[Pro] I want more...

I love Freeway. It has taken me from graphic designer for print to professional web designer in just a few years. Considering I have very little html or css knowledge that’s quite an achievement. thank you Softpress!

I find now I am frequently wanting to learn more. I want understand more about the pages I’m creating, the html and css coding behind them.

Perhaps my biggest criticism of Freeway (and I don’t have many!) is that it keeps me from learning more about the code it’s writing for me. It keeps me in the dark about the wonderful way its working in the background for me. I understand that there are those who don’t want or need to get involved with the code. Freeway Express would be suited to that. But the ‘Pro’ of Freeway Pro implies that it is for the professional web developer.

I would like Freeway to introduce me to the html and css it’s writing for me. To help me learn and understand more about the magic it weaves as I’m building websites. Perhaps with a split screen code/design layout? I know this has been mentioned before. And I guess the reply might be that Freeway’s strength and purpose is, and will remain to be, to keep the user from writing, learning, or understanding html/css.

I would like to learn more and contribute more the the Freeway community.

Has the time come for me to branch out from Freeway Pro to software that educates me at the same time as helping me build web pages? I really hope not.

Any comments, suggestions and thoughts would be most welcome.

With the greatest admiration, respect, fondness and commitment to the good people of Softpress.

Simon.


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Hi simon
The best way to see what freeway is producing is to view the code in more or less the exactly way you are describing… to do this all you need to do is specify a text editor as one of your web browsers ( I personally like TextMate but text wranger is good as well… Then rather than viewing the webpage in either preview or using the browser button in the top bar you view it using the editor. This way when you make an adjustment you can see what impact (in code terms) that adjustment has made
to a page and see how and what freeway has written…

The other thing I do is use the firebug freeway plugin cos I can then adjust the css within the preview window instantly to see what subtle changes to the css may have on an item then when i am happy with it I can then adjust it for real in the styles editor rather than having to keep going backwards and forwards to see subtly changes…
I hope this gives you to sink your teeth into.

all the best max


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You’ve hit that famous wall. Many in our community have hit it before
you. I hit it many years ago. Where you go next is up to you, and what
your needs and “itch” are.

I recommend that as a good bridge between where you are now and where
you go next, you get a good programmer’s text editor. TextWrangler is
free, and very powerful. TextMate is my weapon of choice, and it’s not
free, but it has amazing power and extensibility. Others swear by Coda
or Espresso. Or there’s the great-grand-daddy of them all, BBEdit.

The next trick is to add your editor as a preview “browser” in
Freeway. Go into the File / Preview in Browser menu, and choose the
Edit Browsers submenu option. Click new and navigate to your editor of
choice to add it to the list of “browsers”.

Now, while you’re designing a page in Freeway, you can toggle over to
the “source view” as simply as File / Preview in Browser / Your Editor
Name Here. Now as with anything in Freeway, this is a one-way street.
You can see what Freeway hath wrought, but not edit it and see the
changes back in Freeway.

But this is a marvelous way to learn how HTML is coded. Freeway writes
extremely terse code (oh, be sure to keep More Readable selected in
your Output preferences, or you’ll go blind trying to read it), but it
never misses a trick when it comes to writing the least code to do the
job. This is how I started to learn HTML, by watching a master at work.

I started getting involved in this very early, because I had to. I
worked at a stodgy medical advertising agency in the late 90s, and
like everyone else, we were getting our clients into the Web as fast
as we could. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, so
having read a few books and coded some sites in Claris HomePage, I was
duly enthroned, and paired with a junior copywriter, and with our
agency’s IT guy, who knew some Visual Basic and thus how to code ASP
pages for Windows IIS (our Web server of choice at that time).

So our workflow went like this. I would design the pages, and publish
them to the Web server’s root using a Mac file share set up on the
Windows NT server. Barry would open them up in UltraEdit and add the
ASP stuff directly, and the client would look it over.

There would be changes.

The first time we saw these changes, I went ahead and made them in
Freeway, and published. Guess what? Freeway overwrote all the ASP
code, and Barry had to type the whole thing over again from memory.
And I had to buy him many donuts.

