Review

by Joe Gillespie — Jan 1, 2000

Dreamweaver 3.0

Dreamweaver is already one of the most highly respected Web authoring tools around. It's one of the few WYSIWYG editors that doesn't mess-up your hand coding and that must surely be one of the main reason for its general adoption by professional Web designers.

Version 3.0 has commendably built on Dreamweaver's strengths, although it hasn't done a lot to improve its weaknesses. I'm still not keen on its user interface and Cascading Style Sheet implementation, which is a pity since these are pretty high priorities for me, as a designer.

Nevertheless, for handling medium to large size sites, Dreamweaver's site-management tools are unmatchable. The emphasis here is on collaboration and productivity. As sites get bigger and design teams grow in size, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of page versions and changes. Dreamweaver 3.0 adds the ability to check documents in and out and to append 'Design Notes' as separate files so that co-workers are keep abreast of any changes to the style or content of each page.

A new 'Synchonize Files' feature makes sure that the files on the server perfectly match the ones on the local machine by updating or deleting them automatically. This feature alone makes Dreamweaver pay for itself in no time at all.

I've always believed in using scripts and macros for repetitive tasks. BBEdit in conjunction with AppleScript is a prime example of this time-saving technology, as are the actions in Photoshop 5. Spending a little time to build a 'factory' leads to time saving and improved accuracy further down the line. Dreamweaver now has a 'History' palette which allows multiple levels of undos. These work similar to Photoshop's actions to let you to build macros to perform often-used tasks. You can name the macros whatever you like and activate them from a menu. What's more, you can share these macros with other Dreamweaver 3.0 users, even on different computer platforms.

Integration between Dreamweaver and other Macromedia and third-party programs has been improved. Being able to make sense out of a Microsoft Office HTML export is a prime example and very useful in corporate environments. Integration with Fireworks 3.0 makes it easy to auto-insert JavaScript code for rollovers and such but, personally, I don't like the code it produces, I prefer to write it tighter and more readable.

If you only produce smaller sites and lean towards graphic design, Dreamweaver can be a bit daunting, certainly at the beginning. Adobe GoLive might suit you better for that kind of work. But for more demanding, co-authored sites, Dreamweaver's team-oriented way of working and site management capabilities give it that vital edge.

Macromedia Dreamweaver 3.0

Features Red 95%
Ease of Use Yellow 80%
Value for Money Green 90%
'Must Have' factor Blue 95%
Manufacturer Macromedia
Price $299 (Mac or PC) $129 (upgrades)
Summary A major force in Web design tools
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