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This week, I learned that Softpress, who made the web design application Freeway, closed its doors for good. Not a great start for the week for anyone involved in that project with present and past. I’ve been using and had input into the Freeway project for the best part of twenty years.

 

For those who don’t know, Freeway is a DTP-like web design tool. You draw items on a blank page, and Freeway builds the HTML/CSS necessary to display your design in a browser. Extra functionality can be added using Actions - plugins which run at publish time to amend output. Actions can do a multitude of things, from massaging the HTML, to repurposing it for PHP (or indeed other server side scripting languages), and run using a JavaScript engine.

 

The recent video posted of the Affinity DTP project, which showed responsive behaviour for print really chimed in my mind. If, I thought, they are doing this, then they’ve clearly solved UI problems that Softpress were’t able to with their responsive offering. The idea that this application could be tuned not just to printed documents, but also HTML/CSS/ etc. got me thinking that here’s a potential for a Freeway replacement. 

 

And, rather nicely, it would be borne from a DTP application - just like Freeway was all those years ago.

 

So, my request - and I know it’s big ask, but I really hope that the minds at Serif can be turned to this - is a DTP-style web design tool in the Affinity brand. The Affinity software I have already feel more than familiar to me, and being able to build websites in an environment that feels familiar like that would be fantastic. DTP for print is just part of the tool kit for a modern designer - web sites really should be there too.

 

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I feel your pain: there is nothing more frustrating than having a tool you've relied on for years discontinued or killed - no matter the circumstances.

 

I am unsure whether it is a good idea to integrate web tools in a DTP application. InDesign attempts this, and the result is abysmal - and it takes a completely different mindset and a LOT of work to keep it updated with current web practices, which are a rapidly moving target.

 

Visual web page building tools always interest me (being a web developer) since I do believe it is possible to create a visual tool that actually writes reasonable, or even good, html and css code. The trouble with both Freeway and Muse, in my opinion, is that they both generate quite terrible html and css code.

 

Currently, I found one visual tool that actually writes quite nice code, and allows the user to base their pages on standard frameworks such as Bootstrap, Foundation, Angular JS, and even the newer Google Materialize. And Wordpress templating is also supported (in the pro WP version). That application is Pinegrow http://pinegrow.com/

 

It is quite different from Freeway, but it allows for a visual workflow, as well as easy code access. With Atom (free editor) you get real-time bi-directional page and code updating (no saving required!).

 

Most importantly, it is constantly updated (Foundation 6 was supported only a couple of weeks after it was introduced), and the code quality is great. It also supports master pages, components, and other project management tools.

 

The drawback is that you will perhaps need a bit more technical insight in html and css. But I really believe anyone can (should) learn the basics in that regard nowadays.

 

I think Pinegrow gives the designer the best of both worlds.

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Maybe a software company can make a decent DTP-like web design app but it must be very difficult because up to now, no company has made one that was so good that it caught on with designers. I too would like to see what the Affinity team could offer in terms of a WYSIWYG or DTP style web design application but I wouldn't want it to deter them from their already full plate with Designer, Photo, and the upcoming Publisher (not to mention the DAM). Another thing to consider is, there are tons of these kinds of apps already out there. It doesn't seem that any of them are overly good at what they do but they get the job done for some people. I have always heard that real web designers, like Herbert123, just code things and don't use a WYSIWYG app because as Herbert pointed out, they produce horrible code. Some similar apps are Rapidweaver (cheap but by the time you buy some plugins to actually use the thing it is quite expensive), there is a new program Blocs that some people like, and there is of course Dreamweaver (but many people want to avoid Adobe's monthly charge if they can). There are tons more out there like the ones that Herbert mentioned, just look around and find one that fits your style and maybe sometime down the road, the Affinity team might have time to make their app (which would be incredible no doubt).  

 

Hokusai

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Web publishing is indeed a different game. To produce high quality publishing still and again takes considerable technical ability as ready made tools just do not have the flexibility code and functionality. For simple sites simple tools like Blocs are very good though.

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https://forum.affinity.serif.com/index.php?/topic/15814-create-mail-like-affinity-sends-to-us/?p=76114

Some time ago I asked about how to create the responsive mail designs like the affinity mails have and Dale said 

 

"Kate headed this up and initially looked at a couple of templates but discarded that route in favour of one of our team hand-coding the email you received. That gave us the best compatibility across email clients, it can be tricky to achieve the right look particularly in Outlook. Blood sweat and tears is another answer, it's a nightmare to get emails to look nice and behave properly for a wide audience."

 

This is congruent to what you specialists say about hand coding...if it was easy, everybody would do it  :lol:


 

 

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Wow that really sucks that Softpress went under.   They've been around forever. 

 

I'll 2nd the recommendation for Blocs 2.   I'm going to jump in once they've got support for the upcoming Bootstrap 4.   Sparkle is another highly rated visual web creation tool. 

 

I think the ideal solution is not to embed Web tools into your DTP app but have an architecture with hooks that can leverage a web module of sorts that is easy to keep updated.  Otherwise your app will fall behind once the newest js library takes hold. 

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Mobirise looks to be totally template based, unless I am mistaken.

Blocs interface is not very easy and it is hard to find how to do some simple things. 

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23 hours ago, Fixx said:

Blocs interface is not very easy and it is hard to find how to do some simple things. 

 

Fixx,

 

I completely agree with you about Blocs. It can create slick looking simple sites but it isn't very flexible. The templates look great if you are setting up a site for iPhones but other than that you have to fool around with the templates too much and some very simple things you simply can't do (or if you can it isn't easy). It seems to me that with many of the settings in Blocs you are stuck with whatever presets that come predefined and you can't change them. As well, moving and placing things found in the templates isn't so easy. The templates work great if you don't want to change anything but if you do, you might have trouble. Overall I wanted to like Blocs but as it is, it wasn't flexible enough to meet my needs. It has a lot of potential to mature into a decent program but it seems that the development isn't moving very fast so I wouldn't hold my breath. 

 

I too would love for the Affinity team to make a WYSIWYG web app but it seems that they have their plate full for the moment  so maybe sometime in the future!

 

Hokusai

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