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iWeb '08

David Chartier

I need to come right out and say it: I am really, really excited for iWeb and all the new .Mac changes. With the first version of iWeb, Apple didn't seem to quite 'get it' yet; everything you could build into your pages had to more or less come from your Mac desktop. In a web 2.0 world though, that just doesn't cut it for so many aspiring iWeb users. Many of us have Twitter accounts, pictures on Flickr and stuff we create at zillion of other sites that we'd like to integrate into a personal website, and iWeb 2.0 reveals that Apple finally understands this.

Web Widgets

Finally melding the power and ease iWeb brings to publishing your Mac's media with the rest of the internet is iWeb's arguably biggest new feature: Web Widgets. While this page is a little skimpy on details, we can now embed code snippets from the endless community sites cropping up on the web into our iWeb pages. As an awesome bonus I can't wait to see in action, iWeb also offers a live preview mode that will include these widgets, so you can see your site in action and be sure everything gels before publishing.

Publish to a personal domain

This feature doesn't get its own page at the new iWeb site, but hopeful iWeb power users will likely appreciate the fact that you can now publish your sites to personal domains. Details are even slimmer for this one, but it sounds like Apple finally shared some of Mac OS X's built-in FTP abilities with iWeb, allowing us to set up our own personal sites for one-click publishing.

Google Maps & Google AdSense

Next on the big ticket item list is integration with Google Maps & Google AdSense, continuing Apple's long-awaited integration of web apps and services with the power of Mac OS X software. Users can now easily place fully-functional Google Maps on their iWeb sites, and Google AdSense blocks can be placed just like any other iWeb object; fully draggable, though I would imagine you still need to stick to the dimensions the Google AsSense program requires. Strangely, this part of the iWeb site refers to earnings via the AdSense program as "Google credits."

My Album Pages

Part of me is confused at this new My Album Pages feature in light of the .Mac Web Galleries feature of iPhoto and the updated .Mac, but in a way it makes sense. iWeb will now give you far more powerful control over your albums, how they're published and organized, but this sounds like a different set of tools than the ones for .Mac Web Galleries since these albums need to be incorporated into the rest of your site. You can, however, easily link any of your .Mac Web Galleries, making it easy to at least direct your visitors to the galleries you publish there as well. If you're a little confused by all this, you aren't the only one. Since iWeb and the new .Mac Web Galleries are two of my favorite new software features announced, however, you can be sure I'm going to give them both a good run-through for an upcoming review.

Enhanced Photo Pages

The Enhanced Photo Pages feature sounds like it too walks the fine line between .Mac Web Galleries, My Album Pages and new iPhoto features. Judging from the marketing speak on this page, it sounds like this feature is merely highlighting the fact that iWeb works really well with iPhoto's new Events feature that offers new ways or organizing and browsing your photo library. As a welcome bonus, you can allow site visitors to add comments to your photos on these pages. However, no details are available as to whether comments can be left if you publish to non-.Mac pages. Given that current iWeb sites are limited in this way (to be fair, this is at least in part due to a web technology and limitation) and neither Jobs nor the iWeb page makes direct mention of overcoming that hurdle, I am unfortunately expecting the worst; that iWeb sites can't do comments in any way if they aren't published to .Mac. Time will only tell on this feature though, so stay tuned.

Theme Switching

Last but certainly not least, Theme Switching ought to put a smile on every iWeb user's face. Instead of getting locked into a theme once you publish or merely start creating a site, users can now easily switch between themes any time they chose. Another welcome addition in this area is a total of 8 new themes in addition to the 20 iWeb already has. The first thing that comes to my mind, however, is that I hope Apple made it easier for 3rd parties offer custom iWeb themes to users, as the installation process (from what I remember) was never very pretty. One detail not mentioned here, however, is whether web widgets (AdSense, custom code, etc.) will need to get reset or re-created after changing a theme on a site. Given how different themes and their layouts can very, I would imagine this would be the case, so you might need to still plan for the long haul if you're going to heavily customize your iWeb '08 site.

That's about it for the major new stuff in iWeb '08, as far as I can tell for now anyway. We're all trying our best to get our hands on a copy ASAP so we can dig into all the new goodies, so we'll have more details on all the new features as soon as they start shipping, or when local stores stock their shelves.

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