Upgrading to WordPress 2.9

I just upgraded to WordPress 2.9, neglecting beforehand to deactivate my plugins. This is a mistake. If you’re using WP.org and install updates manually as I do, ensure you turn your plugins off. Also ensure you take the time to back up your site and your MySQL database. It’s worth the extra effort in case anything else goes wrong.

At any rate, after I performed the update, I could see my site but was unable to access wp-admin. The solution: I removed all of my plugins using my FTP client. It loaded without a problem after that. Then I added the plugins back one at a time until I found the offending item. In my case, it was WP Security Scan. I’m sure the developer of this plugin will release an update imminently, but it is currently incompatible with the 2.9. Once I removed it, all was well.

Categorized as tip Tagged

Site hack recap

So, the site is back to normal. The question is how did this happen? My passwords consist of 12 randomly-generated digits/symbols, I’m using the latest versions of WordPress and various plug ins. It could be that I was just one of the lucky first few to have their WP 2.7 installs compromised. It could also be that the attack came from a hole in one of my plugins.

It appears that only my wp-config.php and index.php files were overwritten. My MySQL database and theme files were unaffected. It wasn’t that hard to recover from this, but it was a bit scary. The majority of my time was spent checking through all of my files to ensure I captured the extent of the damage.

Whatever vulnerability I had, this incident is a good opportunity to take stock of ways to minimize the chance of this happening.

1. Spend some time learning about hardening your WordPress installation. One thing I learned after this incident is that anyone can peek into my plugins folder.

2. Backup. Backup. Backup. Not just your WP files, but also your MySQL database.

3. Keep up to date with the latest plugins and WordPress version.

4. Make sure your file and directory permissions are correct.

5. Choose good, long passwords. Use a manager like 1Password so you don’t have to remember what they are.

6. If you have multiple WordPress installs (or Drupal, Joomla, etc.), ensure those sites are up-to-date as well. For instance, I had two Drupal installs and two other WordPress installs in the same public directory on my host. My Drupal installations were not up to date. This could be a vulnerability.

I’m not going to rehash all of the WordPress security tips and tricks here. It’s exhaustively documented. Start with the WordPress Codex. Learn a bit about the .htaccess file. Learn a bit about file permissions. I’ve linked to some of the more interesting documentation I came across. Hope it helps.

Site will be back to normal soon

Even though this site was running the latest version of WordPress (2.7) and the latest plug in versions, it was taken over sometime overnight and replaced with a site espousing an end to Palestinian violence. Thankfully, I had a good backup.

I’m still in the process of restoring everything, changing and strengthening passwords, etc.

Everything is back to normal, except for my sidebar tabs. They are refusing to be tab-like. I’ll have them working again shortly…and I’ll post about the experience soon.

On Mac Organizers & WordPress

Coming soon: a comparison review of five top Mac information organizers…

But first, I want to say how happy I am that my offline experiment is over. The TV part was easy, since I don’t really watch TV. The Mac part was quite hard. I’m happily back online now, with no great lessons learned (other than I prefer to be connected; no great surprise there).

Now, about my impending series on Mac organizers: I agree with those of you who suggest I tackle Together (formerly known as KIT) rather than Evernote. Together is clearly in the same class as DevonThink, EagleFiler, and Yojimbo. Evernote is clearly not. Together is also quite popular, so it’s a good target for this series. Thank you to those who commented for steering me straight.

Of these apps, I have substantial experience using DevonThink and Yojimbo. This will give me a good baseline. However, I have no experience using EagleFiler and Together, so I’ve downloaded the trials to test them out. I want to use them each intensely for at least a week to give them a fair shake. I also have decided I will add VooDooPad to the mix because I use it, I really like it and it’s substantially different from the others. It deserves to be in the lineup.

Now that I have identified the five apps I wish to review, I must say that I’m still pondering how to tackle this series. I just read through some existing review series suggested by reader brab. These reviews are excellent and I highly recommend you give them a read. In fact, these posts were so informative and thoughtful that I have to take a few days to rethink how I want to approach this. I want to write something that is value-added. I don’t want to rehash what’s already out there. I want to try to take a fresh look. More to come.

WordPressNow a few words about WordPress. I did manage to get a Mac fix during my week “off the grid.” This past Saturday, I went down to the University of Hawaii for the 2008 Mac a’hiki Tech Fest (sponsored by the Hawaii Macintosh and Apple Users’ Society).

The highlight of this gathering was a keynote speech by Matt Mullenweg of WordPress.com fame. Most of his talk focused on the capabilities of WordPress, which I’m already familiar with as a WP user. I did, however learn a few interesting things:

Monotone theme from WordPressFirst, WordPress is about to launch an interesting new theme called Monotone that’s geared towards displaying photos in a blog. It is interesting because it’s dynamic: the theme samples your top photo in your most recent post and automatically generates complementary colors for the layout of your page. Each time you post a new photo, your base theme colors change to match that photo. It’s a nice idea, and I expect variations on this dynamic sampling to generate more interesting themes in the future. I look forward to taking a peek at the code behind this.

Next, I learned about Gravatar.com. While I was aware of the Gravatar concept, I was unaware that WordPress hosted the Gravatar service. Apparently Automattic, Mullenweg’s WP.com company, acquired Gravatar last October. If you sign up for a Gravatar, your unique little photo will follow you around the web when you’re posting comments on any site that supports the Gravatar feature. Yet another example of how the web is turning into a more cohesive entity for the individual.

Following that, I learned of bbPress and BuddyPress — two WordPress.com offshoots. The first service is a free package for simple forum hosting. It purportedly makes setting up a forum as easy as setting up a WordPress.com site. I’m curious about how well it will integrate into a current WP installation. The second is a set of WordPress plugins (for WordPress MultiUser) which offers a very simple and easy way to transform any blog into a social network platform à la MySpace. The difference is that you don’t have to sign up for a social service with this — you create your own social center.

BuddyPress is still under construction, and Mullenweg doesn’t recommend you launch into it yet. But he said a stable package will soon be available. I like the idea of segmented user-level social networks. While it’s not a new idea, Mullenweg argued that this package will make it simple enough for anyone to create and maintain — which would be something new.

