Freeway Pro refugees

This is a continuation of a side discussion that arose in this thread over in “Deals”

I mentioned I was coming from Freeway Pro and checking out other programs. Of the list I decided to purchase PG and Sparkle. Vastly different, but my thoughts (right or wrong) are I could create visually faster in Sparkle and if I needed extensibility - PG would be able to take over.

I’m at best advanced beginner/amateur. I don’t design sites professionally but do run quite a few. So it’s a hobby and my learning approach has always been to backwards engineer sites to figure out what makes them tick and find the parts I wanted to recreate and add to my own. FW had many really advanced users that I personally would call rocket scientists - and some who didn’t know simple basics. But it is/was a vibrant and helpful community so if the desire to learn and improve was there - you would gain a lot from the generous help of the members.

If anything I believe the entry level competition took what used to be the larger financial portion of the FW purchaser base because it just became too complicated and tweaky to create a modern looking site (responsive). The writing was on the wall. IMO They painted themselves into a corner by adding onto the legacy DTP layout code with additional layers and alternate views, while the times passed them by as new companies made it much easier.

In any event, I look forward to playing with PG and see what I can decipher and then build off of!

Continued from other thread

Most people are not going to take the time to learn to hand code HTML, CSS or JavaScript they just aren’t going to do it. For those people Pinegrow would NOT be the choice for a web editor / web page designer. I am not so sure the billing of Pinegrow as a instructional learn html and css is appropriate because it doesn’t actually teach you any of these things. It just provides immediate feedback of what works and what does not. You still have to figure it all out yourself.

I just spent a day with Pinegrow converting a nighmare table based layout with inline css styles into a current standards based layout, in part just to see how easy it would be with Pinegrow and to be honest it was easier than using dreamweaver or other visual based designers I have used in the past.

Though without the knowledge base I have from taking time to learn how to write html and css I would of been completely lost and in some areas I was completely guessing but in the end I got it working. The layout between the two the original table based and the new html / css version look almost identical with a few text sizing differences and the way certain elements fit but unless you looked really close you couldn’t tell the difference between the two.

It sounds like Freeway users just won’t be able to do anything remotely close to that level of work at all. I don’t actually know what freeway is but I can guess from the description how it works. There really is not a lot of options for purely visual design editors unless you have a mac which everything designed for the mac is visual from what I can see. I am a PC person so don’t know the in’s and out’s there but I have used macs before and I prefer PC’s.

Tumult Hype would be the next best thing for mac users that want to really get into designing glorious visual based websites with animation. For windows, there is Adobe Dreamweaver but it is now more a glorified text editor for web pages than what it once was. The open source and free web design apps all fall short and there really is not any commercial desktop app options available for PC that do not require knowledge of the underlying code to at least some degree.

Everything seems to be moving towards purely web based subscription web designers for the novice level user. Wordpress is also something that people lean to when all they want is to put up quick websites.

After using Pinegrow on a couple projects I can say that it is really suited to take over the professional web design and developer freelance market. I don’t see it as a learning system on it’s own but as a tool to teach yourself html and css it is pretty darn accurate for immediate feedback though so is using a text editor like NotePad++ and an actual web browser.

For what Freeway users seem to want I would say to look else where than Pinegrow UNLESS they care to learn the whats and wheres of the underlying code that makes the web page work. Pinegrow will not automatically create code for you, it just allows you to manipulate what is already there and allow you to add to it.

Pinegrow would be your choice then for that type of work flow, if you watch some of the tutorial videos there is one showing how to do just that with templates from a free template site.

I am not a former FP user, however I find the discussion interesting.

How did you come to the choice of Sparkle for your base level (ability to avoid code) visual app, -vs- say Blocs or any of the others with similar concepts on that list?

However for those desiring to learn:

With some basic ambition, determination and willingness to research and study, what you described is actually the ideal environment for learning. But it’s up the the individual. Without a willingness to learn however, people are only gonna get so far with the drag & drop visual editors approach – I think Pinegrow could likewise improve in this area however (Blocks/Components/UI & UX areas/Tutorial Series/Sample Files/etc.), to help assist beginners and better ease people into the Pinegrow platform, and thus further increase it’s user base in the industry. Another thing that people need to understand is that this industry is always evolving too (apps come and go, frameworks change, languages advance, etc.), so people need to have a desire to learn regardless. It can be as vast as you want, but a solid understanding of the basics should be everyones foundation. With a solid foundation of the basics you can carry that forward regardless of other factors. With the many free resources across the web for learning, coupled with Pinegrow anyone can learn if they have the actual desire to do so.

