Macromedia – Dreamweaver 8 review

latest version of the popular Web design package
Photo of Macromedia – Dreamweaver 8
£290 + VAT

Dreamweaver is the market leading professional Web design and development tool. It can be bought as a standalone product, or as part of Macromedia’s Studio suite, along with Flash Professional, Fireworks, Contribute and FlashPaper.

Now in version 8, Dreamweaver enables you to work graphically, constructing a site by dragging and dropping objects, or to hard code in HTML, complete with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Most developers will do the bulk of the work with the page editor and then tidy it up and add the clever bits by tweaking the code. The program is ideally suited to this approach, as you can have page and code windows open at the same time and can now collapse sections of code, to move quickly about the structure of your site.

More people are using CSS to improve the design and shorten the development time of complex sites and Dreamweaver 8 consolidates all CSS resources into one panel. You can also colour code the elements of your page to highlight where they’re receiving properties from. This makes it much easier to see how a hierarchy of style sheets is applied to your pages, though it does make them rather gaudy when you have the background view option switched on.

It’s not all about CSS. Handling of XML and RSS feeds has been improved, too, so you can drag and drop them straight into your Web pages. Dreamweaver is good on providing instruction through its help system and there’s a lot there on different ways of using XML data and the XSL styling language.

If your work involves designing for a range of different outputs – monitor screen, PDA, projection, print, TV or even a teletype machine – Dreamweaver 8 can render your pages for each of them and you can switch render modes at will.

At the layout level, the introduction of guides which you can drag from the rulers and lock into position at any point on the page is a big help. You can snap elements to them to speed object alignment and do the opposite – snap guides to elements – to align, for example, a column of buttons to a master button.

The move from Dreamweaver MX to Dreamweaver 8 isn’t as fundamental as the introduction of CSS support in MX was. However, the subtle changes here make both CSS and HTML coding more straightforward and should ensure that Macromedia keeps its pre-eminent position among Web designers.

Company: Macromedia

Contact: 01344 458600

The price and complexity of Dreamweaver 8 might discourage some customers, but this is a heavyweight application. For a professional designer making income from Web design, it will be a core tool and if they already know the program, chances are they can take advantage of the £169 upgrade offer (though it's only $199 in the US).