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Dreamweaver MX 2004

  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent
  • $399.00

Pros

  • Extremely powerful Web development application
  • new support for CSS
  • start-up page simplifies options
  • verifies code for multiple browsers.

Cons

  • Steep learning curve
  • expensive technical support options after the 90-day free period.

Dreamweaver is a seriously big application with advanced development tools for Web site design and maintenance. It lets designers swiftly create layouts, and developers incorporate the latest in data-driven applications. Sporting a reasonably uncluttered but intricate interface, Dreamweaver MX 2004 offers quite a bit of handholding in the form of automatic code generation and provides an excellent interface for directly accessing HTML code. This version adds features for the newest Active Server components and more powerful Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) support. Dreamweaver isn't for everyone, though. Adobe users will be more comfortable with GoLive, while non-professional site designers should consider the less formidable (and less powerful) Microsoft offering: FrontPage.

Setup & interface
We installed the Windows version of Dreamweaver MX 2004, which was straightforward and fast -- other than having to activate the product by Internet or by phone. Stuffed with cutting-edge Web design and development tools, Dreamweaver MX 2004 is definitely not for the casual site designer. The interface has long been intricate, requiring a relatively time-consuming learning curve, and the new version adds a range of new tools. A new start-up screen that presents a set of templates, such as ASP .Net, ColdFusion, PHP or plain old HTML, smoothes the process somewhat. Once you've chosen a template, you can begin developing the site. As always, Macromedia gives you a choice of three different work spaces: a WYSIWYG page designer, a techie-oriented code view or a split screen. The workspace is bracketed by toolbars and panels for convenient access to Dreamweaver's gargantuan feature set. To switch among open pages in the work area, simply click a tab at the top of the screen (tabs are available only in the Windows version). Each tab features buttons for quickly switching between workspace views. On the Insert bar, you'll find buttons for adding objects such as media, tables and forms to your page. On the side of the screen, a set of docked, groupable panels offer access to the heavy machinery inside Dreamweaver, such as the capability to add code snippets and objects, view style properties and site organisation, and modify Behaviors. At the bottom of the display, you'll find a Property bar that shows the settings of the currently selected item -- text, graphics and so on -- and lets you quickly modify parameters such as font, colour and size. Macromedia's minor interface tweaks include a Favorites area on the Insert bar, a nice right-button context menu in coder view, a WYSIWYG text-style selector and an improved tag selector. One tweak we wish Macromedia would make is to add the ability to group panels via drag and drop, as we can with most Adobe applications. The current approach, which requires selecting Group With from a context menu, is awkward.

Features
The list of Dreamweaver's sexiest features -- XML, ASP, CSS, SQL, PHP, JSP -- reads like a seemingly endless roster of acronyms. All this stuff boils down to two major categories of functionality. The first is support for data-driven, interactive Web pages with coding extensions such as JavaScript, Microsoft's Active Server Pages and Macromedia's ColdFusion. These services let you easily build dynamic components such as order forms, user authentication and database queries into your pages without requiring an advanced degree in HTML coding. The second is extensive support for controlling the visual appearance of your site via Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and the new image-editing toolbar. In fact, many of the new features are directed at CSS support. Dreamweaver MX 2004 makes CSS development much easier, thanks to an enhanced Design view that renders pages more accurately, plus new and improved inspectors for checking and modifying style parameters. There's a nice CSS-based text inspector and, if you prefer hand-coding CSS, this version provides code hints to make this process a bit less laborious. Dreamweaver includes hundreds of code snippets. Just drag them onto the page to add buttons, form elements, navigation bars, JavaScript, content tables, Flash buttons and special characters such as Service Marks. Applying Behaviors to objects is also simple: just select an object and choose a Behavior from the panel such as ‘Play a sound’ or ‘Show a pop-up menu’. Form-builders can take advantage of the new ASP .Net elements to create customisable online forms easily. And in this version, Macromedia makes page development a bit less laborious by including the ability to copy and paste from Microsoft Word and Excel without losing formatting information. Macromedia has made Dreamweaver more flexible by including support for a wide range of platform-independent technologies and providing tidy tools for cross-browser development. Dreamweaver 2004 automatically verifies the current document for cross-browser compatibility issues when you save the file. You select from a range of browsers to target, and Dreamweaver will ensure that your pages do not include unsupported features.

Service & support
Macromedia offers online help at the Dreamweaver Support Center, including FAQs, tutorials, online forums and advanced technical information. Macromedia allows two free tech-support calls within the first 90 days of the initial contact. However, after that, you must pay for a support plan. The most comprehensive plan, Gold, costs £1,930, with Silver costing £770 and Bronze £510. These policies may seem exorbitant, but you can almost always find an answer on one of the forums, and emailing technical support is free. The price is also standard in the industry, but that doesn't mean we like it. Our call to technical support garnered a quick and accurate reply. We received an email response to our online query within a perfectly acceptable 24 hours.

Specifications

General
Packaged Quantity 1
Category creativity application
Subcategory Internet - web design / publishing
Package Type retail
Distribution Media CD-ROM
Software
Subcategory Internet - web design / publishing
Category creativity application
License Type box pack
License Category shrinkwrap
System Requirements
OS Required Apple MacOS X 10.2.6 or later, Microsoft Windows 2000, Microsoft Windows 98 Second Edition, Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Windows XP
OS Family MacOS, Windows
Additional Requirements CD-ROM
Header
Brand Macromedia
Product Line Dreamweaver
Model MX 2004
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility Mac, PC
System Requirements Details
Min Operating System Apple MacOS X 10.2.6 or later, Microsoft Windows 98/2000/XP, Microsoft Windows Server 2003
Processor Type Pentium III, PowerPC G3
Processor Speed 500 Hz, 600 Hz
Min RAM Size 128 MB
Min Hard Drive Space 275 MB

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