:evergreen_tree: :heart: @matjaz certainly deserves the success for his efforts. For those whom haven’t - Watch the video.

You can actually open and learn from any URL as described here:

But that’s not what’s written on the “box”…

"Quickly build websites with Blocks
Use the collection of ready-made website blocks to quickly build great looking websites. Drag blocks to the page, customise the content, style CSS rules if you want - and your website is done. "

Granted, I realize auto generating things isn’t the full focus of PG, but it’s not entirely all manual?

Sometimes all I need is fast and simple. I connected with their UI easier than many of the others (I hate to read manuals) - and it’s on a very fast development track. It’s admittedly lacking some things I need but I’ve been in touch with the developer personally and found the responsiveness refreshing. Their sale also made it more compelling to give a full look. Meanwhile I can still also do groundwork in Freeway Pro and then move it over to Pinegrow.

I need to learn or at least fully research the different approaches to determine which one fits my sphere of capabilities and requirements best.

If you’re designing websites using a framework such as bootstrap, the code is created in terms of the components as you can drop various components into the page without touching a line of code.

The part where users struggle is customisation, say someone designs a website using bootstrap and wants to use the carousel component - drop the component into the page. now what? it looks a complete mess but with a few simple adjustments you can quickly have a professional looking carousel, without any manual html code, just a basic understanding of css.

You can drag pre-existing code blocks and create your own but it is not generated on the fly as some apps like Dreamweaver in the past has done.

I just started playing with the “PROP” tab and it does insert class and new tags via what you enter in the fields so it does actually generate that code if you want to use the “PROP” section for that. Though it does not seem to delete all the code if you remove entries from that panel which leaves behind an incorrect HTML tag which would give errors if you validated the code or possibly prevent something from working in the layout depending on the browser.

Dreamweaver and also looking back to Microsoft Frontpage you had panels that you could fill out and then the code would be automagically created. It was completely crap code and I HATED those who used that program FP, once I began creatign web pages professionally. aka being paid by others to create theirs. Most of the time it was to get their existing site to work or change something to make it look like some template or something. Now a days most of those people are using wordpress or similar system for their sites. I ended up creating my own solutions and now I create CMS’s as needed specific to the site.

Yes, Pinegrow has premade code blocks you can apply to your page and edit but that wasn’t really what I was talking about. As the program evolves it will have more of these things so it will fit more in line with how people that come from Visual Editor only work flows expect.

If someone has a work flow like @ShotGal then Pinegrow would be a really essential tool but if they don’t want to learn the essentials of html and css then no it would not at least right now.

I learned by watching a lot of Youtube videos, paying for a membership and watched all their videos on web design I could and then I read and read and read and bought books. All while experimenting and figuring out what works and doesn’t. In a 12 month period I went from moderate web designer to higher class professional developing skills that even many of the pro’s don’t have. Ignoring the sweat shops from india and Philippines where it is just churning out template sites left and right as fast as you can. I am talking about high level freelance professionals. It can be done and is fun but it does take effort and time to learn, I continue to all the time. It’s not a one and done, it is an on going basis because things change sometimes literally over night.

Most of what I am saying is based off of a comment in the other thread this one spawned from, paraphrasing, said Freeway users for the most part aren’t interested in learning how the underlying code works or that there is even code that is generated for them by the program.

In that case the users that want a purely visual editor that does it all for them, Pinegrow would not be the program they should buy.

I’ve never used Freeway but a company that has been around since 1993 must have being doing something right for their audience, but that is the key word - audience. I think ever piece of software has to have a target market and often those that try to be a “Jack of all trades and a master of none” often fail all of their audience. I’m sure there are users of Freeway that would try Pinegrow and find it confusing and not what they are looking for and likewise I’m sure there are FW users who would try PG and think this is exactly what they have been looking for, maybe even better suited to their needs than FW. Yes PG isn’t as simple as drag n drop and click a few buttons or sliders to automagically create code but with a little effort by users they can create most things.

