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The Slacker's Guide - An Underdog Worth Rooting For: Sandvox

by Chris Barylick
January 27th, 2006

Sit back for a second and remember back to the early and mid-90's Despite slower computers, less stable system architectures and countless Performa computers, HTML was beginning to emerge and find a presence. The next big thing around the conference table, this and the Web had to be tamed and used, both on the corporate and personal level.

The objective established, next came the effort to make HTML accessible to the masses via WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) programs that allowed users to graphically build Web pages while the application wrote the HTML code in the background.

This was met with differing degrees of success. Programs like Adobe's Pagemill allowed for relatively clean code to be written while more professional suites like Macromedia's Dreamweaver worked to write cleaner code via a graphical interface. Other approaches to the problem included software like Bare Bones Software's BBEdit that allowed Web designers to remain in a text editor while providing clickable options which inserted routine bits of HTML code.

In the following years, the standard has shifted. Web technologies have pushed the standard to include photo galleries, blogs, multimedia and audio. And while these may be the coolest bells and whistles to have, these can be a true pain to code into a Web site. Thus, a market exists to make this easy to do on the Mac.

When Apple announced iWeb as part of its iLife 2006 suite a few weeks ago at Macworld Expo, it knew where the winds were blowing in terms of its digital lifestyle package and Web publishing. Unfortunately, toes were stepped on, as was the case with Konfabulator and Dashboard when Tiger was released. Sandvox, a WYSIWYG Web layout tool from Karelia Software, stands as the current underdog that may just beat Apple in its goal to make this type of Web publishing accessible to a wider audience.


Karelia Software's Sandvox helps lay out a new shared photo library.

Currently in a timed beta due to expire on February 17th, 2006, Sandvox allows users to choose from multiple templates and go from there. Like iWeb, users can easily drag in additional content such as movies, picture libraries, external files, podcasts and anything else they may wish to include within the site via a graphical interface as well as a raw code window. Click on an element such as a link, text or image and an inspector can be pulled up to specify properties such as where a link may head towards, an image's size and other information.

Where Web design and site features have always been a pain in the neck for anyone who didn't do this on a regular basis, uploading has always been another thing to trip over. Sandvox handles this well by providing not only full support for FTP, SFTP, WebDAV and .Mac protocols, but also provides a convenient assistant program that lets users specify if their machine will act as the server or whether the files need to be sent to another server, which can be chosen from a built-in list or manually specified. Once these settings have been saved, users can pull down convenient choices such as "Publish Changes" and "Publish Entire Site" to send the files to the server.


A step-through menu helps simplify the upload process.

Changes can be tracked from both ends via full RSS support, which can save the user the pain of having to look up the necessary XML code to insert into the site and allow it to be subscribed to by RSS readers around the Internet. Keywords, which are the bread and butter for many sites, can be easily inserted into a visible tab to change the Meta tag data and help target it for search engines.

Karelia is currently offering Sandvox as a public beta, which shows strong confidence in the software, but also includes the proviso that it's still in development and not responsible for any failures it may cause. Having garnered four stars, thousands of downloads and some very positive comments on VersionTracker.com, Sandvox is in the category of eagerly awaited software and something that meets the needs of the day. The program is a 14.1 megabyte download that expands to occupy 34.2 megabytes of space when installed. Sandvox requires Mac OS X 10.4.3 or later to download and run.

I don't envy Karelia's position at this point, especially when Apple comes out with something similar to what they were working on prior to their release of Sandvox 1.0. Maybe someone mentioned it to the wrong person at a cocktail party and the two charged home, a clear vision of a killer app in their minds.

And while getting to the bottom of this might be fun, it's a chicken and the egg debate. Apple has something that people seem to like with iWeb and Karelia looks to be in an excellent position to give Apple a run for its money with iWeb, especially if they pay as close attention to the updates and bug fixes as they seem to be giving it now. Users will have to submit an e-mail address to receive access to Karelia's download page for the public beta, but that seems to be the only hurdle.

Take a look, see what you think and if it can offer something you might have needed. It's worth the time.

That wraps things up for this week. As always, if you see anything cool, useful or interesting in the Mac world, let me know.

Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.

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