MacroMedia DreamWeaver is one of the better webpage development tools available for the Macintosh or Windows platforms. While there are inevitable comparisons to Microsoft's FrontPage, dreamweaver is a superior tool and is aimed at the more serious developer. While a large site should really be programmatically generated, for medium and smaller sites, I would recommend dreamweaver. Although macromedia have designed dreamweaver to integrate with fireworks and other macromedia tools, I still prefer to use it with textpad, ImageReady and PhotoShop.

DreamWeaver is a veritable swiss army knife of tools for many varied web development tasks:

  • If you are importing pre-existing pages, dreamweaver will keep the source formatting and will not rearrange your indentation or overwrite your custom tags.
  • There is a full featured text editor with syntax highlighting, although I personally prefer to use textpad to edit my HTML.
  • It is very JavaScript aware, with both drag and drop style feature addition, behaviours and an integrated debugger.
  • The HTML reference from O'reilly's web books is included in the latest release of dreamweaver (version 4)
  • It can check your pages for standards conformance, browser problems and accessibility issues.
  • You can convert advanced layer based pages to tables and vice-versa.
  • An Adobe Photoshop-style history palette which allows you to undo any accidental operations, even file saves.
  • You can use the tag selector on the bottom of the dreamweaver window to quickly select an entire branch of tags, such as a row inside a table, or a DIV tag inside a paragraph.
  • Fully CSS aware, and you can quickly apply a style to any tag you want.
  • You can design templates which let people insert text into a page without disturbing the entire layout of the page.
  • You can save frequently used images, movies etc in an asset list and reuse them quickly.
  • It cleans up Microsoft Word mangled web pages!
  • Fully supports WebDAV authoring.
  • Can check for problems across an entire site, highlighting Title-less pages, missing alt tags and other common errors. It can also synchronise a remote site with a local copy and remove any orphaned files.
  • DreamWeaver helps team working with page notes and other collaborative tools. The notes feature can also be used to add custom property fields to pages.
  • You can quickly sketch out the layout of a site with the layout tool, allowing you to draw the site and create files and links automatically.
  • When you've selected some text, you can easily edit the properties of the tag in a dialogue box.

With Macromedia's new release of Dreamweaver 4, the worlds best wysiwyg HTML editor has now become even better. With its new implementation of multiple window views. The user is allowed to view either a full wysiwyg window, a split-screen window showing half wysiwyg and half code view, and a full window of color-coded HTML source. For previous users of Dreamweaver, this is a great improvement over the previous HTML source editing option.

That's one of the features that I have found to be the most useful, because even though Dreamweaver is a great tool, there will always be some obscure code to fix. The code view allows you to make changes real time.

And for all you ASP developers out there, making a website that can navigate through a database has never been easier, and you can test it all inside of the Dreamweaver window... no need to fire up a separate browser. It will compile the code, write it up, and make a temp file to display it with. Very useful.

If you're using a Macromedia product and you don't know about the Exchange, you are missing out. At, you can find a whole community of fellow Macromedia users who are there to make your life easier by uploading useful extentions for you to download. Need a meta-tag generator? There's one you can download that lets you setup your meta tags in a nice GUI window. No more code for that!

All in all, Macromedia's products have always been some of the most useful and functional that I have ever seen. They don't disappoint with their new releases of Dreamweaver 4, Fireworks 4, and Flash 5. These programs are all good expansions on their current suite of web tools. Highly recommended.

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