects to choose from, and each can be added with a click.
For example, here's how to add a YouTube clip. First, create the page that will hold the clip. Next, select YouTube from the Objects Menu. A place holder appears. From there, simply drag a URL onto the placeholder, either from a browser or the desktop. That's it! No need to fiddle with an embed code, worry about sizing, etc.
Likewise, you can add items for sale at Amazon. Again, select the Objects Menu and choose Amazon List. A sidebar items appears. Next, use the Inspector to add links, enter your Amazon Associates code (if you have one), re-order items, alter the layout and more. As someone who has used Amazon's associates site, I can tell you Sandvox offers a much more pleasant experience.
Other objects include a text box, raw HTML, Flickr thumbnails, Twitter tools, IM status, RSS tools and more. Again, all of these items can be added with a click and tweaked with just a few more. People who've been tasked with creating a website despite a lack of experience will do well with Sandvox 2.
New Design Options
The Design Chooser is completely new in Sandvox 2. When the app is first launched, you're presented with a welcome screen and the option to create a new site or open an existing one. When building a new site, a sheet drops down with design options presented in a grid, similar to how Keynote or Pages behaves. Simply make your choice, hit Choose and you're off. A new page with some placeholder text will appear.
The Inspector in Sandvox 2 allows for tweaking of every object on your site. Features you'd expect are in place, like image alignment, text styles and linking, as well as cooler stuff like your Amazon Associates ID and an option to turn basic photo galleries to lightbox galleries with a click.
Hardcore Web nerds will feel a little "boxed in" by Sandvox, but that's not who this app is for. Those who want to produce a great-looking site quickly and with a minimum of fuss ought to give Sandvox 2 a look. The Objects Menu alone is worth the price of admission.
Sandvox 2.0 requires Mac OS X version 10.5 or higher. It's regularly priced at US$77 and available directly from Karelia Software (not the Mac App Store). Registered owners of Sandvox 1.x are eligible to purchase Sandvox 2.0 for a special upgrade price of $47.
Currently, Sandvox 2.0 is priced at $67 and upgrades are $37. These limited, introductory prices go through May 20.