Freeway Pro 5.2

Designing a professional looking Web site requires good coding and good design skills -- a combination that isnit overly prominent in the Web design world. Freeway Pro 5.2 helps overcome that problem by giving designers the tools they need to build great sites without requiring them to develop strong coding skills, and it does it all without compromising on visual and behind-the-scenes code quality.

Freeway Pro will likely feel more comfortable in the hands of InDesign and QuarkXPress users than any other Web design application thanks to its page layout application-like interface. Along with its familiar interface elements, it also supports drag-and-drop to add new items to a layout along with placing items in containers, both of which are day in and day out activities for page layout pros.

Freeway Pro

Items in a layout can be manipulated and moved, and text can be converted to a graphic when you need to create special text effects or when relying on the site vieweris built-in fonts could ruin the overall design. Basic image editing is supported in Freeway Pro, which means that if you need to resize, rotate, crop and flip graphics, you make your changes without modifying the original file in Photoshop or some other image editing application.

Site designers that arenit sure exactly where to start can take advantage of the built-in templates, all of which are fully editable. For designers that want to build from scratch, a blank template is included, too.

While I found Freeway Prois image editing tools to be easy to use, I was initially unsure where to find the features. I assumed they would be under the Edit menu, but instead they were hiding under the Item menu. They were also available by Control-clicking object containers, which is actually a much more efficient way to access the image manipulation tools.

Figuring out how to use features that I wasnit familiar with went smoothly. Softpress did a great job of documenting Freeway Prois features in the applicationis PDF manual, which is a big plus because first-time users might feel a little intimidated by the scope of features packed into the application.

The in-application help, however, felt a little thin. Searching the Help system for information on resizing images, for example, did not return any results.

Freeway Pro includes several site templates

For users that arenit sure how certain features work, or for users looking for new ways to take advantage of whatis hiding under Freewayis hood, Softpress also has a nice set of online video tutorials.

Freeway Pro also handles the more technical aspects of Web site design, like working with CSS and XHTML, without overloading your brain. Itis interface handles the dirty work while you focus on making the elements look the way you want. It includes a long list of built-in actions that handle things like button roll overs, blogging interface elements, site navigation, embedding Google Maps and AdSense information, and more.

Site designers looking to cater to the iPhone and iPod touch crowd are in luck, too. Freeway Pro 5.2 added the ability to create iPhone-specific Web sites, and can build iPhone application links for email, phone dialing, YouTube, and Google Maps. It can also build different versions of movie files optimized for EDGE connections, Wi-Fi and 3G connections, and regular desktop or laptop computers.

The eye candy that Web design apps create only goes so far. Eventually the code that it builds to make your Web sites look right will get put to the test, and Freeway Pro holds up there, too. It supports HTML and XHTML Web Consortium standards, and builds your site code on export instead of on the fly, like other Web design apps do.

Freewayis FTP interface

Building site code on export means that Freeway Pro has a better chance of creating optimized code since the app can look at your site as a whole when it generates the code. The downside is that users that are more comfortable hand-tweaking their code wonit be able to.

Despite the lack of access to a siteis raw code, however, I didnit find Freeway Pro to feel limited. Instead, I felt like I was able to focus more on site design and layout because I wasnit going to have to jump over to a code view and manually adjust my HTML or CSS.

The Bottom Line
The Web design world is filled with applications that help you build sites, but Freeway Pro 5.2 takes a slightly different approach than many other titles by focusing on the design part of a Web site instead of the coding part. While that might seem like a good recipe for a hobbled application that shines at making eye candy but fails at building code, thatis not the case with Freeway Pro -- it handles the heavy under-the-hood lifting, leaving you free to build professional and versatile sites without having to worry about hand coding.

Product: Freeway Pro 5.2

Company: Softpress

List Price: $249


Pros: Powerful layout and image editing controls, makes CSS easy, iPhone-specific site support.
Cons: Limited in-app help, no access to site code may be a turn off for some.