Bootstrap Studio vs Pinegrow or Webflow

Thanks. I am liking the Kirby CMS which is a flat file system. It is hard to find a visual bootstrap builder that can work with a CMS. Most require export first which makes future design updates hard to maintain

Mobirise in my opinion is very restrictive and more for the newb person wanting to make a website. Nothing near as robust and feature packed as BSS is in any way, at least not when I checked it out about 6 months or so ago it didn't even compare to BSS at all.

Pinegrow is nice, the biggest advantage there is that most things are open (not locked) and your files aren't saved to a single proprietary project file like BSS is so you can edit old sites, new sites, any sites. Now ... having said that, the learning curve is extremely painful. It has a ton of bells and whistles, but not a lot of it is intuitive so it takes a bit to learn how to use it. More so than BSS in my opinion and considering BSS doesn't have anywhere near as good of documentation as Pinegrow does, that's saying a lot about BSS in how it's easier to learn.

Mind you, BSS is not a newbie tool, not for the "Joe Blow guy that wants to drag and drop it all and set a few little settings and be done" kind of person. There's a lot of CSS that needs attention as well, so no, it's not a beginner tool.

If you're looking for a tool to save you time, then you've found it if you're using BSS at this time. And if there's something you can't seem to work out how to do just ask in here and someone can usually help point you in the right direction. :)

I am playing with BSS and Pinegrow. Wappler is also another one. All of them have a code editor to add CMS code. Kirby requires .php extension which may rule out a few.

ALL good points about Mobirise but it's often a matter of "horses for courses" -- can you get a program to do the particular something you want, and can afford the support costs to maintain it once you have it. You might find you can get these with Mobirise. I've played with it for years but in no way have I ever felt it was worth spending MY money on it as it fails to do what I want. BUT for the average mug business owner wanting some way to promote his site, without spending any significant amount of time on the sorts of learning curves you mention ... "horses for courses". Personally, despite all the barracking people do in the Mobirise forums I think the whole thing is a ruse -- "free front-end developer" -- except you need the grossly expensive editor (compared to the power of BSS) to do ANYTHING! Which means it just AIN'T FREE.

Sorry, got off track there. There's one chap, Tommy Herrmann, who I seem to remember used / developed a CMS for Mobirise - search his name in their forums

Pinegrow

I have used Pinegrow extensively (since 2017) and built a few sites with it. It gets the job done. It's probably the most open-ended website builder out there. It doesn't restrict you in any way, but it is not very easy for a beginner to grok, and it definitely requires a good familiarity with code to really be able to do a lot of stuff. If you can hand code, you'll probably have no trouble with it, but there is a bit of a learning curve to the interface. One big advantage of Pinegrow is that everything you do is live. What you see in the workspace is exactly what the site will look like. You can open multiple pages open at once, and multiple sizes of each page, so it can make building sites for different viewports pretty easy (especially since in now supports multiple monitors.) Pinegrow is the only one that will allow you to use third-party templates. You can buy a Bootstrap or Foundation or HTML5 template and open it directly. You can even open sites directly from URLs. In addition to various frameworks, Pinegrow has robust support for both flexbox and CSS grid. I would actually describe Pinegrow as more of a visual website editor as opposed to a builder. In terms of static sites, there's really nothing you cannot do with Pinegrow. And It produces clean, semantic code.

As for CMS, Pinegrow has it's own CMS-like features where you can make parts of pages "editable" by someone else who has Pinegrow, but it's not a true CMS. On the other hand, Pinegrow has a Wordpress version which allows you to build Wordpress sites, so that solves your CMS problem. There are discussions on the Pinegrow forums of alternate ways to build third-party CMS managers into a Pinegrow built website. You should probably look there for more info.

Of the three, Pinegrow probably gives you the most bang for your buck. They have an annual subscription plan, but you own the software. You download it and install it on your machine, and you can use it forever. If you want to upgrade it after a year, you need to renew. It's pretty fairly priced (I think it's like $175 for the year.) The developers are pretty good about fixing bugs and releasing new features. In the three years I've owned PG, it's had one major update (ver 4 to ver 5) and numerous smaller updates. The forums are fairly active, but newbies don't get a lot of love because most PG users are advanced and don't want to waste time explaining things like "what are media queries."

