Dreamweaver MX 2004

Dreamweaver MX 2004 is the latest incarnation of Macromedia’s powerful Web-site development tool. The use of style sheets as a way to create sophisticated, user-accessible Web pages is Dreamweaver MX 2004’s newest cause – and it succeeds admirably at displaying, creating and editing Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) designs. It also sports many enhancements, but unfortunately fails to significantly update one of its biggest selling points – its powerful server-side programming tools. Dreamweaver MX 2004 is all about Cascading Style Sheets. Almost every aspect of how the program creates, displays and understands CSS has been improved. It now lets you create complete CSS-based (i.e. table-less) layouts. Designs that looked like a complete mess in previous versions, display well in MX 2004 – in most cases, replicating the display of Internet Explorer or Safari. This makes the design process less frustrating, and makes editing easier. Creating and editing styles has also undergone a transformation, with many additions aimed at seasoned CSS users. While you can still use the simple, dialog-driven method of creating a style, power-users can now use the Tag Inspector for editing CSS styles. This grid lists CSS properties in either one long list or grouped into categories. For hand-coders, new CSS “code hints” can help avoid excess typing by providing pop-up lists of CSS properties and values; just type the first few letters, press return, and let Dreamweaver fill out the rest. Dreamweaver MX 2004 also includes CSS-enhancements aimed at less-experienced Web developers. The program ships with several CSS-based designs to get users started with table-less layout. To help make sure Web pages work with the browsers you’re designing for, the “Check Browser Support” tool identifies HTML tags and CSS code that aren’t supported by the browsers you specify – the program includes profiles for various versions of Safari, Mozilla, Opera, Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer. The program includes simple image-editing tools, so if you need to crop, sharpen, shrink or adjust the brightness and contrast of an image on a page, you needn’t jump to another program. It also adds support for SFTP and faster performance of its basic FTP tool. A new Favorites tab gathers all of your most commonly used tools into a single space on the Insert bar. Formatting preservation
If you work with Word and Excel documents, you’ll be spared the extra formatting work required by older versions of Dreamweaver. MX 2004 now keeps paragraph breaks, bold, italics, and headings when pasting from Word or Excel. Cells from an Excel spreadsheet are translated into HTML tables when pasted; and embedded graphics are converted to JPEGs and placed in the site. The Paste Formatted command preserves formatting such as text colour, size and font. Unfortunately, there are still some kinks: opening single quote marks are pasted correctly, but closing single quotes come in as a single straight quote; at times, punctuation marks have extra space before or after them; and bulleted lists aren’t always pasted with the proper HTML tag. While Dreamweaver MX 2004 performs some actions faster than MX (rebuilding a site cache, basic text find and replace, FTP), it doesn’t feel significantly faster, and, in some cases such as opening multiple Web pages, performs even slower. Other features of the program are collecting dust. Dreamweaver Behaviors were a breakthrough when first introduced, providing a simple method for non-code-heads to add JavaScript effects such as pop-up browser windows, graphical rollovers, and complex DHTML animations. This version offers no new Behaviours, nor improvements on those already present. For example, the show pop-up menu Behavior still doesn’t work with Templates, and Dreamweaver still can’t export JavaScript code into external files (useful for reducing code and decreasing download time.) It doesn’t add much to its powerful tools for building database-driven Web sites. A few PHP tools have been added, bringing support for that technology almost to the level of the other server models. But there’s plenty of room for new features such as improved SQL Query building, email tools, server-side form validation, and more-advanced application development features. Dreamweaver MX (with the free version 6.1 updater) offered integrated tools for managing Contribute sites. While you can still administer Contribute sites within Dreamweaver MX 2004, you have to buy the Contribute software (£69 plus VAT) to access these controls.


Dreamweaver MX 2004 is great for Web developers at the cutting edge of CSS design. Unfortunately, the same kind of innovation isn’t demonstrated in other areas of the program. If you’re already a Dreamweaver MX user and don’t need the new Cascading Style Sheet improvements, this upgrade might not be for you.

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