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Macromedia’s Dreamweaver has long dominated the world of web design software, handily outselling competing applications like Adobe’s GoLive. With Macromedia’s acquisition by Adobe Systems at the end of 2005, Dreamweaver and GoLive, found themselves under the same blended corporate family. How would this sibling rivalry shake out?
Countering speculation that the less-popular GoLive might be discontinued or that the two applications would be combined, Adobe stated in June that GoLive will continue to be supported and developed “based on our customers’ needs.” Dreamweaver, however, will be the focus of “future innovation” and integration into the Creative Suite.
So that’s the scoop. Integration with Photoshop and the other Creative Suite applications (Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat) is at the top of my must-have features list. For this long-time GoLive user, it looks like the time is right to make the switch to Dreamweaver.
Whether you’re a switcher like me, a new web designer or a seasoned Dreamweaver user, Dreamweaver 8’s roster of new and improved features have plenty to offer.
For beginners, Dreamweaver 8 offers new starter pages website templates built around themes like restaurant, health and nutrition and lodging. Each template includes a home page, a product page, a text page, a catalog page and a calendar page; enough to get you up and going if you need quick results.
Tabbed documents, new for Mac users, let you keep track of multiple open document windows and move among them by clicking tabs at the top of the workspace. If you prefer, you can disable this feature. Along with tabs, Dreamweaver 8 lets you choose among four customized workspace layouts tailored for coders or designers or create and save your own.
Once you have your workspace set, you can use guides to align page elements precicely, then zoom in or out using the Zoom tool in the status bar at the bottom of the active window. The zoom feature can also be accessed from the menu bar, a pop-up menu in the status bar and with keyboard shortcuts. Both guides and zoom are new in Dreamweaver 8, and both add ease and accuracy to designing chores.
If you bring in text for your web pages from Microsoft Word or Excel or from email, you’ll certainly be pleased by the new Paste Special options, which let you choose how much formatting to retain. You can paste text only, text with structure (tables, paragraphs, lists) text with basic formatting, (bold, italics) or text with full formatting (bold, italics and styles). Line breaks can be discarded, a real boon when importing from email. The import can even clean up Word paragraph spacing.
CSS Cascading Style Sheets allow the designer to specify how elements like fonts, text size, indentations and paragraph styles appear on the web page. With CSS, all you need to do to change an element across an entire website is make a change to that element’s style sheet. Dreamweaver 8 pulls together CSS tools and information in a new unified CSS panel that helps make more sense of this powerful and often complex coding method. Other CSS enhancements in Dreamweaver 8 include rendering improvements, a style rendering toolbar, and borders, colors and tooltips to better visualize CSS layouts.
One of the biggest improvements to Dreamweaver takes place behind the scenes. Dreamweaver 8 now lets you keep working while files are being transferred to the server in the background, a much-appreciated time-saver. It’s no longer necessary to wait while the application performs these tasks.
I’ve emphasized the design-based enhancements of Dreamweaver 8. There are also a slew of improvements aimed at coders, including a coding toolbar, code editing improvements, visual authoring with XML data and improved WebDAV support.
Dreamweaver 8’s tutorials, documentation and web support are all first-rate. The instruction has multiple points of entry based on your experience, with sections for web design novices, experienced web designers, experienced hand-coders and web application developers. You can read the printed manual or take advantage of the hyperlinks in the onscreen manual, available under the Help menu, to move easily from topic to topic. The splash screen includes web links to the resource-rich Dreamweaver Developer Center, as well as video tours of Dreamweaver 8’s features.
If you haven’t yet decided whether to take the plunge, you can download a 30 day trial version of Dreamweaver 8 from Adobe’s website, then use the free tutorials and presentations in the web-based Evaluation Guide to learn more about the program and take it through its paces. The Evaluation Guide materials are worthwhile for new users, upgraders and for people switching from other applications.