The second time we encountered changes, we hit upon a different
strategy. I would rename the working file in the server’s root before
publishing, and Barry would compare the two and port the changes over,
one way or the other, and rename and delete files so it worked again.

After a while, I started wanting to take control of this and make it
less difficult for both of us. I would open the working page in
BBEdit, search for the ASP code, and use Markup Items and Page / HTML
Markup to add the code directly into Freeway. Then, unless there were
other changes needed to the ASP, I was free to alter the visual style
of the page to the client’s delight, while everything else Just Worked™.

So all of this back-and-forth was my earliest education into dynamic
Web sites. Around this same time, Apple announced the Rhapsody project
and the move to Unix. I had an elderly Mac lying around the house, and
acquired a developer preview of Rhapsody, and set about setting up a
Web server for my own play at home. Naturally, this meant no ASP for
me, time for a long-pants language to go with the long-pants Unix
server. So I bought a fat book about PHP, and started reading and
coding.

By this point I was at a new agency, much larger and far more Web-
centric. I was a total oddity there – a Creative Director who wanted
to know more about programming. But that was my itch – I wanted to
make pages that would tailor themselves to the customer, and
programming was just another marker in the box to make that happen.
The programmers were reluctant at first to let me into their club, and
the other creative folk were mystified about why I wanted to do this.
But to me it was all part of the same thing, and knowing more just
made it more interesting.

So very long ramble here to say, “I understand where you’re coming
from” and also “you can get there if your interest sustains you
through the first big steps”.

Walter

On Feb 21, 2011, at 12:14 PM, Sly wrote:

Has the time come for me to branch out from Freeway Pro to software
that educates me at the same time as helping me build web pages? I
really hope not.


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Not to split hairs, but I don’t know that any app will educate you to
any great extent (some, yes), it’s simply a tool. A reciprocating saw
won’t teach me the finer points of carpentry. You need to find those
answers elsewhere. However, some apps are better equipped to enhance
the learning process by offering the necessary tools to assist you in
putting your new understanding into practice. People bemoan anything
code related but the fact is learning such things only serves to make
you a more competitive, valuable, knowledgeable and skilled designer
and I applaud your interest in wanting to do so. This is especially
advantageous if you plan to work in the corporate arena. As always, it
hinges on what your goals are. For myself, the more I learned about
code the greater the freedom I enjoyed but also the more restrictive I
found FW.

If the app can’t grow with your changing needs then look elsewhere.

Todd


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Freeway is definitely geared toward graphic designers with little or no web experience. That’s not to say that it is incapable of professional looking web pages, but as you have discovered there is a limit to what Freeway can do without the use of actions or extended options. I would suggest you must obtain at least some basic understanding of general html code structure and what the basic tags mean and how they are used in order to understand and use the masses of sample code you find available on the web. I would suggest also it is more valuable to acquire a fuller understanding of CSS than html, although they go hand in hand, at least as it relates to Freeway because of its many styling choices that Freeway considers optional. Books on the subjects are many and varied of course, but they are all valuable one way or another. I think I would suggest having general reference books that list out the html and CSS tags, what they do, and how they are used in general.

You can work around Freeway’s limitations to a certain extent. Perhaps sharing code with non Freeway programers is too problematic for the amount of stress you will encounter in the process to be worth attempting.


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Hi all. Thanks very much for your words of advice and encouragement.

The idea of adding a ‘text editor’ into the list of Freeway browsers is genius! Although like in Dreamweaver (yuck) you can’t select an area in the preview and see the highlighted code, this is the next best thing. Now I have a blank freeway document called ‘Freeway Reference’ and when I want to see how FW does something I open it up, put the item on the blank page and then preview the code generated. I’m learning already.

I’ve also been working through the simple and helpful introduction to html and css at: www.html.net. It’s already helped me understand more of how freeway handles code, divs, id’s classes etc.

So, with my laptop on my back, I leave these green pastures on a quest for knowledge. Where it will take me I do not know. It’s a bit scary, but I will take Freeway with me.

If I don’t make it back, please tell my family I loved them very much.

Adios,

Simon.
(Has been known to be a little over-dramatic at times).


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While I use Espresso to preview Freeway documents, because you can’t edit them I usually only do this if something doesn’t look write or I need to check actions I am writing.