What this all added up for me was a clearer vision of how WordPress is positioning itself to lead the market with free, simple and easy to use blogging and social forum platforms in a variety of flavors. When I add up the myriad of options presented by WordPress.org, WordPress.com, WordPressMU, bbPress, and BuddyPress (all free services, by the way), I get the sense that this is developing into something very special.

I’m also struck by the aggressive development-and-release schedule of the WordPress team. That I can expect a major upgrade with significant improvements every few months is a tangible benefit that has so far kept me from leaping to another platform. I especially like that I have full access to this platform for free. Since I use the ‘.org‘ version of WP, I can do whatever I like with it. I can even try to make a better commercial platform to compete with WordPress. I like the WP business model. As Mullenweg put it, anyone can use and exploit the open source WP package. It’s up to the WP.com team to make their commercial implementation of this package a top consumer choice (they make money, by the way, by offering premium upgrades).

Finally, Mullenweg showcased a site produced by Ford (yes, that Ford) on WordPress. Wow. I took one look at this site and was inspired to see if I could push my WordPress installation a bit further. I’m amazed that this site is based on WordPress. I’ve toyed with moving to a new platform (recently I tried porting this site over to Drupal — you can see the test result here), but I’m more inclined now than ever to stick with WP. Especially when I consider how much time and energy I’ve put into understanding how this package works (and how little time I have to delve into another package!).

HMAUSIf you’re interested in seeing Mullenweg’s talk, HMAUS is planning to post a videocast of the talk soon.

As a side note, I put down five bucks on a raffle at the HMAUS event, hoping to win one of two iPod Shuffles or the Belkin USB hub. I walked away with an extra-extra large University of Hawaii football jersey and a can of Chef Boyardee Mac and Cheese. Hmm.

RapidWeaver Vs. WordPress IV: Wrap Up

WordPressRealmac RapidWeaverThis is the final installment in a four part comparison of Realmac’s RapidWeaver and WordPress, two popular web publishing choices for the Mac. I would have posted this sooner if not for the recent releases of WordPress 2.5 and RapidWeaver 3.6.6. I’ve now spent a few days with these new versions, so I’ll recap what’s new and provide my impressions here.

As I’ve worked on this comparison, it’s become even more apparent how different the two tools are: in terms of user base, RW is a flea to the WP gorilla. In terms of the platform, RW is a Mac-only application that is tied to the desktop, while WP is a free roaming, web-based platform comfortable on a variety of operating systems. And in terms of usage, RW attempts to be an all-inclusive website creation tool while WP specializes in blogging and dynamic content management. Still, I maintain that this is a handy comparison, mainly because RW is more than capable as a blogging platform — and it seems to be gaining in popularity for Mac users. And for bloggers and those who want to blog, WordPress is known to be a widely popular and flexible choice. So I hope to place both tools in context to help you make a better-informed decision. To get the most out of this, I recommend you start by reviewing the other entries in this series.

Now let’s wrap it up:

1. RapidWeaver | Developer’s site | full review

RapidWeaver Inbox


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

Latest Update:

RapidWeaver 3.6.6 is now out. While this is a relatively modest update, the developers claim that upload speed is now significantly enhanced. I tested this claim out on my wife’s site by inserting some custom javascript for her blog page and then publishing the changes with the previous version of RW (this forced an update on 140 files for her site). I then deleted the change, updated the site again, then applied the update. Finally, I reapplied the javascript update and published changes again to see if it was substantially faster. In this case, publishing speeds were marginally, but not significantly, faster. On 3.6.6, I had to publish changes twice because one of her pages failed to upload. Once this happens, RW times out and simply stops updating. The only way to get out of the publishing mode is to Force Quit. So I’ve concluded that progress is being made, but I’m still seeing a bit of bugginess with my wife’s large site. My wife still maintains that she must quit all open applications on the Mac prior to publishing her RW site in order to minimize the odds of a publishing error. Perhaps we have a third-party conflict. It’s hard to say. All I’ve concluded is that most times the site publishes without a problem, but sometimes it fails. Final word: Realmac quickly released 3.6.7 to address a Tiger-specific problem days after 3.6.6 hit the streets. The developers recommend that Leopard users also update to this latest iteration. The catch is that Leopard users are not notified of the update through RW’s software update feature. You can get it here.

The Verdict

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.

1. WordPress | Developer’s site | full review



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

Latest Update:

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.

The Verdict

1. Could I figure out how to use the application with minimal fuss (preferably without referring to documentation)?

I initially had to refer to online documentation to set up my site and to learn how to upgrade it, but it’s not too hard. If you need help with the installation, many web hosts now offer automatic installs. With the release of 2.5, the Dashboard (Admin Panel) is now much easier to grasp, mainly because all of the plugin management and back end settings have been moved out of the main Admin area to, appropriately, a separate ‘settings’ section. I think most users will find the basic admin tools are very easy to use. Fine tuning a site’s settings takes a little more patience and time to get right.

2. Was I still enthusiastic about using the application after a week of use?

Certainly. I’m still using WP for this site. I have long thought I’d like to switch to different platform called ModX, but I’m reconsidering this now. One reason is that I have a lot of time and energy invested in my WP site and it would be a major inconviencence and time-sucker to make the switch. Second reason is I’m not sure how I’d migrate over the posts and comments to this new platform. Last reason is that the new version of WP offers a lot of nice new features. Like RW, WordPress releases updates quite frequently, so I’m optimistic that this is a platform that will continue to get better and better over time.

3. How easy is it to modify?

This is perhaps the weak link in WordPress. While content management is easy, WP themes are not as easily customized as they are in RapidWeaver. To be fair, some themes do offer some easier-to-use style editing options (e.g. Kubrick offers a fairly easy way to modify header image, fonts and color), but choices are limited. In order to access all theme customization settings, the Dashboard Theme Editor presents your theme’s style sheet and PHP page code within a text window; the problem is that most novice users probably won’t be comfortable modifying this code. Still, I’d bet that most users are probably quite happy with picking a theme and sticking with it, and those who want to create a custom site will likely know what to do. What’s nice about the built-in view of your site pages is that you can remotely make changes if you’re away from your Mac. I personally never use the built-in WP theme editor functions. I maintain and adjust my theme on my Mac using CSSEdit and TextMate. For novice users who take the time to learn a little bit about CSS, simple color and font changes can be made relatively easily within the WP Dashboard.

