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Sep 26

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!

DreamWeaver 8's handy Coding toolbar

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).

DreamWeaver 8's (improved) Design view

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?

Special Paste in DreamWeaver 8

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.

DreamWeaver 8's Style Rendering toolbar

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.

Accessibility
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.


37served

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permalink this comment Dominique Peretti Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 02.33 am

As for the editor part, everyone should take a serious look at TextMate, which is an amazing text editor with cold folding, intelligent snippets, ... all scriptable, customizable.


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permalink this comment Milanek Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 02.37 am

Dominique, can you post URL please?


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permalink this comment Jeroen Mulder Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 02.52 am

I have yet to try Dreamweaver 8, but I am a great fan of Dreamweaver MX 2004. For several reasons I am needed to look into cheaper alternatives (let’s be fair, it’s a whole lot of money for a good text editor), but nothing is cutting it like Dreamweaver is.

Dreamweaver MX 2004 already wins easily with excellent project management, powerfull text editing features, easy launching the document into external browsers and a whole lot more. I can only imagine Dreamweaver 8 to build on top of that featureset and improve it significantly.

Other editors come close, but they don’t have it as good as Dreamweaver does. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t look at something else for my HTML, CSS and PHP work.


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permalink this comment AkaXakA Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 02.54 am

“weren’t any WYSIWYG editors yet (1996)”

Netscape 3 Gold Composer!

I dunno for sure, but NetObjects Fusion was one of the first too.


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permalink this comment Peter V. Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 03.00 am

I’ve just made the update recently to DW8 as well, but for some reason it didn’t look as though it parsed my CSS perectly - of course it’s probably fault of my own. I’ve also been using Stylemaster to create my CSS sheets and then bring everything together in DW. Is that wrong?


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permalink this comment Sintra Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 03.18 am

I use textmate too for all my html, css and php coding. More info to be found on http://macromates.com/


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permalink this comment Zidane Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 03.53 am

Great article, it is really true what you said about DW. It was my favourite tool for years… but i have stop using it for some time…  But still i need some special tool for working and previewing css based desings….hope that i will find it soon…


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permalink this comment Stuart Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 04.20 am

I use notepad++ as my editor in conjunction with WinSCP.

I used to use Dreamweaver at work but I found that it’s helpfulness (auto-completion etc) actually detracted from me learning html/xhtml as a language. Also I missed things I had on my text-editor like bracket highlighting.

The checking in/out features in DW MX2004 seemed to be flawed and didn’t always work that well; files still got overwritten even if checked out! Though this may be improved in v8.0.

The only thing that I do miss from Dreamweaver is the more comprehensive multiple line search and replace which notepad++ doesn’t have yet, but it’s a very active sourceforge project so that could be added in a future release (it’s been requested!).


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permalink this comment Jochem D. Donkers Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 04.46 am

Over the past few months I found myself using a text editor called Smultron (http://smultron.sourceforge.net/). In combination with Transmit FTP (configure an external text editor in that app), I found Smultron very nice to work with.

I used to use Dreamwaever quite a bit. But, I never bothered to purchase a license; guess I did not consider the value superior, especially not since I spend most my time with PHP. And yeah, after a reinstall I could not find a working crack, and then….. time for something else: Transmit-Smultron. 


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permalink this comment Owen Clay Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 06.58 am

This made interesting reading for me as I am currently weighing up the advantages of DW8 (as part of Studio 8) against my current GoLive CS. If it isn’t much cop, I’ll simply Flash 8 on it’s own and stick to GoLive.

Most of my coding is done by hand and so GoLive is really just for site management but DW8 seems to have some really handy stuff in it. Time to try the demo version I think.


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permalink this comment Roel Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 07.06 am

Of course, Dreamweaver still has it’s purpose! Very nice roundup, Veerle.

I’ve been using the DW 8 trial for over a week now and I’m really excited about it. I’ve been a Dreamweaver user since v3.0 and I feel that the application has grown with me. It used to be the best tool on the market for table based webdesign, and now it has grown up to be the perfect tool for every web standards developer. Dreamweaver is such a powerful, but often underestimated piece of software.

For me, the new zoom function amazed me the most. I have poor eyesight, and now I don’t need additional screen magnfiying software anymore to work on the small details (this works a lot smoother). Thanks, Macromedia :)

Also, the ability to collapse and expand blocks of code is very handy. And did you notice the background syncing with FTP-servers? Works very well.

I’m definility going to buy the upgrade.


