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As part of my job, we write our web sites and applications in Microsoft Visual Studio, however when I need to write PHP websites, I have tended to use something as simple as notepad to do my coding. I have always found notepad to be perfect as there is no excess baggage associated with it. When I offered to write the website for my children's school, I was all set to use my trusty notepad, however the school bought me a copy of Dreamweaver CS4 as they had bought a couple of copies so that they could keep the site maintained after I had done the initial groundwork on it. Not wanting to appear ungrateful I decided to install Dreamweaver and give it a go.
For those who are unaware, Dreamweaver is a web developers design environment. This is where many a commercial website would have begun its life. Along with Microsoft's Visual Studio, Dreamweaver is the industry leader when it comes to web design environments.
==Installing the software.==
Installing the software is very simple. If you have installed any software previously you won't have any problems at all with this. The only interaction you have with the installation routine are to confirm the install location and then you need to enter the 24 character serial number. Once this has been done, you can sit back for roughly 5 minutes depending on the speed of your PC and let the installation conclude.
Dreamweaver also ships with a second DVD, the Adobe Creative Suite 4 (hence the name Dreamweaver CS4). This is an optional disk and contains over two hours of training for the entire CS4 family. As well as Dreamweaver, this also includes market leaders like Photoshop, Acrobat and Illustrator. I haven't looked at this disk yet so I cant comment on how useful it actually is.
==Using the software for the first time.==
When you open Dreamweaver for the first time, you get a wide range of choices for the type of project you want to create. These can either be offline or online projects. An offline project is one that purely lives on your local PC and there is no interaction with a live webserver. An online project can be one where you create your website offline and then use Dreamweaver to upload the files onto your webserver or, alternatively you can actually develop and modify your website directly onto the webserver. All of these options are explained very well by the software so if you are in doubt which method to chose, you can seek assistance from the on-screen dialogue.
Once you have gone through the initial setup you can then re-open your project at a later time by selecting it from the recent items menu on the Dreamweaver opening screen.
==Getting used to the Development Environment==
As with any type of business software, you need to be comfortable with the environment you are working in otherwise, developing high quality applications is going to be extremely difficult. Having worked with earlier versions of Dreamweaver many years ago, I was pleased to see that despite its apparent overhaul in terms of functionality, the visual look and feel has changed very little. As a developer you get the choice whether you want to work with the site as a graphical site which is very much drag and drop (what you see is what you get), you can work in pure code view which just gives you the html, aspx, php or whatever language you are coding in or, perhaps the best mode and the one I have been using is mixed mode where you can see both the code and the graphical view on screen together giving you full control over how your site will operate.
As well as the main area, Dreamweaver initially has lots of little panels around the outside of the screen which I actually do find useful when designing. Because we have been operating with an online project, Dreamweaver gives us a panel where we can upload files to the live server with just one click. You need to set up connections to a FTP (File Transfer Protocol) server initially but once this has been done, Dreamweaver takes care of all connection information. The bottom of the screen is taken up entirely of the properties panel. This is a very useful panel and one which you will use just as much as the main design area. This panel relates to the part of the screen you are currently working on, for example, if you are clicked on an image then the properties will tell you the location of the image, the size, etc. All these are changeable from this panel meaning that very little, if any coding knowledge is required in order for you to start creating eye catch websites.
==Previewing your site.==
Although you are able to see what your web pages will look like from the development environment, there is nothing like seeing your work in an actual web browser to see how it looks and to make sure everything is in the right position. Dreamweaver has a built in preview mode which lets you do this. In general, this works very well but I have found with more complex pages where I have included 3 or 4 quite complex supplementary files that Dreamweaver wasn't able to cope with the displaying of these and therefore, I had to upload them onto the live webserver in order to test whether they worked or not. I must stress, this has only happened once for me and in every other case, the preview has been able to show me exactly how thing would look if they were to be made live.
==Making your site live.==
As previously mentioned, providing you have given Dreamweaver your sites FTP information (username, password, site address) you can upload and download files to and from your website with a single click. This is an excellent feature as it means that beginners and other inexperienced users do not have to worry about using any third party FTP software. The only word of caution I would use with this method is that if your local site does not share the same directory structure as your online site (which is easily done), you will get a lot of broken links when going live and this might be confusing to the novice developer. Although I like this feature in Dreamweaver, I still prefer to use a separate dedicated FTP program as I feel it gives me more control and has more power to do the things I need such as changing security on a file by file basis.
You can purchase Dreamweaver for both the PC and Apple Mac. As I have the PC version, these specifications below only relate to this version. All specifications are taken from the box itself.
1Ghz Processor (any PC bought in the last 5 years will be fine)
Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 2 although Service Pack 3 is recommended or Vista Home Premium, Business, Enterprise or Ultimate with Service Pack 1 installed (if you let Windows do its automatic updates you will be on one of these versions)
512Mb RAM - again, if you machine is under 5 years old, it will almost certainly pass this requirement
1Gb of available hard disk space.
1280 x 800 display with 16 bit video card (if you have passed all the other requirements you won't have a problem with this one)
NB This software was released before Windows 7 became available, I don't see any reason why it wouldn't work with this operating system but it can always be run in Vista compatibility mode if you do experience problems.