4. How easy is to set up a website and publish content?

It’s quite easy if you’re using the web-based Dashboard editor (version 2.5 now offers a greatly improved WYSIWYG editor that works better and is expandable so you don’t have to work within such a tiny window. It’s even easier if you use MarsEdit. The nice thing about WP, of course, is that it’s a pretty simple to use Content Management System — all of your core content is easy to get at and relatively easy to modify via the Dashboard’s Write, Manage, Design, and Comments tabs. I can’t speak for uploading images, video, etc. via the Dashboard. I upload all external files using Transmit, an FTP client. I should note that version 2.5 now offers multi-file upload with progress bar indicators, so it sounds like it’s now easier than it’s ever been to upload files via the Dashboard.

5. How well does it handle lots and lots of pages and blog entries (scalability)?

I’ve never heard any complaints in this department. My site, while not huge, is still fairly large. I’ve never had any issues or problems that I’ve associated with the size and complexity of my site.

6. How did the program ‘feel?’ How ‘Mac-like’ is it?

If I were managing my site design and content solely via the WP Dashboard, I don’t think I’d be as happy with WordPress as a blogging platform. However, adding in some additional tools, as I noted in the main review, makes WP fly. It’s no small thing that some of my favorite Mac apps (CSSEdit, TextMate, MarsEdit, Transmit) work seamlessly with WordPress, so this makes managing my site a real pleasure. As for the Dashboard, it’s better than ever with version 2.5. And it’s better than most web-based CMS panels. But in comparison to the third-party apps I use to manage this site, the Dashboard just doesn’t compare. All I really use the Dashboard for, in fact, is to manage my plugins and check my WP stats. Regardless, the best thing about it is that I can access all of my site anywhere, anytime. That’s something I can’t do with RapidWeaver.

7. How many plugins, add ons, etc. are available (expandability)?

Enough to make your head spin. If you want a feature in your sidebar, chances are a widget already exists to meet your needs. The built-in Text widget also allows one to cut and paste HTML, text, and javascript on the fly to create new widget functionality. It couldn’t be easier. There are a mind-numbing array of themes freely available. As for plugins (beyond the Widget), there are tons of options to choose from. Plugin variety and ease of use are the killer feature of WordPress.

In summary, WordPress is hard to beat for blogging. It’s powerful, adaptable and simple enough to use. One of the best parts about it is that the user base and plugin/theme developer base are huge, which means that an answer to a question you may have or an extended feature that you may want are only a quick web search away.


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.

WordPress 2.5 released

WordPressJust a few short hours after I posted my WordPress review, version 2.5 was released. Of course this is a very major update, and of course my review is for version 2.3 (the prior version — there is no 2.4).

The new release offers, among other improvements: simpler plugin updating, easier gallery creation, a much better Dashboard (admin panel), enhanced security features, full-screen writing capability, a better WYSIWYG editor, and better searching capability (that now indexes static pages in addition to posts). Check out the full list of improvements here.

I just completed the upgrade. It installed flawlessly. The changes to the admin panel are indeed very substantial. It’ll take some time to get used to. The automatic plugin updating is quite nice, I have to say. Also, the Dashboard ‘start’ page is much more useful than the previous version.

The only minor problem I’ve noticed so far is that the WP Archive widget named has changed from ‘Archives‘ to ‘Archive.’ This is significant if you use image replacement for the widget title — you’ll have to update your CSS to reflect the new name.

I also noticed that the new wp-config.php is different from previous versions, so be sure to use this updated file (this file hasn’t changed in a long while, so I’m guessing that many people are in the habit of keeping their existing config file during upgrades).

The easiest way to do this is to copy over your old MySQL settings (user name, password, database name) into the new file (which is called ‘wp-config-sample.php’), delete the old config file, then delete the word ‘sample’ from the wp-config-sample.php file.

The difference in this file is the addition of a secure key field. Enter a long, complicated key in this field as indicated (no need to remember it). This is part of a new secure cookie encryption protocol.

I’ll add my thoughts on this new version when I post the RapidWeaver Vs. WordPress final wrap-up.

RapidWeaver Vs. WordPress III: WordPress review

This is the third in a four part series comparing WordPress with RapidWeaver (and speaking of RapidWeaver, don’t miss the comment from a lead RW developer on that review).

In this episode, I’m going to take a look at WordPress, a blog publishing system for Mac, PC, or Linux. I’m assuming that most people who read this probably have heard of WordPress and have perhaps noted that many blogs use it. In terms of blogging platforms, WP ranks second in use only to Google’s Blogger. That equates to millions of users. What accounts for this popularity? In short, it works. And it’s free. Not only can you get a blog up and running quickly with WordPress, you can manage your blog with one of the best browser-based administration panels out there.

If you’re considering WordPress, you need to understand the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.


WordPress.com featuresThe .com option is the WordPress answer to Blogger. It’s a commercial web hosting venture which employs a version of WP that allows for multiple blogs within one installation. Once you sign up, you get hosting space, automatic installation, and a fixed number of themes, plugins, and widgets to customize your site. In general, you won’t be able to modify much and you can’t put ads on it. However, you will be able to modify more than you would with Blogger. You’ll be able to choose from a palette of widgets, move them around on your sidebar, choose a header photo (this option is only available with some themes), and activate some plugins, but you won’t be able to style your page or modify the theme layout/design with the free package. Nor will you be able to choose from the wider universe of WP plugins and widgets available around the web.

The basic package is free, but there are paid upgrades if you want to customize the styles of your chosen theme, get more storage space, or change your domain name to something other than your_blog.wordpress.com. Most users choose the WP.com option because it’s easier to use, it’s just as free as the .org version, it offers better technical support, and it includes site hosting.

Last point: since you will be using tried and tested themes, plugins and widgets with this option, you will be ensured of a standards-compliant site.