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permalink this comment Karl Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 07.10 am

I was surprised and a little upset by the DW hate in Roger’s comments section. I almost posted but I’m learning not to post when in that mood. I was left with the distinct feeling that I was being judged non-professional because I used DW. I can hand-code standards-compliant, accessible websites in any tool thanks, it just happens to be what my employer uses ;-)

It’s a great tool that is of use to semi-technical and professional people alike but like any tool it can be misused. I don’t think that’s grounds to slate the user base enmasse though.

That gripe aside, I have DW8 on evaluation at the moment. I’ve always liked the site management and templating aspects, the code completion and colour-coding is useful and the ftp synchronize is important too with so many content editors out there too. I’m liking the addition of the code collapsing - scrolling gets annoying after a while and the accessibility report is useful as far as auto tools can go. I’m a bit disappointed by the css rendering still though, I have a new template that displays the navigation list on the other side of the page to it’s containing div - how odd!

On closing, and in principal with learning a new thing every day, I shall try that paste special command - I must admit to copying Word stuff out to notepad first to clear out all the crap markup :o


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permalink this comment beth Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 09.03 am

The reason the design view has improved so much (What you see really *is* what you get) is because the last version of Dreamweaver used Opera as its rendering engine, and I believe they’re now using a gecko-based engine. 


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permalink this comment Adam Thody Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 09.16 am

I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks this! I’m extremely happy with Dreamweaver 8. My only beef is of course that it’s a bit of a monster of a program, and takes seemingly forever to open relative to Textmate, skEdit, etc. but since I have it open 24/7 that’s not a major issue for me.


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permalink this comment Roger Johansson Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 10.12 am

Nice overview, Veerle. I’ll be reading this post more than once while evaluating Dreamweaver. I installed a trial version and have been using it as much as possible since the discussion you mentioned ;-). So far it’s looking… ok. Nothing I would pay what they’re asking for, but a decent app if your company has already paid for a license. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll give it the entire evaluation period to win me over.


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permalink this comment Veerle Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 11.34 am

@Peter V “I’ve also been using Stylemaster to create my CSS sheets and then bring everything together in DW. Is that wrong?”
No, not at all. I’m using CSS Edit most of the time for my CSS and use BBEdit or DW for the (X)HTML. You can use whatever you like as long as your code is OK. Just use whatever suits you best.

@Karl, “I’m a bit disappointed by the css rendering still though, I have a new template that displays the navigation list on the other side of the page to it’s containing div - how odd!”
I have to admit that not every page looks perfect, but I see a huge difference. I remember this page was a total mess in previous version.

@Roel, great to hear DW8 helps you with the zoom function!
“And did you notice the background syncing with FTP-servers?”
No I haven’t, thanks for mentioning, I’ll check this out.

@Roger, I have to admit that I have DW8 already because I’ve upgraded my Studio MX2004. The app I need the most is Flash, so that’s why I use DW a lot too and that’s why I already have version 8. So if Flash wasn’t that important for me I would probably wait and see a bit first. The package makes it a sweet deal. FireWorks is also an app I often use, I get far much better JPEG compression then in Photoshop and I like the vector-based part of the app ;-)


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permalink this comment Jonathan Snook Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 12.28 pm

Veerle, thanks for covering some of the fabulous features of DW. After Rogers post, I also touched on a couple excellent features such as Find and Replace and the Quick Tag Editor.


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permalink this comment Thomas Bouve (CraHan) Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 01.48 pm

Dominique’s right, TextMate is probably one of the best cocoa based editors you can find on the Mac (http://macromates.com).  I even went as far actually paying for it (*gasp*).


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permalink this comment Michiel Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 02.24 pm

Well, let’s have a different opinion.

The code collapse is pretty useless. I expected DW to be aware of the types of code, and make collapsable regions based on functions, loops and other usefull sections. Now I first have to select functions before I can collapse. Better luck next time DW.

As for the code sidebar, really lame imho. Just an excuse to fill the interface with even more tiny icons. I mean, seriously, a button to insert a comment? Pretty lame if you ask me.

Another thing I would have expected was highlighting of active braces/tags. So if you’re in a closing P-tag, the starting tag is highlighted, same with {- and }-braces.

I think DW can be a tool for the pro as well as the beginner, but code-view really needs more features. Another one I miss is real knowledge of the underlying languages. Right now it just highlights any word that is a keyword, even suggesting some wrong properties. If I create an object in PHP with public methods, it should give me ‘intellisense’ hints for those methods as soon as I access that object.

Oh well, I’m going on and on here. As you can see, I’m a code-view monkey. I did notice that design-view manages to show me margins for DIVs, but they still overlap if the margin is bigger than the room in between! (Happened in a templated page)

I’m waiting for 8.1 or the new Dreamweaver CS3 or whatever Adobe is gonna do. In the mean time, we will be evaluating Visual Studio 2005, so chances are, I will never look back!

