September 20, 2005

Dreamweaver 8 Mini-Review

Dreamweaver 8I've been using Dreamweaver 8 for a few days now. Though many, and possibly all, of the functions of earlier versions remain, I'm seeing some new and surprising ones:

Display: I'm not sure what to call this. Yes, Dreamweaver 8's Design View displays CSS pretty darned well, but there's something else: cursor over a <div> and a red border appears. Click on it, and it's outlined in color … with additional display showing margins. See the above image, which shows how this part of this page is laid out. At any rate, code is wonderful, but sometimes it's just nice to see what your elements are doing, and pretty nice if you're trying to track down where your CSS has gone wrong — or what is affecting what. If you work with CSS, tell me this wouldn't have been useful on even the rare occasion. <grin>

CSS Highlight Errors: Open a CSS file and your errors are highlighted; very handy if your CSS tends to get long.

Snippets: Similar to HomeSite's snippets (you can save bits of code in a handy panel for reuse later); double-clicking them inserts them into your document at the cursor. They're in the sidebar next to Files and Assets. You'll find your Snippets area already populated with quite a few selections. Nice.

Collapsing Tags: Like HomeSite's capability to select code and "collapse" (hide) it under a tab. The code's not gone and still displays in the browser; this is simply helpful for sorting through long pages of code — just snap what you're *not* looking for under a tab to get it out of the way. There are a bunch of these: Collapse Selection, Collapse Full Tag … and Balance Braces (these: { }), whatever that might be. In fact, the full set of commands aren't seen unless you go into Code View.

Zoom: Click the magnifying glass icon to zoom the page; it can get *really* large.

Guides: Haven't used these yet, but they're similar to Photoshop's Guides, where you can drag horizontal and vertical lines across the page. Says Macromedia: "To help you align elements, Dreamweaver lets you snap elements to guides, and snap guides to elements."

Images: Double-click an image and a window opens to the folder containing that image. The window also shows the image itself, along with dimensions, file size, download time, etc. Select an image on a page and click the Edit button (bottom of screen, in Properties) and DW8 will open it in your image editor of choice. There are also options for optimizing in Fireworks, cropping, sharpening and … who knows what else. I will say that this is not the way usually do things, but it's … interesting.

Doctypes: As with Dreamweaver MX 2004, put a proper doctype in a page and DW8's WYSIWYG will code for that doctype. I presume (because I've seen a hint of this) that if you switch doctypes, it'll correct it for you. Hint: you *must* include the URL.

There's more — *way* more. I saw something about XML as well; haven't used it. I still tend to combine WYSIWYG design with hand-coding (and don't let anything write my CSS for me) … but I can see that some of these tools will be extremely useful.

One bug/feature: from what I've read in the Macromedia DW forums (which could be totally wrong), they were having difficulty getting DW to state file size accurately — that is, page file size plus all attachments — and so now the little readout at the bottom gives page size only. You can, of course, get this data from HomeSite, but I'd have liked it in DW.

Bottom line: Macromedia's done it again. I'm very happy with Dreamweaver 8, and think it's improved my production and speed of production, and I think they've very clearly taken it to the next level — at least.

Adobe & Macromedia — where are they going? Thing is, and I think I'm seeing the same thing with Adobe, I believe these companies are taking WYSIWYG far beyond anything we'd ever dreamed of. Even a quick view of the Adobe InDesign CS2 animated commercial gives something of the idea. The Macromedia tools seem to be like that, too. It's not that I don't like hand-coding (though I think it's ridiculous to hand-type every last angle-bracket anymore), or knowing what both I and the code are doing. I think it's absolutely vital to understand your code. I think not bothering to understand means that, somewhere, you'll find yourself with incorrect code. I mean, Macromedia and/or Adobe can put together the best tool they possibly can, but they can't stand over your shoulder saying, "No, don't put your cursor there …"

But what I'm seeing, or think I'm seeing, is pretty interesting because, as a code lover, I'm also very visual. I think Macromedia and Adobe are putting together tools that will enable you to create visually in a way that is, or will become, quite intuitive and will allow the user to be more creative.

Will you have to learn the tools? Sure. But anyone who can learn HTML/XHTML, servers, etc. can certainly learn a tool. Will you still have to understand code? Always. Unless they absolutely limit what you can and cannot do with a tool — a horrendous idea — you'll still be able to make errors.

Maybe it's not your cup of tea. But I'm game.

2 Comments to "Dreamweaver 8 Mini-Review"

  1. Adrian says:

    Thansk for the review Diane. I think I'm going to have to get hold of it for the CSS stuff alone :D

    Me like tools that make CSS development easier and more obvious!

  2. DianeV says:

    You're welcome, Adrian — and boy, I know what you mean about CSS tools.

    Heck, I popped for the whole Studio 8 suite — DW8, Flash 8, Contribute 3 and FlashPaper 2 for $399. Can't beat that. I'm mightily pleased with my new toys. :)

    Great to see you!

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