Dreamweaver and Flash have evolved tremendously since I last reviewed them in version 4. While Dreamweaver MX 2004 still allows for easy and creative use of graphics , Flash, and other plugins as well as keeping its interface relatively similar, it has grown tremendously in other avenues. I was grateful to find that it had not lost what were its strengths from earlier versions.
At the heart of Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004 are a number of new capabilities. A major one is the ability to set up a website using either internal or external Cascading Style Sheets. (CSS). This technology is at the program's core. Unfortunately, sometimes CSS is presented in such a manner that it appears as if it can write itself. These additions are wonderful for developers and those already familiar with html and/or CSS; however starting to use CSS can be a little daunting. And there is a learning curve. It is not as easy as pushing visual buttons. You have to understand how CSS works. Once understood, then Dreamweaver will write the code for you, but you have to know what you are looking for. However, one can proceed without ever using CSS and still be able to reap the benefits of Dreamweaver MX 2004.
Initially, I want to talk about what is new in Dreamweaver MX 2004. A lot of what is new has to do with CSS implementation. Dreamweaver's intent is to present a program that will enable the designer to create rich intricate CSS-based layouts and designs using some of these new tools and or enhancements such as:
A CSS Rule Inspector which is a new part of the Tag Inspector to implement, edit, and change rules
CSS Layout Visualization to make creating layouts in CSS easier
Improved CSS Rendering so that Design mode produces more accurate renders of web pages
Improved CSS Panel to jump directly to style definitions
New CSS-based Text Property Inspector to get more control over page-wide properties
CSS Code Hints to help in hand coding
Below is an example of how the Content Page, External Style Sheet, and CSS Styles Panel relate. Notice the word "Body" or "Wrapper," for example; it is present in the content page, style sheet, and for referencee in the CSS styles panel.
CSS Styles Panel
CSS Styles Panel
Below are some of the Panels that are present in Dreamweaver MX 2004:
Attributes Panel Assists in Writing CSS
Code Menu Assists in Writing CSS
Relationship between CSS Styles Panel and CSS Properties in Rules Panel
Other new or enhanced features of Dreamweaver MX 2004 are its ability to integrate better not only with Macromedia products, but with other products as well. The Image Editing Bar allows for Fireworks editing inside Dreamweaver (shown below), but it also has the ability to accept pasted sheets from Microsoft Word and Excel.
It has full Unicode Support, secure FTP Support, and XML Namespace Support. New PHP server behaviors include Master-Detail Page Set and User Authentication.
MX Elements are a series of prebuilt components with a new generation of interactive design patterns. They can create CSS style sheets, Dream templates, buttons, etc. Similarly Dreamweaver MX 2004 accepts Flash Elements which can add instant flash capabilities to a page.
Siteless file editing is a new and very useful feature. No longer does one have to set up a remote site. One can edit files, change code, etc. on remote FTP and network servers without setting up a site. Other similar improvements are:
An integrated Tag Inspector that lists all tags as well as CSS rules
Table-Editing Visual Feedback to instantly see how resized tables will look
Right-Click Code Tools in Code mode in order to display a context sensitive menu for converting code to comments, etc.
Dreamweaver has a Check Page Validator (the image on the right). However, there are discrepancies between it and the W3 (World Wide Web Consortium) Validator (the image on the left).
The W3 Validator can be accessed at http://validator.w3.org . It will validate HTML and XHTML code and, if it is correct, one can put the consortium's "stamp of approval" on it.
CSS is a very powerful tool for making global changes in a website. Through the use of external style sheets, CSS allows the web developer to make global changes in websites because all the formatting (non-content) commands can be on these external style sheet. One can have a external style sheet for all the commands and then a very simple document that is linked to this style sheet. For those interested there are many good articles on CSS on the web and many on Macromedia's website. Dreamweaver MX 2004 also has a number or templates and samples that can be used to create verbatim layouts or can be used as a base for one's own.
There are many wonderful time saving features in Dreamweaver. All the panels on the right of the main workspace can be contracted. These panels can be docked and undocked. There is a list of files on the File Panel and it is easy to open and shut them as well as to maneuver between sites - even between local and remote sites. In addition, many files can be opened, but not selected at one time and they remain visible on the top of the open folder. These opened files are shown in silver.
When one sets up a new site in the beginning, the connectability of the site to the server can be tested before even a home page is set up. This is accomplished by hitting the testing button found on the Remote Access menu. Other functions can be checked as well.
Accessing the Remote Site is only a button away. Again, all of this is very easy in Dreamweaver. Notice the highlighted button.
Dreamweaver is basically the core of the Studio. I have shown some examples of how it interacts with Fireworks MX 2004; it also integrates very smoothly with Flash MX 2004 and Flash MX 2004 Professional.
Flash Elements can be added to Dreamweaver pages as well as modified; Flash movies can be edited by clicking the Edit Button in the Property Inspector which will open up Flash and the appropriate FLA file. In a similar fashion to Fireworks, when the editing is concluded, Flash will update the file and return the new updated version to Dreamweaver. Other modifications of SWF files can take place such as Parameter Modification.
Flash Elements can be accessed and changed within Dreamweaver MX 2004 such as the the ImageViewer.
To Access a Flash Element
Editing in Dreamweaver
Image Viewer Tag
The code for the ImageView is SWC. See right.
Dreamweaver MX 2004 will integrate with ColdFusion in the following manner:
It contains ColdFusion code editing support
ColdFusion component support
Will debug ColdFusion MX directly from Dreamweaver MX 2004
The reference panel in Dreamweaver MX 2004 describes ColdFusion tags and functions
Developers can use RDS for transfer files back and forth and browse database structures on ColdFusion servers using RDS connection
There is s site setup wizard for easy site set up for ColdFusion
Siteless file editing is possible to edit files as well as data bases on servers.
These are just some of the elements that make Dreamweaver MX 2004 a very robust program yet not a hard one to learn. One can use it with just a little knowledge and produce extremely nice and well running websites or one can dive in and produce exceptional sites by using the plethora of tools available.
The system requirements are:
600 MHz Intel Pentium III processor or equivalent
Windows 98 SE (4.10.2222 A), Windows 2000, Windows XP, or Windows Server 2003
128 MB RAM (256 MB recommended)
275 MB available disk space
500 MHz Power PC G3 processor
Mac OS X 10.2.6 and later, 10.3
128 MB computer RAM (256 MB recommended)
275 MB available disk space
The cost for a new user US is $399.00 with amny different types of upgrades available. See Dreamweaver MX 2004.