Macromedia Dreamweaver 2.0

by Joe Gillespie — Jan 1, 1999

When I looked at the first beta release of Macromedia Dreamweaver, it seemed very promising - a WYSIWYG editor that produced pretty clean code and didn't mess with it when modified. It also allowed linking into BBEdit or Allaire HomeSite to benefit from their more heavyweight text editing capabilities.

I bought Dreamweaver 1.0 and very quickly became disenchanted. It was slow and buggy and I reverted back to my trusty old Claris HomePage. HomePage may not have all the bells and whistles that Dreamweaver promises, but it is reliable - and fast.

Apart from it's slowness, many of the features of Dreamweaver 1.0 just didn't work properly. Some of the code it produced didn't work in version 3 browsers. The Cascading Style Sheet editor was a mess and totally unpredictable.

Version 2 is a completely different story.

Although it doesn't look a whole lot different on the surface, speed has been dramatically improved and the reliability is much, much better if still not perfect. Screen refreshes don't always update the editing correctly. But now, at least it acknowledges that there were browsers prior to Netscape and MsIE 4.0!

If you add to that, some clever, new site management tools and dynamic content publishing you start to get a whole new game. Table editing is much improved too. As I tend to rely more heavily on tables than DHTML layers for backwards compatibility, this is very welcome. Dreamweaver 2 even allows you to convert version 4 layered documents back to more generally compatible table-based ones.

There isn't room to cover all the new features in this short review but one that I suspect will be of particular interest to readers of this site is the 'tracing image' feature.

If you prefer to design your layouts in Photoshop or QuarkXpress and then implement those designs in a Web browser, Dreamweaver 2 lets you import a GIF, JPG or PNG image - which could be a screen-grab from Xpress or a file created in Photoshop - as a temporary background image, like an undertrace. You can then lay out your Web page on top of that background image to get all the relative positions of elements the way you want them. The tracing image is visible when you are working in Dreamweaver 2, but it is not part of the Web page and doesn't show up in browsers.

This is just one of the nice little touches that makes Dreamweaver such a great Web design tool though, like it's stable companion, Macromedia Director, it greatly benefits from a dual monitor set-up. With the Web page on one monitor and the source code and palettes on another, productivity increase dramatically. Dual monitor systems are very common on the Mac platform and are now possible with Windows 98 or NT.

Macromedia Dreamweaver 2 is a very significant improvement over the previous version. It combines support for most of the latest technologies that other WYSIWYG editors haven't caught up with yet with 'real' design features that make life easier for Web designers of all traits.

Few, if any other packages come close.

Dreamweaver 2.0

Features red  95%
Ease of Use yellow  90%
Value for Money green  90%
'Must Have' Factor blue  95%
Manufacturer http://www.macromedia.com
Price US$299 for Mac/Win95/NT. U/G from 1/1.2 US$129
Summary Well worth another look!
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