Macromedia Dreamweaver MX

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EXCELLENT

Design-focused web-authoring that offers unparalleled functionality across the board and a welcome focus on open standards.

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Back in 1997 Dreamweaver was the first professional application to offer both visual and code-based control over the HTML pages that make up the Web. Five years later it has almost 2.5 million users and has become almost as dominant for high-end web authoring as Photoshop is for professional photo editing.

However, in its new MX incarnation, existing users are in for quite a surprise. The familiar multi-windowed, floating-palette interface has gone and is replaced by the new MX look and feel. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but the dockable panel groups and tabbed document windows soon prove far more efficient. Other welcome interface changes include the new tabbed Insert toolbar, integrated file browsing and the revamped context-sensitive Properties panel.

Unlike alternatives like Adobe GoLive, Dreamweaver has always encouraged direct code editing and in MX this has been brought centre stage. New features include Code Hinting which automatically displays appropriate options as you type, a Snippets panel for storing common pieces of code and some greatly expanded reference material. The new emphasis is on the tag-based nature of web authoring with a HomeSite-inspired Tag Inspector for viewing an editable list of all tags and their attributes in the current document, and a Tag Chooser and Tag Editor to help you add new ones.

Dreamweaver MX's coding capabilities have been seriously enhanced.

The biggest change in Dreamweaver MX isn't the integration of the previously separate HomeSite functionality (incidentally HomeSite+ is still included for hardcore fans), but rather the complete incorporation of UltraDev. UltraDev 6 was the choice for high-end web application developers working with ASP and JSP to produce enterprise-level data-driven sites. Now this functionality has been made a seamless part of the core program with features such as the new Site Setup wizard and dedicated Database, Bindings and Server Behaviour panels making it relatively straightforward for users to move from creating static HTML to producing server-generated dynamic pages (see this month's RW Publishing/Graphics article).

Dreamweaver MX now supports all major server-scripting technologies.

What is particularly impressive about the Dreamweaver MX implementation is how broad its server-side support is. As well as ASP and JSP, new support has been added for PHP, ASP.NET, and ColdFusion. Users of the last two server platforms or JSP can also take advantage of the exciting new area of XML-based Web services. Thanks to Dreamweaver MX's dedicated Components panel this becomes a simple task of drag, drop and customize.

The support for all major standards means that users can choose the option that best suits their needs, but one technology is definitely first among equals - Macromedia's own ColdFusion server software. A Developer Edition of the newly rewritten, Java-based, cross-plat form ColdFusion MX Server is included in the Studio bundle to enable easy local testing. Other benefits include in-built debugging and tracing, the ability to create reusable ColdFusion components and to instantly turn these into universally accessible Web Services.

All told, there's a huge amount for the upgrading Dreamweaver user to get to grips with, let alone a new user. The real success of Dreamweaver MX is that it incorporates all this new power almost seamlessly into its new tag-focused working environment. One of the beta testers compared the program to a tricycle with a jet-engine on the back and that seems about right. The sheer power on offer might intimidate and unbalance the complete beginner, but as you pick up confidence and speed and want to explore new areas you'll certainly appreciate that there's nothing to hold you back.

For more background on Dreamweaver MX please read the Beyond HTML article.

If you are considering buying Dreamweaver MX I would also strongly recommend thinking about buying Studio MX which also includes Flash MX, Fireworks MX and FreeHand 10 (reviews of all on the site)

Tom Arah

Features
6
Ease of Use
5
Value for Money
6
Overall
6

ratings out of 6

System requirements: Pentium II 300MHz, Windows 98SE, Me, NT4 (SP6), 2000 or XP, 128MB of RAM, 1024x768 monitor, CD-ROM

Tom Arah

July 2002

 


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