Bootstrap Studio

This is my workhorse. I can prototype a site faster in BSS than any other program. Being able to create and save your own component blocks is a HUGE time-saver. BSS is, of course, limited to Bootstrap, but you can always add your own HTML, CSS and Javascript. It just won't be modifiable throught the program's visual tools. BSS is also a front-end builder only. It has no built-in CMS. I'm not sure about adding a third-party CMS. It might be possible, but I've never tried.

The program itself is rock-solid stable. I've encountered very few bugs, and the developers are very good about fixing them. They are also very good about updating the program often, and adding user-suggested features. This feels like a very tight-knit community. You'll generally get help in the forums pretty quickly, even if you're a total beginner.

I have a few minor quibbles with BSS. The sites are saved in a single compressed file that contains all the code and images, but the internal file manager doesn't support saving other files (like PDFs or videos) so you have to add them to your server separately. Currently, you're limited to web standard or Google fonts, but the next release is supposed to have user font support. The program supports basic forms through BSS own servers but I use a third-party form service. You won't find things like password-protected areas, or e-commerce in BSS because it's a static-site builder (though you can always add things like PayPal purchases.) The program's built-in features are largely limited to what's available in the Bootstrap framework, but it's easy to add external javascript and CSS, or inject your own HTML. BSS does not support multi-monitors, but I believe this is also on the devs "to-do" list. You're limited to the small number of templates that come with BSS. You can't easily import templates.

What I like very much about BSS is it deployment model. You buy the program ONCE (which is VERY inexpensive) and get free upgrades for life (I would happily pay an annual fee for BSS.) It's installed on your machine, so you can use it regardless of your internet connection. BSS has it's own internal server, so you can preview sites in a browser LIVE as you work on them in the program, which is really great. The program auto-updates itself whenever a new release comes out, so you're always working with the latest version. There are no limitations on the number of sites you can build, and you export the sites as clean, semantic code with a straightforward folder structure. You could easily build a site in BSS, hand it off to a Bootstrap coder, and they'd have no trouble modifying it.

If all you need is Bootstrap (no CMS or database features), BSS is the best website building program you'll find. It's intuitive, stable, affordable, well supported and produces perfect code.

Webflow

I cannot say anything about the actual builder beyond what I've read in reviews. Their own site is built in Webflow, and the code looks pretty good. They use a proprietary framework based on CSS grid (it's not a Bootstrap builder as I've seen it erroneously reported sometimes online.) I've heard there is a definite learning curve to their interface, but it's also supposed the be pretty polished and bug-free.

My biggest issue with Webflow has nothing to do with their software, but rather their deployment model. Webflow runs in the cloud, so you need an internet connection to use it. If your internet goes down (or something happens to their servers) you're out of luck. You can export the site's code, but without the Webflow software, I'd imagine it would be quite a chore to figure out how to make major changes. If you don't export your sites, they're locked into Webflow, so if you ever decide to quit their platform, you lose your websites. Also, their model is quite expensive. For someone with a freelance business, anything over 10 sites is going to cost you $35 a month. That's $420 a year, and you'll have to pay it EVERY YEAR to keep working on your clients sites. That's a total deal-breaker for me, and the main reason why I never gave Webflow more than a cursory looking over. I don't like being tied into proprietary systems (the same reason I never tried Adobe Muse, and look what a disaster that became.)

Mobirise

I tried it before Pinegrow and BSS, and I hated it. It's got a lot of limitations, and you have to pay extra for common sense features like code editing. The program is "free", but it's designed to nickle & dime you to death if you want to do anything substantial with it. It comes with a lot of templates but they're all variations on about 6 or 7 themes. There are a lot of pre-made blocks as well, but they're not not nearly as customizable as the ones in BSS. If you look at the Mobirise forums, you'll find over 80 pages of bug reports, and a huge number of posts from people who obviously have no idea what they're doing. It's the sort of community you'd expect from a free program that really caters to the drag-n-drop builder crowd. I'd stay FAR away from Mobirise.

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Thanks so much for the great information Printninja. Foundation development has stalled pretty much it seems so I would probably only need Bootstrap support anyway. Have you ever heard of the new kid on the block Wappler? Let me know what you think of that one at https://wappler.io.

