Macromedia – Dreamweaver 4 review

Web site development tool
Photo of Macromedia – Dreamweaver 4
£229 + VAT (street price), £99 + VAT (upgrade)

Macromedia Dreamweaver has a well-deserved reputation for being a capable Web design package, and contains support for both graphical design and direct coding of HTML. It also has some site management features and integration with sister packages Flash and Fireworks for Web graphics work.

Version 4 brings some welcome enhancements including some relief from the tiresome job of table-based Web page layout, as well as the ability to add Flash buttons and Flash text directly in Dreamweaver. This provides greater scope for creating visually appealing pages with Dreamweaver alone.

The new table editing features complement those from version 3 and so there are now two ways of working with tables, which means that designers can get to grips with the new version without extra training. The new features allow for direct drawing of table cells on a page in a ‘layout mode’, giving greater freedom of design without painstaking coding. Once a table cell is drawn on a page, guides are automatically created which facilitate accurate positioning of extra cells.

A small library of quite generic Flash buttons is provided, giving users a quick way to create a polished finish. A few extra styles can be downloaded from Macromedia, or users can generate their own Flash button styles if they have Macromedia Flash 5.

For those developers who prefer to get their hands dirty with direct editing of HTML code, the standard code browser has been integrated into the document window, so that code can be reviewed as page elements are added. This feature serves both to familiarise new users with HTML code and to speed up coding considerably. This is one of a series of enhancements that promote a greater interaction with code. Also included is a Javascript debugger and an integrated O’Reilly reference guide for HTML, Javascript and CSS style sheets which provides information about the tags users are working with in the code view.

We found Dreamweaver 4 to be stable and subtly improved in several areas, such as palette docking to reduce screen clutter. However, we found that we still needed to use a separate FTP program to upload site files, as Dreamweaver couldn’t cope with our ISP. This closed the door to many of Dreamweaver’s site management and synchronisation features, which was a shame, although for larger, in-house developments this won’t be a problem.

Company: Macromedia

Contact: 01344 458633


Verdict
The clean interface of Dreamweaver 4 is a delight to use, and the new features will serve to augment its position as a market leader. Improved site management features, however, are let down by apparently untouched FTP software. This said, Dreamweaver is still a Web tool we'd highly recommend.