Macromedia Dreamweaver 8 – Warp Speed Web Development
By Jim Bray
Macromedia’s Dreamweaver Web development application has traditionally been a wonderful source of power and flexibility, but Version 8 is by far the best yet – and addresses some of the bloat that had been creeping into the product over the years.
Dreamweaver, and the now dead Hot Metal Pro, have been my favorite web development apps for years, but the last version of Dreamweaver I tried (MX) was extremely slow – so much so that it had become ponderous to use. It took forever to load, forever to open files, forever to – well, it just took forever. So if I had to choose only one upgrade, it would be to make it go faster.
Version 8 is faster, a lot faster – fast enough, in fact. Thanks, Macromedia (now Adobe)! You made my day.
And of course that's only one improvement.
Here's a quick description of some of Dreamweaver 8's newest stuff:
Dreamweaver 8 also ups its support for ColdFusion MX7, something I try to stay away from 'cause I'm too lazy to learn it – but it offers a lot of power and flexibility if you're up to the task. There's also enhanced support for PHP pages, including server behaviors and code hinting.
Dreamweaver also gets easier to use with each incarnation, and Version 8 is no different. As with MX, you're given a choice of four working environments, from the "classic" floating windows to "coder" or "designer" view, the latter two of which open the entire app in one big window, with the files on one side and workspace for individual pages on the other. And you can customize the views. I used to prefer the floating windows, but have to admit that the "coder" view has won me over: it's clean and lets you work on multiple pages (via a tabbed interface) without taking up huge expanses of your Windows taskbar. It's also nicer for keeping track of your open pages; you can just click through the tabs rather than poking around icons on your taskbar.
Another thing I've always liked about Dreamweaver is its combined view of a particular web page. You can choose from WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) “Design View”, HTML “Code View”, or a combined one that offers both in separate resizable panes, with the window split to show the code on top and the WYSIWYG below. The latter is my preferred view, since it gives you the best of both worlds. I like setting up a page in design view, seeing how it'll look as I work on the page, but there are plenty of times when one still has to roll up one's sleeves and get down and dirty with the html code. The combined view makes this particularly easy, and the new coding options make this even less tedious once you get onto them – which doesn't take long.
Dreamweaver also gives you the opportunity to clean up code from other applications. For example, it'll strip that html crap out of a Microsoft Word document, stuff that takes forever to do by hand. It isn’t perfect, but it's very good.
Naturally, many of Dreamweaver's old standby features are still around, too, including but not limited to:
You also get a series of templates, including ones for basic and dynamic pages, and you can also kick off the creation of your new, dynamic site quickly with a setup wizard. As with most thing, it helps if you understand the terminology and technology, but the help and support community here is pretty good, too.
Dreamweaver lets you create anything from a simple web page to a powerful and sophisticated site, and it appears that its flexibility is limited only by the user's skill – which unfortunately means there's a lot I don't come close to exploiting.
To me, most of the really sophisticated new features are gravy and I'll probably never do them justice. But just the fact that it works a lot faster now (and I mean a lot!), coupled with its tweaked coding features and wonderfully enhanced file management makes this version of my favorite web development app a huge improvement over the last one I tried.
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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