Once you give up any hope of making your site look like anything other than what your chosen theme's designer intended, RapidWeaver gets a lot easier to work with. I ultimately pieced together a small but appealing site in roughly an hour.
Mostly hits, with a few misses
RapidWeaver 6's blog and contact form pages impressed me with their balance between rich features and simplicity. You can add new blog entries or contact form elements in an iTunes-like list view, then edit each of those items individually. RapidWeaver's blog features include thoughtful, thorough support for podcasts, with spots to upload audio files and add episode descriptions. And its contact forms will work automatically as long as you upload them to a server running PHP.
I wasn't so wild about its photo gallery page, though. Adding photos and captions gave me no trouble, but in two of the themes I tested, images displayed in bizarre and unappealing ways, either cut off in a self-playing slideshow or overlapping each other's captions in a grid view.
RapidWeaver's FTP support also required some trial and error. Even after the "test connection" button gave me the all clear, my site would still fail to upload. I was mere moments away from sending Realmac a help email--after following the excellent directions on their comprehensive online support site--when a lucky glance through the Console logs they'd asked me to send helped me figure out that I'd slipped in a "/" to the directory path that shouldn't be there. Even then, my upload failed the first time because of "missing files," though a subsequent attempt worked just fine.
Keep your wallet handy
If you want to exercise more of your own creativity with RapidWeaver, prepare to pay more than the basic program's $80ish price tag. Realmac Software maintains a deep, robust, and thriving repository of add-ons created and reviewed by enthusiastic RapidWeaver users. The offerings range from beautiful, responsive-ready themes to powerful new page types that dramatically expand what RapidWeaver can do.
The popular Stacks plugin adds drag-and-drop multi-column layouts, and can itself be customized with additional page elements from other users. Other plugins provide basic content management systems, online stores and payment processing, and more. I don't begrudge a well-earned payday to the hard-working folks who made these tools. But at $25 or more a pop for many themes and plugins, the cost could quickly prove prohibitive to users on a budget.
Realmac also makes money by charging subscriptions for advanced video tutorials on its support site, including guides to Stacks and other plugins. Fortunately, Realmac offers a good series of basic overviews for free, along with the aforementioned helpful text guides.
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