A few years ago, back when I had dial-up Internet access, I was doing research on… something that I no longer remember, actually… and constantly having to dial up and login to my Internet account, then try to perform my research on the slow dial-up speeds (all the while annoying my roommates who wanted to talk on the phone), was getting a bit annoying. So I decided to try and find a way to download the complete website I was using as the main part of my research. There were definitely tools for this, even a few years ago, but they required a lot of typing of strange strings of characters, and didn’t always get exactly what I wanted (although I chalk a lot of that up to my inexperience with the program).
I was thinking about that the other day, and decided to see what tools are out there now, that perform the same task. I found one right away, listed on Apple’s Mac OSX software download page, called WebCopier. WebCopier is a shareware program costing $30.00, and appeared to do exactly what I want (make complete copies of a website for offline viewing), so I downloaded the 15-day trial copy, installed it, and took it for a spin.
And in spite of a couple aspects to the program I don’t really like, it did a pretty good job.
The first website I tried it out on was my church’s website. I’ve been looking at completely moving the website to a new hosting service (completely unofficially, since I’m not the church’s website maintainer), so I wanted to see exactly how large a site I’m looking at.
Making the backup of the website was incredibly easy. To back-up a website, you only need to do the following:
1. Open a new Project and give it a name.
2. Give WebCopier the web address of your website.
3. If the website needs username/password information, provide it.
4. Select a spot where WebCopier will save the website on your hard drive.
5. If you want to select your own downloading parameters (such as only downloading html files and images, and not mp3s and videos), you can choose those options now, otherwise simply start the download using the built-in standard options.
6. If you want, you can save your project and initiate the download all at once, or you can simply save the project and then start downloading from the main screen.
That’s it! If you chose to start the downloading automatically, WebCopier will now spider through the website you chose, downloading all of the site’s pages, images and other necessary files, and will save them in the spot you chose, in a series of nested folders, organized to mimic the site’s structure. When the site has been completely downloaded, you can quit WebCopier and browse through your backed-up site in your regular web browser, or use the built-in browser WebCopier provides.
In my mind, other than the basic downloading ability, the best thing WebCopier has going for it is its built-in project manager, which lets you keep track of all the sites you’ve downloaded, and view them, right from inside WebCopier. There are certainly other tools (a lot of them less expensive and some of those completely free), that can download complete websites for offline viewing, but I really like how WebCopier lets me view my saved websites all in one place.
But to be honest, that feature probably isn’t worth thirty dollars to me. It’s nice, but isn’t a feature that’s going to make me plunk down my thirty dollars to pay for a full license.
In addition to that, I’m not a huge fan of the regular WebCopier interface. This is certainly subjective, but in my mind the interface itself is a little bit clunky, doesn’t feel like a standard Mac application (it’s written in Java, I believe, and not in Cocoa or Carbon, which would account for some of the clunkiness), and I just think it’s a bit ugly.
As well, at least on my system, WebCopier didn’t ever feel all that solid or stable to me. It never crashed the entire time I was using it, but the windows and dialogs were constantly flickering from dark gray to light gray to white, each time I brought up a new window or selected an option.
Still, in spite of my misgivings, WebCopier absolutely does what it says it will do, and frankly it does it easily and quickly, not to mention doing it well.
So, if you’re looking for a website utility that allows you to make a personal copy of a website for offline viewing, you would do well to give WebCopier a try.
Note: There are versions of WebCopier products available for both Windows and Mac. I tried the Mac version, but if I’m right, the product was originally a Windows application, and may not have the issues I outlined above, so if you’re a Windows user, by all means feel free to ignore any or all of my misgivings.