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Sandvox 2 web development for Mac OS X review

Sections: Mac Software, Reviews, Social Media, Web Applications / Development

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Provides: Website development
Format: Digital download
Developer: Karelia Software
Mac Publisher: Karelia Software
System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.5
Review Computer: Mac OS X 10.5.8, Dual 533 MHz PowerPC G4, 1.5 GB RAM, 128 MB video RAM
Processor Compatibility: PowerPC or Intel
Version Tested: 2.2.2b
Price: $77 for single user, $114 for household, $37/seat for site license with upgrade discounts available
Availability: Out now
Demo: Sandvox 2 at Karelia Software (30 MB)

Whether for a business or hobby, having a well-designed website is the key to having people find you and keep coming back. However, not everyone has the desire or aptitude to learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, or the creative eye to design how a website should look. That’s where Sandvox 2 from Karelia Software steps in to save the day. Its purpose is to help you easily create web sites with professional designs, integration with social networks, multimedia, and blogs. That’s a pretty tall order, so let’s see if Sandvox 2 delivers.

Sandvox 2 choose a design

The first thing you do is pick a design from several provided, some of which have different color schemes. If none are to your liking, you can purchase additional designs for about $12 each and can view what’s available from within Sandvox 2. If you do know HTML and CSS, you can make your own designs or tweak what’s provided. If you’re not prepared to dig around in the code, you’re limited to changing only a few aspects, such as whether there’s a footer or change the picture in the banner at the top of each page.

Sandvox 2 editing HTML

To review Sandvox 2 I decided to make a website for a group in an online game I play. My first thought was to create a table or database with pictures of the members and information about them. However, Sandvox 2 doesn’t have a built-in way to make tables, and instead gives you a link to a website that will make the table HTML for you to then insert into Sandvox 2.

To do this, you go to the page on which you want to place the table, then create an HTML object, click on it to select it, choose “Edit Raw HTML” from the menu or the icon in the toolbar, and then paste your table HTML in the window which appears. As a plus, Sandvox 2 checks your HTML for errors and can even validate it to be sure you don’t have a typo. It’s great that you have the ability to add your own HTML with the added flexibility and power this provides, but having to do so for something as basic as tables annoys me.

Sandvox 2 picture albums

Far easier was the ability to add picture albums, which can even contain other picture albums. Just drag and drop pictures from the finder or use the built-in Media Browser, which puts images, movies, audio, and links from Safari in one easy location. Adding the arrows to go from one picture to the next and back to the album index were provided by Sandvox 2 without me having to do a thing. If you use Flickr you have easy access to the pictures stored there as well.

Pictures is one thing, but what about video? Adding a YouTube object and providing it with a link lets you embed videos easily, and by adding a Media Placeholder object you can add movies, sounds, images, or Flash files you have on your computer or elsewhere.

Sandvox 2 blog

Blogging is popular and can be used for site updates, news, or any information you want to share on a regular basis. All you have to do is insert a blog page, and presto, you have a blog. There are no restrictions as to what each entry can contain or how long they can be. If you want to allow people to comment you have the option of using Disqus, IntenseDebate, or Facebook.

However, unlike other blogs such as WordPress or Blogger, there a few features missing you may want, such as labels which can allow people to quickly find posts of the same subject. There’s also no obvious way to add a search feature, and the index function is a bit basic. There’s also no way to have different authors as Sandvox 2 doesn’t keep track of that, nor is there a way for people to work on different parts of the same website at the same time.

As you can see from the image to the below, there are many built-in objects that connect your website to social networks with the Twitter and Facebook buttons.

Sandvox 2 objects

You can also connect to your Amazon store, let people see your IM status, and even show people how to get to your business with Google Map. If there’s a service you want to use that isn’t available, you can often insert an HTML object and still use it. In addition, there are other objects that can be installed, some for a cost, that expand Sandvox 2’s capabilities as well. All of the objects are easy to use and can be tweaked to your heart’s content.

Once you have your website finished, or just want to see how it looks in a browser, it’s simple to either upload the site to a remote host or to your own computer. It still mentions MobileMe despite its passing, but other than that, publishing is straight-forward.

While I’ve been somewhat negative of Sandvox 2, I still think it’s a great way to quickly make a website. It seems the goal was to provide the features and options that most people would use. If you need something it doesn’t provide, you can add your own code using the HTML object or by using a plug-in. Being able to connect your website to social networks and add multimedia and blogs are easily done, so I think most people will find Sandvox 2 just perfect for their needs.

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  • Merlisk

    Love the sample web page! :) SDC!

  • http://www.NewTimesHomeBiz.com Des

    Good stuff Erica.
    I’ve been using SV2 since mid 2011 and find it pretty good for my needs. It lacks a few features as you said, but what I really like is the ability to “build-as-you-go”. I’m presently creating 4 sites with Sandvox, and as ‘m away from my home base for a year I like the way I can do it all without logging on. This is the big advantage, and when I’m finished I’ll just click “Publish” and presto, the site is up (with a bit of tweaking of course). Editing the site is easy, and re-publishing is done the same way.

    I’m experimenting with blogging on the Sandvox platform, and although it’s relatively easy to set up the blog, I’m not sure whether it’s going to have the power of WordPress or Blogger. But, the other advantage is simplicity and convenience. You don’t need to have a heap of plugins as with WP, but then again a handicap is the limitation is setting up a membership restricted area.

    Just a few thoughts, hope they’re useful.

  • Tony

    @ Des re: ” limitation is setting up a membership restricted area” Does RW or other web design software packages address this need? Is there a package that does it all and is still relatively easy to use? Have a membership restricted area requirement looming on the horizon…

    • http://www.NewTimesHomeBiz.com Des

      Tony, as far as I know RW doesn’t support a membership module, just as Sandvox doesn’t. There’s got to be an easier way to password protect all or parts of a site, than to go into the host’s cpanel. I have two options I’m looking at.

      1. Sentry … this looks interesting, but I’ve sent a note to the people at Sentry seeking if it can be integrated with Sandvox 2. Here’s the link … http://www.sentrylogin.com/sentry/index.asp

      2. Letter.ly … If you want to send out newsletters on a periodic basis, thereby creating a micro-membership, and add links to products etc, then here’s another option … http://letter.ly/

      There may be more options, so I suggest to do some searching.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers
      Des

  • http://ericamarceau.blogspot.com/ Erica Marceau

    You might be able to use Sandvox and use your site’s ability to password protect all or some of your site as it details in this FAQ from Sandvox’s creator.

    http://www.karelia.com/sandvox/help/z/Password_protecting_a_site.html

  • Tony

    Thank you both, Erica and Des. Will check out Sentry, and keep an eye out.

  • Tim

    How do I change the banner image in sandvox 2?

    • http://ericamarceau.blogspot.com/ Erica Marceau

      You can find help right here at Karelia’s website.

      http://www.karelia.com/sandvox/help/z/Banner.html