Articles: Using iWeb Without Dot Mac
Not only do I write articles like this one for PowerMax, but I also write a computer support column. It's called "Ask Jacob," and a link to it can be found in the right hand navigation of www.powermax.com's front page. All day long emails come in, ranging from troubleshooting to buying advice. The questions I get in those "Ask Jacob" emails are just the tip of the iceberg. Each day I get all sorts of Mac questions from PowerMax sales people and other staff. Those questions are often customer questions that have stumped our expert staff. Even with all these questions from email and everyone around me, I still get some of the most difficult questions, not from work, but when I get home.
For example, the other night my daughter discovered the copy of iWeb I had installed on her computer. She had already created her website and wanted to know how to publish it. She does not have her own Dot Mac account, so the one click "Publish" button will not work. There is nothing like the expectations of a little girl to inspire you to accomplish something. So I set out to learn how to publish a website from iWeb without a Dot Mac account. It was harder than I thought.
Again, since the large "Publish" button only works if you have a Dot Mac account, you have to save your files to a local folder and move them online later. Under the File menu is the "Publish to a Folder..." option. You can save your file anywhere, but I suggest that you save them in your home directory within the "Sites" folder. You should also create a new folder in the Sites folder to hold your project labeled "iwebsite" or something similar. Once published, your files are ready for the Internet. They just need to be moved there. You will need to find a free web-hosting site. Many times your ISP will provide one with your account, but there are a bunch of free hosting options, just do a Google search. FTP access is the only criteria you will require. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and, as its name suggests, it is just a method for sending files from one computer to another. When you have your account set up with your web host, you should receive instructions on how to connect via FTP. You may need to search the help section a bit, but FTP is the standard way to set up websites.
Now that you have your site published on your computer and a place to host your site, you need to move the files from your computer to the hosting company's computer. To do this you need an FTP application. There are many purchasable FTP applications, but I like a free one called Cyberduck (http://cyberduck.ch/). In Cyberduck, or your FTP application of choice, click on "new connection." Enter the FTP address of the server, your username, and password. Look out for a checkbox that lets you save the FTP account info to your Keychain so you don't need to enter it every time you update the website. Click on connect and the main window should display the contents of your hosted site. As a new account you may not have any files showing. Now that you're connected, you will need to upload the files on your computer to the Web Host. In Cyberduck there is an "Actions" pull down menu you can select "Upload" from. When asked what files to upload, navigate to the "iwebsites" folder in the "Sites" folder. You are going to want to select both the index.html file and the folder that iWeb created. To select both, hold down the "Shift" key when clicking on each item. Then select upload and the files will be whisked up to the web host's server.
If you have no errors uploading, then you can just open a web browser, like Safari, and head over to your website. There is a good chance, however, that you may get an error uploading your files. It happened to me. The problem has to do with file names and iWeb features. Most of iWeb is designed for a Dot Mac account. The Blog feature in particular should not be used if you are not going to use a Dot Mac account. Blogs are not the only limitation. Your filenames can be incompatible with most of the web servers used. For example a picture with the name "your pictures name.jpg" will not work because of the spaces in the name. It would instead need to be changed to "yourpicturesname.jpg" or "your_pictures_name.jpg" for it to work on any web server. No digital camera will put spaces in the names of photos but pictures sent to you by friends may have spaces. Also it is not just spaces that cause errors. Names with punctuation or symbols like "(" and "@"will cause problems as well. It is best to stick with 1-9 and A-Z for file names. If you want to use an image with an error-causing name, make a copy of it on your desktop and change the name before adding it to the iWeb project. I also found that some of the graphics in iWeb's templates use spaces in their names. So don't be surprised if you have name problems even after fixing your file names.
The file name problem is probably the biggest shortcoming in iWeb. Most HTML editing applications will check for this kind of compatibility problem before publishing and allow the user to fix it. Even after I found the cause of the errors after uploading, I had trouble fixing it because iWeb has limited editing tools. I like the simple interface and automated functions of iWeb, but Apple dropped the ball when it comes to interoperability with the rest of the web hosting community. Dot Mac is a great service, and as you can see from the above, Apple does a great job creating a product whereby people don't have to follow instructions or do research or know much about anything to publish a website. However, not everyone wants to pay for convenience. I'd like to see Apple add the ability to fix file names in later versions of iWeb, and make using non-Dot Mac sites easer. It was difficult for an adult to get working and near impossible for a child. In the meantime, check those file names and keep checking for the fix via Software Update.