WordPress.orgThe .org option offers an open source package of core files to run a WP blog. It is free to use and abuse however you’d like within the terms of the General Public License. If you choose this option, you will get a download of the files needed to make WordPress run, but you won’t get a place to host it, you’ll have to install it yourself and you won’t get dedicated support. You will, however, have access to a veritable sea of plugins, widgets, and themes — and you’ll be able to fully customize and tweak your site. In other words, you have a level of freedom unmatched by what you’d get from a WP.com hosted blog. If you want the full features of the .org version, but don’t want to deal with the hassle of setting it up, there are many hosts that offer automatic installation (or you can get a WP expert to install your blog for free if your web host meets the requirements).

Last point: you may also choose the multi-user version of WP if you want the ability to have limitless blogs with unlimited authors with only one installation. It’s freely available as well (and, in case you are wondering, it’s the same platform used by WP.com).

This rest of this review will focus on the WordPress.org package because the flexibility inherent in this version most closely approximates the full capabilities of RapidWeaver.

Who is it for

WordPress Admin PanelWhile RapidWeaver is a website creation tool that also supports blogging, WordPress is first and foremost a tool for the weblog. Sure, you can add static pages to a WP site, but it is primarily designed to handle dynamic content. And it’s designed to support things that bloggers need most (moderating comments, managing posts, adding categories and tags etc.) right out of the box. While you can add photo pages, videos, and a variety of other content to your WordPress blog (either in posts or on stand-alone pages), it is generally not as easy of a task as it would be on RapidWeaver. And that’s the main difference. If you don’t want to pay any money up front, flexibility and customization options are important to you, and you have some (or great) knowledge of CSS and HTML, it’s a superb choice. It doesn’t hurt to know a bit about PHP and MySQL, too. If you don’t know anything about this stuff, you will still get a lot out of it because the basic administration tools are quite simple and robust. You just won’t be able to customize your site design/layout as much as you might like without a bit of research and studying.

About Themes, Plugins, and Widgets

WordPress ThemesJust like RapidWeaver, WordPress is based on the template (WP calls them themes). As I’ve noted before, templates are great because they are generally designed by people who know something about, well, design. Most of the hard work is done for you. However, if you roam far and wide for WP themes, you may find that some of them are not standards-compliant. Most are, though. However, they may no longer be compliant once you’re done modifying them. Fortunately, your can test this out compliments of the free W3C validation tools.

In addition to themes, WP offers plug-and-play extendability with plugins and widgets. Plugins are bits of code created by clever individuals that extend your site’s functionality. There are a ton of them out there and they are generally extremely easy to deploy. Some of the most popular are Askimet (a very effective spam filtering plugin), the ‘All in One SEO pack‘ (to easily optimize your site for search engines), Google Analytics (to get some site stats), WordPress.com stats (more stats — you need to sign up for WP.com to use them on your site but that doesn’t mean you need a WP.com-hosted site), and Lightbox (responsible for the screenshot behavior of this site). But that’s just the very tip of a large iceberg. The WordPress plugin page is a good place to start your search.

WordPress pluginsWidgets are a special type of plugin. They are basically chunks of code that you can mix and match with ease to customize you sidebar content. WordPress comes with a bunch of widgets out of the box (search tool, calendar, recent posts, etc.), but that’s just the start. In addition to the standard WP widgets, for instance, this site uses an enhanced blogroll widget (which rotates links every time the page is loaded), an enhanced recent comments widget (to display chunks of the most recent comments) and a Feedburner widget (to optimize this site’s RSS feed).

Adding plugins, themes, and extra widgets to your site is easy. I’ll touch on this in the next section.

The basics of how it works

Now let’s take a step back and take a deeper look at how WordPress is setup and how you manage it. I’m not going to go into great detail here, but it’s important to have a basic understanding of how it’s put together. Once you install WP at the desired location on your web host, the first thing you notice is that there are a heck of a lot of files and folders. Fortunately, pretty much everything you need to access is located in one folder labeled wp-content. WordPress installationInside there, you’ll find a plugins folder, an uploads folder, and a themes folder. My assumption here is that you have some sort of FTP client with which to install and view these files. If you don’t, you’ll need one. I use Panic’s Transmit.

Installing new themes and plugins couldn’t be easier (remember: extra widgets are also installed as plugins): you drop your new theme files in the themes folder; and (you guessed it) you place plugins in the plugins folder. The uploads folder is a good place to store images and other files that you want to place on pages or in posts. This organization scheme permits you to change themes on the fly while ensuring that your plugins and extra files remain properly in place. In other words, all of the images, files, and plugins are separate from your theme. That way, you can change your theme and your site maintains the same functionality and content, just with a new look.

All of your posts, comments, tags, etc. are also separate from your theme files — they are stored in a MySQL database. WordPress works its magic with PHP, an open source language that dynamically calls up and displays data and content from your database. It’s a bit complicated if you’ve never worked with it, but WordPress offers extensive documentation to help you understand how a site is managed. In a nutshell, the theme files control the layout/design and styles of your site (and you can manually add static content in here, too). The theme also contains all the PHP functionality that makes your blog dynamic. If this all sounds complicated, it is. It takes some getting used to. Once you get it down, though, you’ll find that WP is perhaps more robust and flexible than RapidWeaver, mainly because all of WP is accessible for modification and the pool of people who make plugins and themes for the WP platform is huge.

WordPress theme filesThe hardest part to get used to with WP is how the PHP pages are split up into sections (into separate header, footer, index, etc). When you load up a WP blog page, all these disparate parts are called into play via the PHP code and then reassembled on the fly to spit out a dynamically-generated HTML page in your browser. When I first started to understand how all of these PHP files work together (and I confess I don’t understand all of it) it struck me as quite ingenious. It reminds me of an analog watch: looked at from the front, it’s a stylish, simple interface that tells the time. But open up the back, and you reveal a blur of cogs and springs and little gears somehow working together to create the time. Anyhow, to really get it, be prepared to spend some time with it. My suggestion? Try installing two copies of WP on your web host (one to use for your blog, one to hide and play with) or install MAMP on your Mac and install a copy of WP there. MAMP, by the way, is a great tool to set up a personal webserver.