I find @Terry44 comments here to be of great interest as he has said some positives about PG and I know he had a lot of feedback about PG when he was trailing it but he has taken some time to familiarise himself with it and as he said himself he converted a table based layout to a responsive layout fairly accurately. I’m sure he will have further feedback relating to things he experiences with PG but this is only a good thing that will hopefully help improve the app over time, but keeping in mind that while feedback gets notice not everything makes it through to the bing part of the app because what might be required by one user might be a pointless feature for another so everyones needs must be balanced.

Hopefully Freeway users find a replacement that they are comfortable with and be part of a community that supports them.

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I was a tremendous fan of Freeway Pro. I began with Adobe PageMill back in the 90s (and I really liked that app, despite the bulky code it generated. I then moved to and then on to Adobe GoLive (which I didn’t much care for), then to DW (which I hate) when Adobe acquired Macromedia.

I’m a right-brained creative who prefers a more intuitive UI and I am totally inundated with the full spectrum of work, basically running a full service corporate creative and marketing department on my own (largest manufacturer of American hardwood custom designed/ built to order window shutters). I don’t have time to spare on anything.

I have a lot of sites up for corporate, local websites for our dealers, etc., plus an extensive HTML-based help system with videos, etc., that I’ve incorporated into our product design and ordering system.
The thing that I loved about Freeway was that it was intuitive plus it had tons of headroom. For those who are unfamiliar with it, it’s basically a high-end HTML code generator that uses various underlying technologies to create sites. It supports JS / JQ, etc., plus all sorts of other stuff.

The thing that killed FW was responsive. Unlike an HTML5 app like Tumult Hype, the responsive design tools were an absolute headache and were buggy. In the end, what I ended up doing was doing everything inline and interspersing text and images created in Freeway with interactive content created with Hype. Hype, by the way, is very good for what it does, but it does not have the resource management and loading tools required for serious web design.

As a Freeway refugee, I need something that is intuitive and powerful. I checked out Blocs but it’s way too limited. PG seems like a good solution, but I go cross-eyed with the UI. As I suggested elsewhere, Freeway’s CSS UI is something I’d like to see in PG - select what attributes you want form popup lists so you only see what is relevant, add more attributes whenever needed, and you can tweak all the settings by selecting the desired breakpoint and tweaking various items as you go. If all the options in the left panel of PG allowed me to see only what I need to see and add whatever else I need as I go, that would work for me.

PG is designed for left-brained coders, not for right-brained types like myself. I’ve spent a good number of hours over a couple of dozen sessions trying to figure things out, but I keep hitting the wall with things as simple as resizing an image, so I set it aside and focus on immediate needs, but the need for a web solution is serious - one that does not require me to spend thousands on third-party help.

I had contacted Jonathan Deutsch - the president of Tumult - when I heard that Freeway was on the rocks and suggested that he consider buying it. I contacted the Freeway guy (Joe Billings, if I remember correctly) and suggested he contact Jonathan but he did not respond. Instead, he put up a free download link for Freeway for a week or two and that was the end of it.

There is a screaming need for an intuitive but very powerful web design solution. What is out there at present is okay, but there is nothing that really kicks tail. It is my hope that PG will rise to the task. There is a bucketload of money to be made for a web design app that has the power of PG but the ease of use and reasonable learning curve of Freeway. It doesn’t have to be an either / solution. It’s all about having a flexible UI that works for both right-braned and left-brained types .(Our numbers are evenly divided. No reason to exclude half of everyone.)

From my POV, it’s not about about not wanting to learn HTML. In Freeway I was using HTML routinely for specific tasks - markup items, adding code to various page elements, etc. Rather, it revolves around the notion that backend designers have specific talents and, while they can design a front end that my please them very well, they are not creatives by nature. Speaking for myself, I want to design a page with the freedom of design that I have always had in graphic design and publishing apps.

Putting it in terms of what I would like to see in the future of PG is that I could work in WYSIWYG and then jump into the code pane to make whatever adjustments for things to work properly. Coming from the other direction, it would mean that a major coding pro could freely code whatever they want and end up with the same design. If I can drag a box with an image on the screen, drag the edges to creat the padding, etc. and the program sees what I’m doing and modifies the code to reflect this, that would be a good thing.