PS Can someone confirm (with link) that DW uses Gecko for the design-view?


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permalink this comment paul Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 07.51 pm

I’m also a big fan of Dreamweaver. I haven’t upgraded yet because it hasn’t been a priority for my workflow, and I’m very curious to wait and see what will become of Dreamweaver and GoLive as the Macromedia and Adobe merger happens.

Another tool I came across is Nvu . It’s been described as the poor man’s Dreamweaver. I’ve only played with it a little, but it seems like a nice little app… especially considering it’s free.


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permalink this comment luxuryluke Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 03.43 pm

Go ahead and upgrade.

Powerful tools are usually expensive. Cheap tools can occasionally get the job done. I’m a big fan of them.
I also understand the people who talk about how if you don’t handcode, you ain’t worth &#@!, but it’s not about that. It’s about saving time, coordinating, getting stuff done.
If that’s on your priority list then so should Dreamweaver. *Esp.* in a production (expensible) environment.
The benefits far outway the price in my book.


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permalink this comment pcdinh Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 08.22 pm

Dreamweaver 8 emulate IE
, which is a sub standard browser. You can see it here: http://www.macromedia.com/cfusion/w…0&enterthread=y

I hope in the upcoming version, they will have another option to switch to Firefox CSS rendering engine


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permalink this comment Ryan Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 10.27 pm

How practical is it to setup a new web design project within serveral applications? You mention that you use certain features of Dreamweaver and that DW can be used for specific tasks. However, I don’t see how this is practical at all. Once you create a site definition, hierarchy, ftp, ect… within dreamweaver; your pretty much locked into using dreamweaver for the project. In addition, if you use BBedit or any other editor, your going to have to setup your project hierarchy within these applications also. So if your switching between these apps and making changes, I don’t see how your going to maintain any type of consistency. I think the more important issue is how dreamweaver handles the entire web design project.


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permalink this comment Veerle Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 12.50 am

@pcdinh, the URL doesn’t work, besides IE seems unlikely ... at least on Mac since there is no IE for Mac.

@Ryan, I’m afraid I can’t follow you here. You don’t get locked into DW. It makes no difference if you open a file in BBEdit of DW (there is even an option in DW called ‘Edit in BBEdit’). Also, I don’t really ‘setup’ a project such as you mention. The only thing I do is entering FTP data and that’s it. I do this only in DW, and OK, maybe in Transmit, just to have both options, but that’s it, nothing more. And to your question about how DW handles the entire web project, well I think I was very clear on that, it handles it just perfect. Really, I don’t see an issue here :-)


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permalink this comment Roel Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 02.16 am

@pcdinh: I don’t think Dreamweaver relies on any existing rendering engines such as Gecko or the technology IE uses. How would that be possible? DW is a WYSIWYG-editor, not a browser. The ‘Design view’ of DW allows you to edit text and graphics, manipulate tables, drag objects around and much more. Browsers just display web pages, which seems much easier if you ask me. I think Macromedia did a very well job in DW8 for the rendering part!


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permalink this comment pcdinh Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 08.45 am

I am sorry. Here is the corrected link


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permalink this comment Ryan Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 10.26 am

veerle-
I didn’t explain very well and maybe I am a little confused about what I’m trying to say anyway, it happens. I’m more or less interested in how dreamweaver is “worked into” the web design workflow. In my opinion it doesn’t seem practical to jump around from application to application, especially a behemoth application like dreamweaver. If one likes the coding features of a specific text editor and the features of a certain visual css editor, then it just doesn’t make sense to me to use a complete web design package like dreamweaver for site management or any other small portion of the total software package. Does this not create file management issues? If your working on a project in dreamweaver, then switch to skEdit to make code changes, then StyleMaster to make CSS changes, this creates file management problems within EACH application because the files have been changed. There may be a way to keep the files consistant across applications, but its extra time and trouble. If your not using dreamweaver for xhtml/css, then why use it at all? Because that’s the meat and potatoes of webdesign and if dreamweaver can’t provide a platform for xhtml/css design, everything else is superfluous.

The complaint really is one aimed at dreamweaver the software. Its meant to be a total solution to web design, and its not. So when you use other applications to take up dreamweavers slack, then why use it at all? Like most other apps, its now the result of years of trial and error feature accumulation.

And to your question about how DW handles the entire web project, well I think I was very clear on that, it handles it just perfect

It clearly does not handle it perfect. The design view render still has problems with css layouts and other issues have already been commented on here.

You yourself say you use BBEdit for coding and cssEdit for CSS, so all dreamweaver is good for is site management? 


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permalink this comment luxuryluke Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 10.42 am

Preference, preference, preference.
Oh, and considerations.