While RapidWeaver content and user options are manipulated on a page-by-page basis and via inspector panes, WordPress is managed from a browser via a web-based Admin panel. The obvious benefit of this approach is that you are not tied to your desktop to manage your site. The Admin panel is the heart and soul of WP. It’s designed to give you the tools you need to effectively manage a site, even if you’ve never done anything like this before. For the most part, it succeeds. There are many aspects of the admin panel that I really appreciate. For instance, it’s very easy to activate and deactivate plugins. It’s as simple as turning them off and on. The discussion (comment) moderation is also excellent. You can choose to moderate every comment, just moderate comments from new users, or choose many options in between to get your settings just right. The built in commenting options blow RapidWeaver’s external Haloscan.com comment solution out of the water. In fact, many say it’s the best of any platform.

WordPress Discussion optionsIn fact, the level of fidelity with which you can control almost every aspect of your blog is superior. Given this tool is specialized for blogging, perhaps that’s not too surprising. You will also appreciate how easy it is to delete or edit a comment, monitor registered users, and move Widgets around (which is a pleasant drag-and-drop experience). You can also email posts in remotely with a few simple set-up steps. Like RapidWeaver, though, some of the admin windows are so chock full of options that it can be confusing to grasp.

For me, the weak link in the Admin panel is the tab for writing a new post. WP allows you to enter your post via a WYSIWYG or code-based window, but I find it to be clunky and limiting. At times, I’ve made changes to my posts via this panel only to find that other parts of my code changed in unexpected ways. I shudder at the thought of typing up a lengthy post (like this one) through the Admin panel. Likewise, I don’t care for uploading images or files for my posts via the Admin panel. I think it’s tedious; and it’s awkward to go back and move or change file names using the panel. My preference for editing and modifying posts? More on that in the next section.

To summarize the basics: you add themes and plugins by dropping them into folders on your web host using an FTP client; you manage all of your content, presentation options and plugins via the Admin panel; you change the design of your site by modifying the PHP and CSS files of your theme. Easy right? It’s actually not as complicated as it may sound, and it’s much easier if you use some good third party Mac apps.

Using Third Party Apps

MarsEditMuch more so than RapidWeaver, WordPress benefits greatly from the addition of third-party editing tools. For instance, I previously noted that I find writing posts on the web-based Admin panel a little annoying. It’s not that the WP Admin panel is bad. It’s actually quite good, especially compared to other CMS admin panels I’ve used. Still, once I tried MarsEdit I discovered how much better the experience could be. If there is one companion tool that is a must-have for writing, editing, tagging, and categorizing posts, this is it. Some people choose to set up MarsEdit to accurately preview what the post will look like. As I’ve mentioned, I post to a local server on my Mac on a mirror copy of this website using MarsEdit. I polish it locally, then publish it once I’m done. I find this to be an ideal set up.

Another third party tool you will need is a good FTP client. This will be useful when you need to update WP to a newer version (make sure you back it up first!), add new plugins or upload images.

If you are inclined to create/modify your theme, you will also benefit from an external editor such as TextMate or BBEdit/TextWrangler and a CSS editor like CSSEdit. I don’t want to go to deeply into this topic, but I want to point out that WP really rocks when you get a good workflow going with some extra tools. Of course, this comes at a cost. If I add together all of the third party tools I use to manage the site, WP actually cost me about as much as RapidWeaver! I have to ask myself how much of the pleasure of working with WordPress is due to these additional Mac apps. Tools like CSSEdit, TextMate, MarsEdit, and Transmit truly make it a pleasant workflow. In fact, one of the main reasons I stuck with WP for this site is because I really like to use these tools. Sounds kind of silly, perhaps, but I’ll stick by it.

Here’s one final tip: you can set up your WordPress admin panel to appear as a desktop application (and put it in your Dock) using a little app called Fluid. It’s still in Beta, but I’ve found it works great. With Fluid, in fact, you can set up any web-based app to function as a stand-alone application. Very handy.


Using MAMP to install WP locallySo here’s the thing about WordPress: it’s a question of how far you want to take it. Pretty much anything you want to do is possible, but the need to understand a bit of what’s going on with the code behind the scenes increases exponentially the more you deviate from the standard WP model. In this sense, WordPress is an excellent training tool to learn about PHP, MySQL, CSS, and XHMTL. As I’ve said, I strongly recommend installing a version locally on your Mac using MAMP just for this purpose. Over time, you’ll start to gain the ability to bend your site to your will with greater skill. Until that time, however, you’ll be surprised how far you can get with existing themes, plugins and widgets.

While it’s certainly harder to set up (if you do it yourself!) and has a steeper learning curve than RapidWeaver, where you can take your blog with this version of WP is limited only to your ability, imagination and experience level.

What do I love about WordPress?

º It’s free
º It’s easy to set up and maintain
º Templates, plugins, and widgets abound
º The admin panel is full-featured and about as intuitive as any that I’ve seen
º It integrates exceptionally well with other editing tools, particularly MarsEdit

What’s not to love?

º Compared to RapidWeaver, editing your site styles is more difficult
º Editing your theme is even harder for beginners
º The built-in WP theme editor is not easy to use
º Updating a WP installation takes some patience and knowledge of FTP; it’s also a bit scary
º Compared to RW, support for adding slick graphics, javascript, video, etc. is certainly not as simple (but there are many plugins to help you along)
º Since you can do whatever you want with this WP installation, it’s easier to break web standards

If you are looking for a free and flexible tool to fire up your own blog, WP is a solid choice. It’s not only free and flexible, but there are just tons of user-created add-ons that you can quickly drop right in to your site. If you get stuck, you’re in luck: the web is rife with tips and tutorials and fixes for WordPress. I haven’t come across a problem yet for which I couldn’t find a ready-made answer online within a few minutes of searching. The user forums are great and instructions are comprehensive. The last thing I’ll note is that WordPress could do a better job at explaining the various options available for new users (.org, .com, multi-user, etc.). It took me a while to sort it out. I hope this review helps some readers make an informed choice.

That wraps it up. Next, I’ll conclude this series with a final summary comparison of RapidWeaver and WordPress.