It seems I will need to take exported code and add in the CMS parts no matter what I do. I am fine with that. The only part that sucks is when you need more design changed down the road. Th only way to eliminate that issue is with ProcessWire's Markup Regions https://processwire.com/docs/front-end/output/markup-regions/. You can code them right in the files and they parse on a delay. You can even have placeholder images and text so you can completely design in BSS, Pinegrow or Wappler.

<div data-pw-id="hello">
  <p>Hello World</p>
</div>

It is the only CMS I have seen that works like this. I would much prefer flat file, but this one advantage is pretty slick. What do you think?

@bgarrant

I have no experience with content management systems, or with Wappler. I've heard Wappler discussed a bit on the Pinegrow forums. Some people seem to like it. Others say it's a far cry from Pinegrow and has a lot of bugs. Since I don't build database-driven websites, I've had no need to look into these topics. I've only written a very small amount of PHP to create things like password protected pages.

I tried them all, Bootstrap Studio is the best. Best UI, best support, best community, best tutorials, best price.

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@bss

“I tried them all, Bootstrap Studio is the best. Best UI, best support, best community, best tutorials, best price.”

Nuff Said right there! :heartbeat:

BSS has gotten considerably better since the 5.x release. It’s by FAR the best front-end website builder on the market. Granted there’s a bit of a learning curve, but for developers, it should be wiping the floor with SAAS programs like Webflow, Wix, Dreamweaver, etc… nothing else compares to BSS.

I do a lot of front end and server-side code on websites. Especially using Codeigniter and Laravel and Espocrm which are all PHP driven. I have evaluated wappler, BS and Pinegrow. These are my opinion and views:

(1) Bootstrap Studio

Great tool for Bootstrap based applications UI is easily and friendly. Weak side are:

  • lack up to date tutorial. Many of them in YouTube are outdated.
  • does not support PHP server side code especially for database access (Javascript is too much for too little)

(2) Pinegrow

Great piece and lots of functionality. Weak side:

  • too loose, its like codingin the raw with added UI complication
  • I would rather take a good editor like VS Code and be done with it
  • does not support php server side (some tweaking but not well)

(3) Wappler

Sounds really great with Server side too. Some say it is buggy, yet to see it. The really bad side is the product bundling. Pro has database access while the basic does not. That is really stupid. It is well know that no one (at least what i know of) write a commercial website without databases.

My conclusion: All of them run well but its the needs. If you need full blown features, i would take Wappler though i wish BS beefs up instead of avoiding it. Remind you, PHP is here to stay and well progressing too.

There is one important factor your left out in your reviews…

COST (in U.S. dollars)

(1) Bootstrap Studio - $60 one-time fee, includes lifetime updates, includes 5 free website hosting slots, includes free form email service. For beginners, I don’t think anything comes remotely close to this software value in terms of features you get for the price.

(2) Pinegrow - Basic subscription is $99 PER YEAR, Annual (One-time) is $150 for one year (interactions (animations) not included & cost an extra $30 IIRC.) Wordpress version - add $50. Tailwind Version - add another $50. No free hosting, no forms. It’s a powerful platform, with dedicated developers and a good user base, but suffers from a somewhat cludgy UI, mediocre documentation, and a lot of old tutorials and videos that don’t align with the current version’s UI. For a beginner, I can see them easily quitting PG out of frustration over the aforementioned things.

(3) Wappler - Basic is $240 and Pro is $480!!! PER YEAR This program is quite expensive, and probably a hard nut to justify for many freelancers or casual developers. It says Wappler includes free Google Firebase hosting. I can’t comment on that, or any of the other program features because I don’t own Wappler. I do own BSS and Pinegrow, but obviously Wappler is the only one of the three that builds both front-end and back-end websites (unless you count Pinegrow’s WP version.) So Wappler’s significantly higher cost may be justified if you are building large or complex, database-driven websites for clients.

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Total agreed. I intentionally left out the pricing. Reason being, if functionality is lacking price becomes secondary. If I can get a good function font-end and back-end tool, i would go for it. But, as you rightly said, affordability comes into play when consideration depending on who wants it. I am freelance guy to me every penny counts.

One thing that will make Bootstrap Studio really a WOW is full availability of all the features of Bootstrap. Eg. datatables.

But is Wappler open vanilla and agnostic doesn’t it instead cause users to rely on their framework / libraries to do so? You don’t mind that aspect?

Agreed.