Budget for DW? Learning curve? prefer using 4 programs (or whatever) instead? What tools do I know how to use better? What type of website will it be? Will I be using coldfusion? ASP? PHP? heavy CSS?

it’s a large formula. I believe DW tries to cater to allot of us, for sales reasons, but not all of us.

I hear my co-workers gripe about DW all the time when i talk about it. “You must handcode to be a true web dev.” It’s easy to complain about the bigboys, you rebelgeeks. ha. I’ll use whatever works, and familiarize myself with everything else…


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permalink this comment Veerle Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 11.28 am

@Ryan: Dreamweaver can handle anything you throw at it. Ok in some cases the design view is not rendered correctly but as I said there is a huge improvement on that subject in version 8. As a good web developer you never work in the design view only, it is there to get an idea what is going on. You still need browser checks. You can do everything with CSS in Dreamweaver but I personally prefer to use CSSEdit sometimes because I like the look and organizing more.

If you work with several people on a large project you need Dreamweaver to handle the check in and check out for you. It is not because one person says he had issues with that that everybody has them. I never had any trouble with it for example. And about the jumping from one app to another that is not a problem because everything is stored on a central place on our Xserve so Dreamweaver knows that I edited my CSS file if I a set up a site file in DW. So the conclusion is that you can do almost anything in DW but sometimes I personally like to use something else but that’s just a personal choice and not because I can’t do it in DW. For some jobs I prefer Dreamweaver and for others BBEdit. Maybe you should try a demo first?


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permalink this comment Rodoula Fri Sep 30, 2005 at 08.00 pm

Interesting discussion, and a very good article Verlee. I’m surprised you didn’t mention the background FTP uploading. I can’t wait to try out this feature because i get so frustrated when waiting between transfers.

I pretty much use DW for the same reasons you do. You don’t even have to work in a team to use the check-in and check-out feature. I sometimes make updates to websites from different computers at different locations, so it helps me keep track of where i updated last. I have also use DW templates in conjuction with Contribute. The downsite to this is that using other editors to make changes might break the template code.

@ Ryan,
DW doesn’t lock your site files, they don’t get moved, or otherwise. When you make changes to a file outside of DW, and then you open it in DW, you see the updated file. If the file was already open, DW will immediately detect the change and will ask you if you want to refresh. Also, DW can hold a cache of your site that you can rebuilt at any time.

Even with all of these good things about it however, I probably use only about 30% of its capabilities because I am stubborn handcoder.


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permalink this comment Bruno Sat Oct 1, 2005 at 10.26 am

I also like to use DW for the search and replace feature, but for designing websites is a bad idea in my opinion, and I say this only because DW generated html code is harder to read and maintain, and since I am a neat html freak, DW tends to annoy me at that.


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permalink this comment Egon Tue Oct 4, 2005 at 07.59 am

Anyone tried Xyle scope? It’s a cool CSS analysis tool for OS X that nicely complements BBEdit or CSSEdit. It visually displays margin and padding and computes the full CSS cascade (where you can change values in situ). I haven’t seen anything like it.


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permalink this comment Kwint Design Fri Oct 7, 2005 at 05.11 am

I have tried out a couple of WYSIWYG editors and cannot see any alternative to DW. Especially when working on table based pages designed by someone else, DW saves a lot of time.


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permalink this comment kirrily Fri Oct 7, 2005 at 10.17 pm

I’ve just upgraded from DW4 to MX and am still getting used to a few of the differences, but am impressed by the better rendering of CSS layouts in MX than version 4. I doubt that I’ll upgrade again for a long time, but the zoom feature in version 8 sounds great!! I’ve often found myself hitting ctrl + to try to zoom in DW only to remember that it’s not illustrator or photoshop.

I learnt to hand code HTML before I ever used a WYSIWYG editor and that was invaluable! I use DW for everything, because for me it’s much faster than hand coding, but I am constantly checking the code and rewriting anything that DW doesn’t code as I would like.

Also just wanted to say - Veerle, this blog and your Duoh! work and site are great! I did your CSS tutorial and since then have been coding more and more sites without tables. It was a really great introduction to it all and really helped me to make the step from table based layouts to CSS based layouts.


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permalink this comment anon Thu Oct 20, 2005 at 06.35 pm

along with templates and library items, the snippets panel deserves a mention when one talks about making a library of reusable code


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permalink this comment Michael Kaiser Thu Oct 27, 2005 at 08.46 am

I love SubEthaEdit. It’s free for personal use and supports syntax highlighting and auto completion for many types of code. It has a realtime preview that’s based on Apples Webkit. I can’t live without it…


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permalink this comment David Thu Dec 15, 2005 at 04.50 am

Great review, thanks!



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