RapidWeaver Vs. WordPress II: RapidWeaver review

RealMac RapidWeaver
This is the second installment in a four-part series comparing RapidWeaver and WordPress. Today, I’m going to present an overview of Realmac’s RapidWeaver,
a Mac-only web publishing tool.

Who is it for?

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. Starting a new RW projectBy ‘mixed-content,’ I mean that it handles both static and dynamic content. But it’s not just for those new to web publishing. 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.

What is it?

It’s a stand-alone web design and Content Management System (CMS) that runs locally from your computer. 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 easier to set up since you don’t have to worry about potentially complicated installation procedures. For instance, you don’t have to set up a database on your server to get your blog up and running. The down side to this is that you can’t manage your content remotely from a web browser (with a few caveats, which I’ll go into later). For the most part, you need to be sitting at your Mac when you want to work on your site.
The RapidWeaver theme

Like iWeb and WordPress (and other CMS solutions), RW is built around the assumption that it’s desirable to start out with well-built, professionally-designed, battle-tested templates. This is desirable because (a) most people don’t have the time, inclination or ability to produce a site design and (b) templates help ensure that sites meet web standards.

What I’ve just labeled a ‘template’ in the previous paragraph, RapidWeaver calls a ‘theme.’ What’s the difference? Themes are flexible templates. For most blogging tools or content management platforms, a user will find a theme he or she likes, apply it to their site and that’s pretty much it. The average user may change some basic colors and fonts for a given template, but they typically don’t have the ability or the inclination to readily modify much else. A RapidWeaver theme, on the other hand, empowers the user to really dig in and modify the template to make it his or her own.
Page Inspector: Styles sub-menu

For the novice, themes may be the killer feature of this program. With themes, some of the style variables that may be modified with ease include site colors, font families, page width (to include flexible and fixed width options within one theme), header image, and sidebar position. Most themes also offer several pre-defined styles from which you can choose as well, which is nice for those who have trouble picking complimentary colors or matching thematic elements.

The customization parameters of a theme are really only limited by how many options the theme developer builds into it. RapidWeaver comes with a slew of nice themes. If you don’t find what you like within these options, there are many top-notch third-party themes available (most will cost you around ten dollars or so, but many are free).

While most people will use a pre-designed theme, the RealMac developers provide a great tutorial and a software development kit for those who wish to create their own (for their own use, to give away, or to sell). Note for those of you who are interested in creating a theme: RapidWeaver works this magic by saving theme variables within an Apple property list (plist) file. It’s a standard XML file, which makes it a breeze to add to and modify theme properties.

Conceptually speaking, RapidWeaver places the design and management of your site in the background so you can concentrate on content, content, content. But that’s not to say that it doesn’t offer robust design/management tools. On the contrary, the app provides very effective management and customization tools, support for search engine optimization and advanced-user options (such as adding your own java, PHP, special assets, or custom CSS on a per-page or site-wide basis). Most of the configuration and customization options are deployed through a plethora of tabbed pop-up windows (commonly referred to as ‘inspectors’ in Mac parlance). You open them up when you need them; otherwise, you close them up and they stay out of your way.
Inspector Options for a RW Photo Album page

All things considered, the developers have created a clean interface to manage just about all aspects of a site — which will especially appeal to those new to web development. The idea is that you won’t ever need to get at the code behind the scenes (if you don’t want to, that is). RW is so confident that most users will never have to mess with underlying code that the developers don’t even present an option to view the code through the application’s user interface ( actually, they used to have an option to view the code in earlier versions of the program, but no longer do. This was a good choice because the displayed code in the earlier versions was not directly editable. That was just annoying). Not to worry though — you can get to the code if you need to. UPDATE: I’ve learned from the RW forums that you can still toggle the code view by invoking the shortcut ⌘-Alt-U.

If you’re used to directly editing style sheets and web code, you may find the ‘RapidWeaver method’ a little awkward and limiting; the developers took many of the common things you would normally do ‘under the hood’ and gave them their own front-end user interface. If you’ve never hand-coded anything, no need to worry: RW’s built-in tools allow even the most novice user to jump right in and start modifying site colors, fonts, sidebar position, site metadata, etc. without ever needing to access the code. There are also some third-party tools you can buy to help you access images for easy modification (see RWmultitool). Alternatively, you can modify a theme by locating it’s associated package at /Your User Account/Library/Application Support/RapidWeaver/ and opening up the associated HTML and CSS files in the editor of your choice
Opening Up a RW theme package

The workflow

The RW workflow is simple: you choose a template, you add pages, you publish it to your web host. All you need to get started is a copy of RW, a remote web host and an FTP or .Mac account. What makes it special is how easy it is to do this, the good looks of the resulting site and the versatility of the ‘theme’ framework. RW also stands out in terms of how quickly you can deploy a site. How fast is it? It depends on how much customization you want to do. I was able to launch a site with a blog, multiple static pages and a photo album page in about 30 minutes. That’s not too bad. I set up a fairly complex website for my wife that features a blog, dozens of static pages, customized graphics, and a highly modified template in about 6 hours of non-contiguous work. That’s pretty good, too.
Dropdown menu to choose different RW pages

The core of this editing area (the main place where you add your content) is the RW page. You can add a variety of pages, ranging from a fully-featured blog to straight HTML code. Each page type you choose defines how you add content to that element. If you choose to create a blog page, for instance, the content area is specialized with fields unique to things you need to add for blog entries. Makes sense. If you choose a photo album page, you get a totally different content area, specialized for iPhoto integration and drag-and-drop simplicity. The designers have obviously put a lot of thought into creating simple interfaces for a wide variety of page types. Chances are that you will not need to refer to the manual very often, except when it comes to understanding all of the options in the RW Inspector panes. That is, each page type is associated with a specific inspector pane, and each inspector pane is chock full of customization options.
RapidWeaver blog page content editing view

While this equates to a platform that allows users to quickly and easily deploy a site, there is a downside. Since RW makes it so easy to publish a site, many users won’t bother to (or won’t know that they should) fill in site metadata and other details. I have a suggestion for the RealMac developers: it it would be a good idea to provide some tooltips or otherwise-integrated instructions to better explain the myriad customization options available for each page type, the page inspector, and the site inspector.

