Does Dreamweaver 8 still earns a byte on your HD?
2005 at 01.58 am posted by Veerle Pieters
While I’ve learned HTML back in the day when there weren’t any WYSIWYG editors yet (1996), I’ve always believed in their added value. I never developed websites entirely in the ‘Design view’ (even not during my table-based period), but I always appreciated the fact that I had the choice to switch between ‘Code view’ and ‘Design view’. During my table-based’ period I used DreamWeaver’s ‘Split view’ a lot, this way I kept an eye on what was happening under the hood. If you select an item in the ‘Design view’, the corresponding code is highlighted, a real time saver if you ask me.
Ever since I switched to CSS based designs it kind of feels like I’m back in the early days of web. If you look at the HTML code of a CSS based webpage compared to a table-based layout, it looks light, well structured, easy to find your way etc. It makes developing websites in a purely code based tool like BBEdit for instance easy because the structural code is much more simplified. BBEdit used to be my only tool (back in the day), later on I used GoLive Cyberstudio (the first WYSIWYG or was it Claris Homepage?), then DreamWeaver (version 3 till now) and now I tend to use BBEdit more then DreamWeaver, especially for smaller template jobs.
Does Dreamweaver 8 still earns a byte on your HD…
So let’s take a look at some of the new features in Dreamweaver 8. Let’s start with the zoom feature. You have great control over design, you can for example zoom in and see if everything fits correctly. Compare the page layout to comps with pixel perfect accuracy using guides to measure page layouts. Great visual feedback helps measure distances accurately and supports intelligent snapping. This can be handy if want want to align everything to a grid like you’ve learned in Marc Boulton excellent grid series.
Even if you use the Code view most of the time it saves you time. I particular like the fact that DreamWeaver (DW) helps me closing my elements. In version 8, all you need to type is </ DW will do the rest, it knows which element needs to be closed. This differs from previous DW version which closes the element as soon as you’ve typed the opening element.
DW8 has a very useful Coding toolbar on the left. You can: highlight invalid code, select parent tag (shown in the pictures below), collapse a section, collapse a full tag, wrap a tag, indent code, outdent code, apply a comment, remove a comment etc. all in one click!
The Design view in version 8 has a substantially improved CSS rendering compared to the previous version. As you can see here, it even renders complex XHTML/CSS pages correctly. I find the Design view handy in case I’m working on a data table. Adding table cells, rows, whatever goes much faster. I haven’t tested version 8 enough to see if there are any improvements in writing correct code. Secondly I use it for typing text containing special characters (DW will type the special character in the code for me).
You now have greater control over a CSS layout. You can apply visual aides to outline CSS layout borders or color CSS layouts to reveal complex nesting schemes and improve selection. You have the CSS layout for valuable Tooltips, such as ID and padding and margin and border settings. All in all CSS support has reached a huge milestone I think.
If I paste text I use the ‘Paste Special’. I choose how I want to paste my text I’ve copied from Word. Do I want DW to add paragraph elements, header elements etc. or do I just want to past it as plain text?
To me, the main power of DW lays in its site management features. Just move a webpage from one directory to another and DW will make sure all paths are adjusted for you.
Do you work with several people on the same site? Use the Check-in and Check-out options, it will prevent you from over-writing some else’s work. You can see who works on what, leave notes for others etc.
Use the FTP Synchronize feature to make sure you have the most recent files when you need to update a webpage. In a lot of cases I work with another developer, so I’ll check first if the file on the server hasn’t been modified, if so, DW will get the newer file for me.
The DW Templates feature can be used if a website uses the same basic layout for all its pages. The areas that are the same can be locked (such as header, sidebar or footer) and areas that change from page to page can be made editable by creating editable zones. This is handy for instance if your client uses DW too and wants to update the site. You can decide what he can and can’t edit. Updating the template will update every page that uses this template which again can save so much time.
DW Library items is another similar powerful feature I often use. You can use this for an item that appears on every page of a site like a footer or header. If that item needs to be updated, you only have to update the Library item and DW will make sure all pages that has this Library item implemented will be updated.
We worked with these features for the projects of The Library of Congress. This way the library’s web team could work on the site without the fear of messing things up, overwriting otherones work etc. Just basic knowledge was needed to do simple updates. We used the Check-in and Check-out features, this way we knew if someone was working on a certain page yes or no and we knew who, we could leave notes if needed etc.
The Style Rendering toolbar contains buttons that let you see how your design would look in different media types if you use media-dependent style sheets. It also contains a button that lets you enable or disable CSS styles. To display the toolbar, select View > Toolbars > Style Rendering.
DW has powerful ‘Find & Replace’ options. If I need to find and replace stuff site-wide I just do it in DW. I think Dreamweaver probably has some of the best find and replace tools out there to be honest.
In addition to the integrated accessibility evaluation tool for Section 508 and WCAG Priority 1 checkpoints, Dreamweaver now supports both CSS and accessibility with an updated evaluation tool that includes WCAG Priority 2 checkpoints.
DW now also has support for PHP 5, including server behaviors and code hinting.
So, don’t underestimate the power of DreamWeaver ;-) I get the feeling that WYSIWYG editors have a bit of a bad reputation in the world of XHTML/CSS. I think the main reason for this is because the software companies used this WYSIWYG too much as a marketing strategy. They made it common sense that you don’t need to have coding skills to create webpages. It was and still is their selling point. Unfortunately this underminds the job of the real web professional, and that’s why WYSIWYG has a bit of a bad taste, but it doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of its power. It all comes down on how you use it and I don’t feel less professional by using Dreamweaver sometimes. It can be a timesaving tool, BUT you can’t survive purely on WYSIWYG, on some point in time you need to get into guts of it. A knowledge of HTML is much needed, you simply can’t get around this fact if you want to do a good job.
More reading and discussion on this topic can be find at 9rules and at Roger’s place 456Bereastreet. Maybe Roger was a bit hard at first but I understand where he is coming from. Still I think Dreamweaver 8 still has its purpose if used wisely.