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Review: iWeb's enhancements are exactly what it needed

In the most recent iLife '06 software update that Damien mentioned, iWeb understandably received the largest bump of new features and bug fixes; after all, it is the latest to arrive at the iLife party. Considering that I've been pretty vocal about my gripes with this otherwise fantastic addition to both iLife and .Mac, you can imagine my enthusiasm for Software Update to work its magic asap.

After tinkering with the new features in iWeb 1.1 like blog comments and drop-dead simple photo album page creation, I thought I'd post a quick review of what's new, as I think iWeb is finally starting to fit into its role of a strong, WYSIWYG 1.0 application from Apple.

Comment, with attachments and more
The biggest new feature of iWeb 1.1 is probably the ability to leave comments on blog posts. Third party utilities like iComments have cropped up to add comments, but due to iWeb's extreme WYSIWYG paradigm, the setup and execution of using something like iComments is far from ideal. What's even better is that Apple's implementation of comments has some surprising features that most other blog systems can't even boast.

After updating to iWeb 1.1, comments are not automatically enabled on your blogs. In fact, finding out where to turn them on is a littler counter-intuitive - you need to go to the RSS tab of the Inspector pane (pictured) where you can toggle comments for each of your blogs. Interestingly, you can also enable your readers to leave up to 5 MB attachments with their comments - something I haven't seen in other popular systems like Blogger or even WordPress (at least, not without plugins).

Admin comments from iWeb

The slick factor of iWeb comments doesn't stop at this Inspector tab, however. Under iWeb's File menu is now a 'Check for New Comments' option. Though I couldn't see any visual feedback while iWeb actually ran its check, comments will appear at the end of your blog entries in iWeb (pictured). To top it off, you can remove comments by clicking the black (X) button. That's right: comment administration from within a local app. Kudos to the iWeb engineers on this one.

Search my blog
Another great new feature is searching, enabled under that same RSS tab in the Inspector. Once toggled, iWeb should place a search box (complete with Spotlight icon) somewhere on your blog's main page. Since I'm using the plain White theme, the search box is at the top right of my blog's banner image. Nice.

Smart publishing and easier photo album page creation
The other more minor iWeb 1.1 enhancements are most welcome, such as a separate "Publish to .Mac" option under File which is (finally) a bit smarter about publishing only the changes you've made, instead of the entirety or majority of your iWeb site. You can also simply drag an album out of the Media Browser onto a photos page to add every image from that album - that's pat #2 on the iWeb engineers' backs.

Conclusion, with exceptions
There are certainly still some gaping holes, such as a lack of iDisk/web integration and no way for easily integrating (or at least pointing to) sites under the previous Homepage system. Also, Software Update stated that image optimization has improved, but I haven't seen it yet (maybe I need to actually re-publish my entire site).

All in all, iWeb has gained some much-needed enhancements that I think are finally bringing it up to the standards of a 1.x iLife release. Check out the Read link for Apple's site, complete with QuickTime tutorials, on all the new goodies in iWeb 1.1.

In the most recent iLife '06 software update that Damien mentioned, iWeb understandably received the largest bump of new features and bug...