For example, it’s very quick and easy to create a page. However, it may not be readily apparent to users with no web design experience that you also need to name the folder and file for that page. It would be helpful if the developers built in some sort of warning message when users hit the ‘Publish’ button as a heads up that some of the parameters have not yet been defined.

In the example above, for instance, a helpful message might say ‘Wait! Before you publish your site, you should name your folders and files for the pages you’ve created. This is an important step that will make your site easier to index by search engines. It’s also necessary for blog entries so your permalinks are meaningful.’ Or something like that…
A view of RW common page inspector options and the snippets inspector

There are many other examples of instances where tips and other helpful messages would be helpful to ensure the site is properly set up. Imagine you’ve never published a website before. You may wonder: What’s a meta tag? Why should I worry about this meta stuff? What’s ‘page expiration?’ What’s the difference between optimized, tidied, and default code? And so on. I think the program would really benefit from some additional cues to help users along. This, of course, assumes that most people won’t read the manual or dig into the forums. I think that’s a safe assumption, especially for an app that draws so many people with little knowledge of these things precisely because it’s supposed to be so simple to use.

Remote management (for Bloggers only)

I mentioned that there were a couple of caveats to the statement that “you can’t manage your site remotely.” There are two exceptions that I know of. The first is with the built-in RW blog: while you can’t manage your blog posts remotely, you can manage your comments remotely. That’s because RealMac partners with HaloScan, a third-party commenting system, to deliver blog comments.

If you want comments on your blog posts, you need to sign up for this service. And if you sign up for this service, you can manage your comments via HaloScan’s web-based interface. You don’t need to be at home to do that.

The other exception? You can buy a third-party blog plugin called RapidBlog from Loghound.com. RapidBlog is basically a front-end for Google’s Blogger that seamlessly integrates into RapidWeaver. Using it requires you to sign up for a Blogger account. The only weird thing about it is that your posts will appear both on your website and on your newly-created Blogger site (you can choose to hide your Blogger posts, or you can just leave them there — who knows, it may generate more readership for your primary site). If you use RapidBlog, you can remotely edit your posts or email a post from a remote location.

The Small Print

RapidWeaver has been around since 2004 (the same year that WordPress hit the streets, incidentally). It’s now at version 3.6.5. Note that this app is not free or open-source (like WordPress). RW costs $49 per license. That’s pretty cheap, but if you want to really take it to another level, you’re going to want some third-party add-ons. And when you decide to buy some, you’ll soon discover that it’s not as cheap as it first appears.

In my opinion, you need to buy some third-party plugins to really get the most out of this application. And one thing I really ike about RW is how well it integrates with third-party plugins, add-ons and themes. I mentioned earlier that the RealMac team offers a SDK for themes. Well, they also offer a SDK for anyone who wishes to try their hand at creating a plugin as well. What fun. True, there are many, many great third-party themes out there. But there are also some killer plugins.

Two complaints I’ve heard from RW users is that (a) some plugins should be part of the application from the start and (b) the cost of the plugins quickly exceeds the costs of a RW license. My view? There are some plugins that are so essential, I wouldn’t consider RW complete without them. They are just too handy to pass up. I could complain that RealMac should include some of these plugins as core parts of the application, but I honestly don’t mind paying for some third-party extended options (note that most of these plugins are different page types, each with their own Inspector pane full of options and choices). The app is still quite cost-effective, and it’s definitely generating some very great third-party software development.


I think RapidWeaver is a tool with a great future. It offers slick themes, powerful customization options, ease of use, a dedicated user base (check out the RW User Forum when you get stuck), and top-notch third party add-ons. It’s cheap. It’s easy for novices to use. It’s fun for more experienced people to use.

What’s not to like? Well, as I mentioned, a case can be made that RW is feature-weak and not powerful enough, evidenced by all of the third-party plugins. Do you really need these plugins? No, but they will make life easier for you and they are pretty cool. I wouldn’t be surprised if the RealMac team bought out a few of the add-ons in the future. Yourhead Blocks, for instance, adds WYSIWYG freeform layout functionality to RapidWeaver. I know that my wife, for one, could not live without it for her site. She’s so used to using Blocks, in fact, that she forgot that it’s not actually a part of RW.

Speaking of my wife, I quizzed her on her RW experience as she’s the primary user of the app in our household. She reports that the program is, on the whole, a great tool. However, she has faced some problems with the app crashing while she’s trying to publish changes to her site. She’s taken to closing down all other running programs on the Mac when she’s uploading content, which she says helps. She also notes that publishing times can be quite slow, and the site itself is pretty slow on the initial load. These issues have gotten worse as her site has grown. It raises the question of scalability. How big can a RW file get before it becomes unreliable? I trust the developers will keep refining the loading/publishing issues as development moves forth.

I’ve personally noticed that RW can be limiting when it comes to adding or creating complex mixed content on a page. In addition, some things are tricky to do if you want to push the boundaries of a theme or mix up how your content is presented. I can best explain what I’m talking about here by way of example. Say you want to add a third column to only one page of a site. This isn’t so easy. One solution that many people use is to add a ‘faux’ column on a Blocks page. That works, but it would be nice to have some themes with one, two, or no column options per page. I’m not aware of any limitations that would prevent this.

As for mixed content, I’m referring to the ability to, say, mix in some static content with posts. For example, imagine you want your home page to list your top three newest posts. Above and below this, you wish to add some static content — but you still want your main blog to be a separate page in your site. This isn’t easy to do. Or imagine that you want to add two columns of static text and maybe some sort of additional javascript to go with your Photo Album page. There are work-arounds to issues such as these (and most rely on third-party plugins!), but I would like to see RealMac push towards more and more flexibility and more choices in the future when it comes to page customization (mixing multiple page types on one page, for example). I’d also like a way to open up the core theme files from within the application for quick edits. Of course, that’s a tall order since they are also trying to keep things simple with this app. My suggestion? How about two versions set at two different price points: RapidWeaver Standard and Pro?

