By: Paul Rundle
Dreamweaver is a WYSIWYG editor like Microsoft FrontPage, but it has been developed to be a tool for professionals, as opposed to most other WYSIWYG editors which are more for people who haven't got the time to learn HTML and just want to knock a quick personal Web page together. It is made by Macromedia who also developed the popular Flash and Director programs.
Macromedia's Dreamweaver has taken the WYSIWYG web site development world by storm. I was keen to try this piece of software because I have been very impressed by other Macromedia products such as Flash and Fireworks. As a Windows user and someone who has steered clear of Macs the interface is at first a little confusing: all those typically 'Mac' floating boxes take a little getting used to for people who are used to Windows docked toolbars. No doubt if I had left my toolbars floating in the past when using Paint Shop Pro or Photo-Paint I would have got to grips with the interface faster, but I hadn't so it took a little time.
Above: Dreamweaver's user interface makes it easy to create your Web pages
After I had used Dreamweaver for a while it soon became apparent why the toolbars are left floating - when designing pages this is simply the best way to do it. Features of the web page, such as the behaviours or timeline can be edited in a much more organised and faster way than if you took the Windows method of right-click > select Properties > find what needs changing > change it > Apply > OK > See if it worked > go into properties again > change it again... etc.
Dreamweaver uses the Timeline feature which was a winning feature in Flash. This timeline lets you quickly create animated objects from the library. The library consists of everything on your page, including all the graphics, layers, applets and any other multimedia bits and pieces. From the library you can place the elements of your page in the timeline to create animations which can be triggered by actions, for instance moving the mouse over a link.
Above: The timeline feature lets you create DHTML animations
You can also change anything on the page like you would if you had full control of the code, and you can attach behaviours to an object to initiate the timeline or any other changes. Here's an example page which I created in Dreamweaver in about five minutes.
The cross-browser DHTML means that anything that is browser specific is not included. I did not find this a problem because there are not many browser specific things you need to do, and keeping the page compatible is more important. If you really do want to use a component which is only for IE then you will have to put it into the source yourself, but this should not be too difficult for most users since Dreamweaver is aimed at professional designers.
CSS can be used in the Style pop-up window, which allows you to redefine the tags and add classes. The styles can be stored with the page in the head section, or you can make your own style sheets in the same way and link to them from your pages. Again, the method of using CSS is similar to the way you would do it using raw code, making it more logical to professional users.
Dreamweaver has its own FTP publisher like FrontPage, which uploads only the updated files and does the hard work like setting base URLs and stylesheet links for you. It also shows the HTML code in a little floating box and you can quickly load the external editor, Homesite 3. Dreamweaver uses what Macromedia call a 'round-robin' approach to HTML code - you edit the HTML from an external editor and when you reload the page in Dreamweaver it will read and understand the changes. This means that if you change a timeline sequence or a font colour it will interpret the changes and display them in the Timeline box.
The online help for Dreamweaver, in common with Flash, is provided as a large collection of HTML files. Although you view and navigate through them with your browser, you can also search the files with a special Java applet and find your way through them very quickly. I would say this is better to use than the online help which is provided with most Windows programs. It is laid out better and it becomes far easier to find what you want through keyword searches.
Dreamweaver is a great WYSIWYG editor, easily the best on the market and the only editor I would ever choose over hand coding in an ASCII editor. There are too many features to explain them all, and that's what makes Dreamweaver a professional application. For the serious web designer this is the editor to use. It takes a lot of getting used to, mainly because of all the features to be discovered, but it produces pages that are as good - if not better - than hand coding. Once mastered it is much faster than hand coding and the cross-browser capability is faultless.
I think the only thing that people could find wrong with Dreamweaver is its 'Maccy' interface. The floating windows cannot be docked and this can turn people off it before it's given a chance. I admit that I didn't like it at first, until I realised how quickly you can access every part of the site. This really is a top notch package, it's designed for professional users (hence the price) and once you get used to it it's a breeze to make perfect sites quickly. Dreamweaver cuts down the time you spend scrolling up and down pages of raw code, then loading it up in a browser to check.
For perfectionists who crave WYSIWYG speed with hand coded accuracy, this is the answer.
|For perfectionists who crave WYSIWYG speed with hand coded accuracy, this is the answer.
If you think Dreamweaver might be the product for you, you can purchase the full version online from Beyond.com, saving $30 off the recommended retail price! Mac users (US only) will get the CD delivered to them, while PC users can simply download the program (9Mb) straight to their hard drive. Just click on the appropriate link below.