As you already know, DreamWeaver is the defacto standard here (yuck indeed). I came to Freeway when GoLive was EOL’d. I couldn’t bring myself to go with Dreamweaver (CS 3 was a buggy POS), and the fact that Adobe offered no upgrade path to the GoLive users they had just abandoned, I am no longer interested in giving them any more of my money.

I know FW is in need of a re-write, and hopefully they are working on it. IMHO there is a serious need for another graphic editor with code editing capabilities. While I can usually do what I want with FW, I would be able to do a lot of it much faster with search and replace of the code than FW’s current modal dialog hell.


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This is the dark side of Freeway’s approach. As you know, there’s no
HTML in the Freeway document, just like there’s no PostScript in a
Word document. When you publish/print, the HTML/PostScript comes out
to play – as an artifact of the publish/print process. It’s like a
screen-grab of a multi-layer Photoshop document. It’s suitable for
pasting into an e-mail to your editor to see if you’re on the right
track, but nothing you want to take apart and make edits with later.

While it would be nice if this process could work backwards as well as
forwards, it’s not likely without reducing Freeway to a Dreamweaver
clone. There’s a serious benefit to the current system, with the
design being kept at one or more removes from the output. By not
having to dumb down the design to suit the imprecision of the delivery
language until the very last moment, you reduce or remove the chance
that you will make an irrecoverable error – essentially destroying
data that you can never get back – by doing something simple in your
design that the language doesn’t support in that particular output
level.

Walter

On Feb 22, 2011, at 9:16 AM, Solutions Etcetera wrote:

While I can usually do what I want with FW, I would be able to do a
lot of it much faster with search and replace of the code than FW’s
current modal dialog hell.


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Yes, but I think FW’s editing mode is granular enough that a far less opaque method of editing is possible. Perhaps a common properties metaphor that would address editing values across multiple selections, and then folding those changes back to the original format.

This would be of significant benefit for things like forms and form elements, metadata, and element positioning. And if FW makes the decisions about just which common props across multiple selections are editable, there would be little chance of mowing over the cord on the trip back.


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I agree wholeheartedly, and I love this metaphor, too.

There are a few tiny cracks in the current stone wall against editing
multiple elements. You can set background and border and text colors
for a multiple selection using the Colors palette. But that can be
fiddly, particularly for borders, in cases where there isn’t an
existing property. A new one is added, but it’s then up to you to fix
it w/r/t dimensions, inset/outset, etc. Not at all usable, but just a
hint of what could be done.

Walter

On Feb 22, 2011, at 10:48 AM, Solutions Etcetera wrote:

And if FW makes the decisions about just which common props across
multiple selections are editable, there would be little chance of
mowing over the cord on the trip back.


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Hi, I’m back!

Well, on my travels I tried a few WYSIWYG editors, took a crash course in HTML and CSS and even coded a site by hand in Textmate and Coda.

I understand (and appreciate) quite a bit more about what Freeway is doing behind the scenes.

I think the most prominent thing I’ve noticed is how clean the code can be when the HTML is just ‘markup only’, ie. H1, H2, p div, id, class etc and the rest of the styling/sizing/positioning is all in the CSS file. It’s very clean and simple.

Freeway tends to be heavier in the styling within the HTML file. I guess this may be because so many of the Actions access and modify the code there. I think that moving forward Freeway will need to overcome this to keep in line with the way HTML and CSS are progressing.

But, I also notice that Freeway is so quick and easy to use and takes care of many browser compatibility issues. It’s a great bit of kit for designers too, with many features that equal or even outshine QuarkXPress and InDesign.

So for a future FW wishlist I would include:

  1. Cleaner HTML (ie. with the style/size/position/float in CSS).

  2. A CSS tab in the Inspector for styling.

  3. Master Page items that keep link with ‘box model’ children (because RPL isn’t always appropriate).

  4. In general (for FW Pro), more direct access in the inspector and less hidden behind contextual menus and buttons.

I don’t imagine any of the above is trivial with regard to updating Freeway, but hope that it’s possible, to keep FW up there with the best.

Best wishes all,

Sly.


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