I’ll close by noting that it’s a tool that certainly rewards the patient user — I mentioned that RW has a good user forum, and this is where you should head first to answer any questions you have, or to see if anyone has already posted a fix for a vexing problem you may be having. It’s a vibrant, friendly community and if you have an issue, chances are it’s already being discussed.

For the next installment in this series, I’ll present an overview of Wordpress. Then, in the final post, I’ll compare the two based on some criteria of my invention. Cheers.

Postscript: A forgot to mention Snippets! This is one of the coolest parts of RapidWeaver. This is a simple but powerful feature: open up your Snippets inspector pane to reveal stored bits of code. Drag and drop these ‘snippets’ directly onto your page. RapidWeaver includes many handy snippetized code bits, you can easily create your own, or you can download third party snippets from the RW site. If you find yourself typing bits of code over and over, this can be a huge time saver. Added to that, many people are integrating snippets functionality to create unique add-ons. For example, I just used Snippets yesterday to place social bookmarks on my wife’s blog. I works great. By the way, if you use the social bookmark snippet referenced here, be sure to check out this thread on the RW forums. Happy weaving.

RapidWeaver Vs. WordPress: Part I

Thanks to Google Analytics, I’ve discovered that many people reach this site upon searching for ‘RapidWeaver vs WordPress.’ I offer my apologies if you are one of these people: I posted some short comments on this topic last November, promising to follow up with a complete comparison…but I’m only getting to it now. Why the long delay? I’ve needed this gestation period to think about what I wanted to say.
WordPressRealmac RapidWeaver

Comparisons of these two publishing platforms are scarce (my proof: it’s the only search term that I’m aware of for which this blog appears near the top of the charts on Google).

Perhaps this is because they are quite different tools. Perhaps it’s because review sites, in general, don’t offer much in terms of application comparisons.

At first glance, it appears that WP and RW serve different audiences. WordPress is specialized for blogging; RapidWeaver does blogging too, but it’s more of a complete website design tool. WordPress offers web-based content management (server-side); RapidWeaver is managed locally, from the user’s computer (client-side). WP is a free, open-source tool. RW is an application that costs money.

Should they be compared? I think so. That so many people have searched for comparisons of the two to reach this site is a testament to this.

I’ve used both WordPress and RapidWeaver to develop many sites. Despite their apparent differences, I’ve found that both platforms can do just about anything I want them to do when I need to develop a personal (or even small business) site. Both offer great blogging support. Both can handle static/mixed content. Both can be used to create complex, great looking sites for people with little to no web development experience. Yet, these tools remain radically different in many ways. What differentiates the two? Which is best?

I want to start by defining the problem. What are people looking for when they seek a comparison of RW and WP?

Here’s my best guess:

You’re in the market for a good, inexpensive tool to create a website. You want your site to be flexible, easy to use and easy to maintain. You want it to look like it was designed by a professional, but you don’t have the time, inclination, or experience to create something from scratch. Still, you’d like to be able to customize your site with relative ease. Moreover, you want the ability to create, tweak and modify at will, should you decide you want to ‘get under the hood’ at some point in the future.

You want to start a blog, but you also want a system that easily allows you to add static content. You want lots of template and plugin options to expand the functionality and appeal of your site. You want a platform that is powerful, but you don’t want to be overloaded with options. You abhor the notion of navigating a complex user interface. You abhor the notion of reading a long user manual even more. Most of all, you want your site to look beautiful.

You’ve searched the web and are overwhelmed by the many choices out there from which to choose. You want to make the right choice the first time. You look at Blogger and other basic web-based personal blogging solutions, but you think these are a bit too simplistic. You want something more robust. So you look at open source Content Management System solutions like Drupal or Joomla, but these solutions are just too complex for your needs. You consider DreamWeaver, but it’s too expensive, bloated and complicated. You try iWeb, but it doesn’t quite fit the bill. It’s nice, but you feel that it’s just a bit too limited, too tied to .Mac and perhaps tries so hard to be drag-and-drop simple that you worry that it may limit your future options as your site (and your experience) grows.

Enter RapidWeaver or WordPress. Both platforms are very popular. Both have dedicated, passionate users and solid documentation. Both are capable of producing great looking sites and offer the flexibility and ease-of-use you seek. Both offer tons of great-looking templates and plugins.

For my next post, I’ll start the comparison with an overview of each publishing platform. I’ll follow this up with a post on the strengths and weaknesses of each. Finally, I’ll offer my opinions and conclusions about which tool I think is best for which type of user. If you have any specific issues, needs or considerations you’d like to see addressed in this comparison, let me know.

My final new WordPress site design…really

So, I freshened up the site a bit this weekend. Why? The previous design just felt too heavy, dense and modular for my taste. I think the new design is much lighter and more aesthetically pleasing. I thinned some fonts, balanced out the colors, and added some organic shapes. It’s not perfect, but I think it looks and feels better. I also toned down some of the overt Apple imagery and dropped the Apple Dock metaphor. I created what I feel is a subtler logo, with subtler supporting art. The design still sports an Apple logo, but it’s a warped and blended into the clouds. I like it. I had fun.

I hope to keep this basic design, even if I decide to drop WordPress. And I am planning to drop WordPress. Next week, I’m turning back to a long-neglected topic promised in a previous post: the long-awaited WordPress vs RapidWeaver comparison. They are both wonderful tools. I’ve come to know them both well (in addition to this WordPress site, I’ve developed several RapidWeaver sites for friends and clients).

Still, I’ve concluded to go with neither WordPress or RapidWeaver when I next update this site. I’ve decided to turn to a new CMS on the block called ModX. I see it as a nice hybrid of the two that is full of promise and potential. It offers the flexibility I seek.

That’s not to say that I don’t like WordPress or RapidWeaver. Each has strengths. And each has weaknesses. I’m going to explore my view on both of these tools in the upcoming week. After that, I plan to steer towards a wider discussion about Content Management Systems, leading to my current infatuation with ModX.

Back in November, I said that I’d create a WordPress and RapidWeaver mock up of this site and offer it to anyone who wants it. I still intend to do this. The WordPress version is just about ready. I’m now tweaking it to ensure the CSS and XHTML validates. I also intend to develop a RapidWeaver template, simply because I really like this application and want to create a RW template!

Stay tuned.