Rapid Prototyping Web Sites with Macaw

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When I was in high-school, I took a Dreamweaver class. Oh, how exciting it was that I was going to be able to build a professional quality website, and it wouldn’t take any time at all, and I could sell it for mountains of money, and further lies. It didn’t take long to realize that once you get over the learning curve, you find an application that solves few problems and requires almost as much time as designing in notepad. At least that was my experience.

Crushed by my disappointment over Dreamweaver, I took it for granted that I would never be able to build a site without hand-coding lines of HTML and CSS. For a mostly hobbyist web developer (until recently) this was frustrating to say the least. Enter Macaw.


I’ve been watching the Macaw web designer project for around a year now, and they just released their admittedly buggy release for $175. What you get for the reasonable cost and the occasional bug is amazing. Imagine rapid prototyping of a website that you can do in under an hour. If you are taking a Model, View, Controller approach to the design of a web app, cut your view development time to less than half. Most impressive, however, is the way it handles breakpoints.

When working in Macaw, you use a GUI to design your page. Breakpoints, container divs and any other html elements are drag and dropped. CSS can be applied in moments through context sensitive menus on the side and the program allows for global css styles for repeated elements. Then divs and anything inside them can be turned into elements that can then be copied onto more pages. Once completed, publish the project files and they are saved in directories ready to be uploaded to the web. The files may not even need editing if you just want a simple landing page, perhaps with a few tabs to content pages.

All that said, the program is not all sunshine. As a new application, it is full of minor bugs, which the dev team seems to be addressing quickly. The export is in html files and the program does not handle php or other scripting languages at all. Unlike the promises of Dreamweaver, however, Macaw lives up to the developer’s vision. It allows you to spin up a website design in a few hours and move onto more important development concerns, which you will be doing in another application anyway.

I’m not paid by Macaw, but I’m quickly becoming a fanboy. I recommend trying before you buy, in case the issues put you off. They have a free trial here: http://macaw.co/


Michael Thomas

Michael Thomas is a “Solution Architect” for a small IT services firm in south Texas. He has been working around computers for over a decade, but has been performing network admin/systems admin tasks for about 2 year. Michael plans to move towards development and is currently learning a variety of platforms and languages. Originally planning to become an attorney, Michael went to the University of Houston-Victoria for a BA in both Psychology and English. Dissuaded by watching too many Law and Order:SVU episodes, he opted to pursue his passion of all things tech. When he is not at work, Michael is taking tech classes online, flying his quadcopter, remodeling his home and watching episodes of Eli the Computer Guy. Michael wants to learn more than anything else and welcomes comments or further information on topics he may discuss. Feel free to contact him through Geek Brain Dump or directly through email. michaelthomas1234@gmail.com

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