Dreamweaver 8 reviewed

Paul Boag

As anybody who listened to my last podcast will know, I was incredibly excited about the arrival of Dreamweaver 8. However, was my childlike delight justified? Did Dreamweaver 8 live up to my expectations?

The short answer is, yes it did. Of course, that does not make much of a blog entry, so here are my top five reasons why Dreamweaver 8 kicks ass:

Number five: Design extras

Coming in at number five, are the variety of design tools that have been added to this release. It is now possible to add guides and use rules just like you would in Adobe Photoshop. You can even zoom in on your page for pixel perfect detail.

Of course, nothing is perfect. The guides were sometimes hard to place accurately and no matter how well Dreawmeaver’s render engine is it cannot take into account every browser. So using design tools cannot guarantee pixel perfect rendering for those viewing your site.

Number four: A better CSS palette

Nobody likes change, and when I first saw the new CSS palette, I was not sure I liked it. However, overtime it began to grow on me. Eventually I found it much more powerful, allowing me to quickly identify a particular CSS style that was controlling the design element I wanted to edit.

Number three: An improved coding environment

Sneaking into my top three were the improvements to the coding window. In the past, I think it was fair to say that Dreamweaver was perceived as being a designer’s tool. Its coding environment was always basic, with none of the features you have come to expect from other HTML coding products.

However, this new release has brought some dramatic improvements. It is now possible to collapse tags or even selected areas of code. You can easily find parent tags, comment out code, and highlight invalid code. Combine this with the ability to click on an item in the WYSIWYG window and jump directly to the associated place in the code, now puts Dreamweaver ahead of many pure coding applications.

Number Two: You can work with XML

Being the geek that I am, my second favourite feature of the new Dreamweaver was the ability to work with XML sources such as RSS feeds. I am finding Headscape doing more and more work with XML and it is nice to work with this natively in Dreamweaver.

However, I have to say this is not for the inexperienced user. I was hoping for a slicker solution where XML was handled in much the same way as any other data source. Unfortunately you need to learn a whole new way of working (if your not already familiar with XML) involving data sources, XSL templates and Transformers.

That said, at least the functionality is now available.

Number one: It renders web standards code

Without a doubt, my number one reason for being passionately in love with Dreamweaver 8 is the improvements to the render engine.

As anybody who reads this blog or listens to my podcast will know, I am an evangelist for building with web standards. All of the design I develop these days use tableless design. However, the problem has always been that Dreamweaver would make a complete hash of showing the design in its WYSIWYG editor. This was a huge problem as many of my clients relied on the WYSIWYG even if I chose to hand code. We often receive briefs that make Dreamweaver compatibility a requirement. Thankfully, now at last, it can be without a load of unnecessary hacks!

What do you think?

Okay, so that’s what I think of the new Dreamweaver 8. I would love to hear what you think of it. Post a comment!