One of the great things about BSS is that the developers are truly passionate and dedicated to improving the software. I’ve owned hundreds of programs over the last 40 years using computers, and few of them have had such dedicated and responsive developers as @martin and his team. They really do listen to our (the users) ideas, suggestions and advice, and they often incorporate suggestions and requests we ask for in their updates. They also fix bugs in the software FAST (sometimes in 24 hrs!) That’s pretty rare these days among most software companies.

And the bigger the company, the less I’ve found they pay attention to user requests. Adobe, for example, would take YEARS to address issues and requests from users, even when it involved things like fixing obvious bugs in their programs that the Adobe developers themselves would admit existed. They’d complain about the massive corporate bureaucracy that would tie their hands, and prevent them from fixing stuff they themselves knew needed to be fixed. I can’t imagine the frustration of working in such an environment.

So if you want more Bootstrap features added to the program, definitely post your suggestions/requests in the Ideas category of this forum. You may very well see your request granted in a future update or release.

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Agreed. It nails you to their framework. But, facing reality, that is how they can deliver the functionality. Otherwise, it will not be different from BS or Pinegrow. I tried Webflow, this one may not work well for beginners. To me beginners should use BS, to speed up delivery, and then mature into something more complex like Pinegrow. The likes like Scriptcase is really overloaded. Compared to Scriptcase or Appgini, i would rather stick to something like PHPRad as it keeps basics intact my 2 feet on the ground. Sad, PHPRad is slowly fading although people are still trying to keep it afloat.

Basically, things like Webflow and Wappler will soon make us forget the basics. I would rather go for BS or Pinegrow to keep my sanity on the basics. Its not easy to get your clients or staff all ramped up to all these framework based tools. I hate Laravel for the same reasons. Its grossly overloaded. So we stuck to Codeigniter which is lightweight and easy to grow with anything the developer needs. Like, i just developed and installed the RestAPI server in my CI apps within 2 hours, all tested and ready.

I would avoid using frameworks like Vue.js, React, Node.js. Why, simply they tend to over glorify javascript and JS is the most unstable language i have ever used. Every 3 months some new code structure turns up and lose keeping track. Just imagine an app that used ES5 all the way and we pick up the app after learning ES6 or 7. Will be completely lost unless i go backward and learn the code differences in ES 5 and ES 6. Such a waste of time and time is money.

I am basically looking for website developer tool which can generate the pages and components i need and load them into my CI application. In CI apps we use things like Datatables a lot. Though we could use BS to develop the web end of the app, we still lack the ability to create the template needed to present the server side data to the front end.

Can someone guide me to n up-to-date set of tutorials which help me learn from “getting started” to creating full website? Some of the tutorials are disjoint and outdated. Appreciate it.

You ever give PHPStorm a go? I would rather use an open industry framework than consider being tied into Wappler’s system. Developer life is constant learning, thankfully vanilla JS is maturing rapidly. For the record it appears Bootstrap Studio will not be getting better PHP or JS support according to the developer.

No such tutorials exist (to my knowledge.) I’ve toyed with the idea of creating something like this, but I know it would be a massive endeavor, and right now I am too busy trying to rebuild my business, and get new website clients.

I’d also be worried about creating such a tutorial, and never recouping the investment in time and effort. I’d have to make it a paid course on a platform like Udemy (or similar,) but I haven’t even had the time to look into what’s involved in doing this.

Back in the early 2010’s, I was consistently building 3-4 sites a month, but they were old-style, non-responsive sites. By 2013, it had become clear to me that responsive-design and “mobile-friendly” were going to be the future of the internet. I knew I had to scramble to learn responsive design, but I procrastinated. By 2015, I lost nearly 30% of my business.

I finally settled on going with Bootstrap, bought and taught myself Pinegrow, then Bootstrap Studio, and just as I was starting to get some momentum rolling, the damn pandemic hit and killed most of 2020. It’s only been since January that I’ve started picking up new work again. At the moment (Thor be praised) I’m in the middle of three website builds, with hopefully another one or two coming in next month.

I’d really love to build a BSS tutorial, but right now, paying the bills comes first.

PrintNinja,

So sorry to hear that. The tutorial should have been created and maintained by BSS themselves. They should not just focused selling product. They need focus on quality and delivery. So Sad. Hope this does not cause BSS to face the same state as PHPRad.