==Would I recommend Dreamweaver?==
I suppose the acid test for any software is measuring how easy it is to use and are the final results as expected. For the school website, it was my remit to get the site up and running, create the framework and then to pass it over to a teacher and a teaching assistant to add the actual content. Neither of these people had even heard of Dreamweaver before, let alone used it. After a few minor teething problems, they have both picked up Dreamweaver very quickly and in less than a week have created an extremely professional looking site which would have been impossible for them to do without a development tool of some description. Admittedly, they have only been adding static content, dynamic content would probably be a step too far for the beginner and although Dreamweaver helps very well with PHP and ASPX commands (for the purpose of this review, the meanings of these are not important) I wouldn't expect these to be used by anyone other than a trained programmer. Even though I do get on with Dreamweaver, I am still a bit old school and still like the no thrills notepad environment. This is purely down to habit and I would have no qualms about using Dreamweaver in the future, it seems a lot lighter than Visual Studio which has a lot of baggage associated with it. I would certainly recommend Dreamweaver to anyone who is serious about making professional looking websites.
although expensive this product is well worth the cash. you pay for what you get and this is a leading applications for web development. ive used Dreamweaver for many years over many different versions and it just gets better and better with each release.
Adobe have managed once again with CS4 to make the user interface even more intuitive and user friendly allowing you to make any change to your site as quickly and easily as possible.
feature wise this offers everything you could need with easy setup and comprehensive help files that assist you in learning how to get the best out of this application if your not already familiar with the Dreamweaver products.
running a simple search online will get you instructions for anything the help files don't already cover and you will find yourself quickly and easily getting to grips with this app.
it has full support for all the latest web standards and coder view is particularly useful for writing your code exactly as you desire.
excellent product and if you can spare the case its worth the investment.
I have been using the Macromedia/Adobe suite ever since I became interested in graphics & web design, when I was about 12 years old. Back then, the latest version was Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004, and even so many years ago it was an amazing program. Now, however, it has improved even more, and has changed over to Adobe, who have integrated Photoshop into the suite.
I wanted to learn to use HTML and PHP to design websites, and a friend showed me how complicated and confusing this was by creating a very simple page in Notepad using code off the top of his head. After asking how he learnt HTML and managed to remember it, my friend showed me an extremely useful program - Dreamweaver.
For weeks I made small web pages using the Design View of Dreamweaver - a view that simply allows you design using a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interface. Basically, it allows you to view the final output as the document is being created, rather than having to save it, upload it to a server, and check it every 5 minutes.
Then, I changed to Split Design/Code View. This shows the Code View in the top half of the program and the Design View in the bottom half. As you change the design, it is updated automatically, and so is the Code View at the top. This allows you to see how the code changes to affect the design of your web page, and is an extremely useful way of learning HTML.
Other great features of Dreamweaver include the built-in FTP uploader, so you can upload a website you're working on to a server without having to switch to another program. This makes it a lot easier to design sites and update them.
Dreamweaver has all the features anyone could want from a WYSIWYG HTML Editor. It has support for MySql databases, includes a lot of templated that you can use, fully supports CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), and MUCH more.
The only problem I can think of with Dreamweaver CS4 is the high system requirements that need to be met to install and run it. To install it on it's own you need 512MB of memory, although I wouldn't recommend it unless you have at least 1GB. To install the entire Adobe CS4, you must have at least 1GB of memory and a 1.8GHz processor, so make sure you have a decent enough computer before buying anything!
Dreamweaver has long been the hub of all things web design and this latest version just reinforces its position as the only program of choice. Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 is part of the Adobe Design or Web series and works brilliantly, and at its best, when used alongside Photoshop CS4, Flash CS4 and Fireworks CS4. Adobe has created the programs to integrate seamlessly and I am really glad they did as it has made me learning the software very easy.
I was only a casual user of Dreamweaver before buying this latest version. I am now starting to learn web design to become a professional in a year or two or even start of my own business and this product was essential to me so I could even stand a chance of this. At first, the interface looked really daunting, but thankfully the programmers have made the help menu and tutorials really concise and simple to use so it has made me learning this all the more intuitive and effective.
The software cost me £215 and has been worth every penny. I have recently just finished my first web site. It is not online but is saved on my hard drive and I would love to show anyone of you what can be achieved by even a complete novice with this software. The aids that it gives you in managing your code and css layouts is excellent and the new 'live' view works brilliantly to show you what the site will actually look like 'on the fly'. The help sections take you off to numerous web sites that offer further tutorials and I have simply learned this way. Trial and error always works best for me and Dreamweaver allows for this with easy corrections and editing.
Dreamweaver CS4 also offers you lots of 'as you go' assistance with correcting and suggesting code for example and also gives you lots of warnings when things may not validate in the browser. I had only previously used Dreamweaver 8, under the guise of Macromedia, and this is such a leap forward it is unbelieavable. It is always a good thing to understand code before using this, but even if you don't, you will pick it up as you go along.
I don't think I will be updating to CS5 whenever that comes out as CS4 has everything I need for now and is a superb product for beginners to seasoned professionals.