Macaw Enhanced for Code-free Web Design

It's always a good thing to know your way around HTML, CSS and even the basics of JavaScript, if your goal is creating anything but the most rudimentary web layout. But modern tools are extending the degree to which code-free creation is possible and, in some cases, even preferable. Adobe Muse is currently the most popular such tool, due to its inclusion within the Creative Cloud service, but it's by no means the only one. The cross-platform Macaw was introduced last year with the claim that it "provides the same flexibility as your favorite image editor," while generating compact, correct HTML and CSS code. It's geared to the creation of wireframes, prototypes and mock-ups.

Powering the Macaw design environment is its Stream real-time layout engine, which allows users to manipulate elements in a manner familiar to users of Photoshop — which paints a pretty clear picture for most of us. Then there's Alchemy, Macaw’s design-to-code engine, which translates your design into the semantic code of your dreams. Good so far. From a more granular perspective, Macaw allows users to perform such actions as set breakpoints and optimize sites for devices; employ web or system fonts; make use of element styles; broadcast designs to any device on the network; set variable names and add scripts for fast prototyping; share assets between pages and save them all in one document; utilize static, absolute and fixed positioning for dynamic layouts; and store elements in a library and reuse them on any page.

The version 1.5 release adds the ability to take "total control" of text by creating and styling nodes like anchors, spans, strongs and ems. Also now possible is adding such states as hover, active and focus to any element, with the ability to manage each state per breakpoint. Also worthy of note is a new Embed tool that lets users embed videos, maps or iframes; backgrounds, shadows, display, visibility and states are customizable for every breakpoint; and the layout engine has received enhancements for speed and accuracy.

Macaw 1.5 for Mac and Windows is available for purchase on the Macaw site for a limited time for $99 (regularly $179). A trial version is also available.