They still have download links on the main page with the farewell letter, wonder if those are fully useable without license keys? When I look around and read the stories of FP users it kind of reminds me of when as you mentioned Adobe acquired Macromedia and then subsequently killed off Freehand. Many FH users still grieve, search and hope still to this very day for a replacement.

It looks like Joe Billings has since co-founded Creatable and Richard Logan is focusing on his Foundation. Too bad they just didn’t Open Source the FP project (or sell it off as you stated) instead of making it abandonware. Then perhaps some ambitious person or group could have taken over and eventually advanced it. I know relatively speaking there were still efforts to revive FreeHand or create tools like or to mimic it years later (Gravit was one of them). Some people still have old machines running to use FH.

Pinegrow developers aren’t going to change their values and create software that produces proprietary coding. i’ve been reading a few articles recently about the creator of this product and we share many of the same preferences in terms of web design, such as

  • preference for simple static websites
  • we both dislike bloated websites
  • animation offers nothing to the end user

So without knowing Matjaž personally, I know he (and his team) won’t sell their soul to the devil and turn Pinegrow into a web solution that produces dirty code.

I hear about people struggling with Pinegrow but I don’t see many threads from individuals asking for help on basic problems. If people ask “how can I…”. They will get answers and realise things aren’t as complicated as they believe.

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Good point Jack. I wonder if that occurs more on Slack, there is a “Beginners channel”. It seems other than a handful or two of people here, this forum is rather uneventful and not very busy. It seems like people prefer or got used to Slack (all 24 channels seem fairly active) and those same people are not readily migrating or participating in this forum, sadly.

I’d like to second this. And I’d like to warn the PG devs not to leave the current track just for the purpose of turnover. PG is a perfectly fine made tool which requires young and fresh people open for everything. I love it!!!

It’s not the evolving web which knocked Freeway down, it is its incredible “static” and ignorant audience who did. The responsive onboard tools of Freeway were (are) incredible cool and easy to use. There are NO bugs at all and it still works perfectly fine. I owe Freeway, the community and the developers of this app all I know. And I owe this app all the respect I can give. And I’m well known being the badass of the board telling everyone from the deepest bottom of my heart:

“Don’t judge things you cannot understand. You simply know way too less!”

The problem on this is, that Freeway’s program core is based on a technology back on 1993. This makes ironing the kinks out nearby impossible. So it’s somehow worth nothing and would require an entire new platform to work on. Form what I know is, that those guys indeed thought about it. But missing money and resources made this impossible.

It is as Terry already said:

Webdesign is a highly professional discipline. It ever was - but it never was as clear as these days.



I didn’t realise they had a beginner channel. I did create a slack account and pop my head in but similar to yourself, I prefer internet forums and haven’t logged into slack for months!

Possibly slack may be a better place for people to hang out as they practice with Pinegrow and ask questions when they get run into problems.

They have been warned :rage:

I think Joe recently took a position there as Creatable has been around for some years and I had never seen his name associated with it until recently. Also, Softpress was in Whitney - quite a distance from Creatable in London.

I had opined about FP going Open Source on the list, but it’s probably tied up in financial messes for who knows how long… It seems a shame, but still, there were major hurdles to overcome - and they didn’t want to rewrite it from the ground up. We refugees are hoping it has a second life somewhere though!

Well Microsoft did it, so anything is possible ;-). Just kidding, that’s interesting, thanks for the heads up, I would have never known of that tidbit. Just a shame to see it go the way of abandonware, even never being a user. From the sounds of it, the fork in the road eventually deemed it to be so.

Just to clarify, when I said this above:

I think Pinegrow could likewise improve in this area however (Blocks/Components/UI & UX areas/Tutorial Series/Sample Files/etc.), to help assist beginners and better ease people into the Pinegrow platform

I just feel there are some areas of improvement that could benefit beginners ease into Pinegrow better, without changing its core focus at all. Don’t :crossed_swords: banish me for thinking there are ways to help beginners as they plant their little pine seedlings :disappointed: (ha, ha).