Some veteran users to the Adobe Creative Suite may find that Version 4 offers few extraordinary updates to justify the high cost. However, designers and editors who lean on Dreamweaver for complex dynamic Web sites will find plenty of tweaks for editing code more easily within its WSIWYG interface. Those who code by hand may scoff at using Dreamweaver to build sites from the bottom up. This updated application is highly appealing for providing shortcuts to difficult, dynamic coding elements. And in our tests so far, it feels faster and seems to crash less frequently than its predecessors. Rather than aiming to wow users with "gee whiz" features, Adobe's Dreamweaver improvements appear to have focused on making the less glamorous parts of the application less painful to use.
Setup and interface
To run Dreamweaver CS4 on a Windows computer, you'll need XP SP2 or Vista with a 1GHZ or greater processor and 1GB or more of disk space available. Mac users must have a PowerPC G5 or Intel-based machine running at least OS X version 10.4.11, with at least 512MB of RAM and 1.8GB free disk space. You'll also need a DVD drive and a 1,280x800 display with a 16-bit video card. Installation of the entire Adobe Creative Suite 4 Master Collection took close to an hour in our tests in Windows XP and Vista computers. We recommend Adobe's offer of custom installation, should you wish to save disk space by rejecting extras you don't need.
The look and feel of Dreamweaver CS4, revamped from the former Macromedia property, now matches those of other Creative Suite applications. You can jump among customizable workspaces from a pull-down menu, and we find the collapsible panels more elegant to place and resize. Preset views include "Coder Plus" and "Dual Screen." That should all help to make working with this application simpler on various screen resolutions and monitor setups.
Users will find expanded options for viewing code and design previews separately or simultaneously. Dreamweaver's new Code Navigator shows the CSS rules underlying layout elements. Just hover over a page footer, for instance, and double-click on the text, and the navigator can take you to the code for formatting text styles. A new CSS mode in the Properties panel provides quick access to code. The Property inspector's improvements should also help to avoid cluttered CSS.
Adobe also uses the same rendering as Apple's Safari browser to show in real time how effects will appear in page designs.
There's more cooperation among the Creative Suite overall. For instance, you can drag and drop SWF files into Dreamweaver pages. With Photoshop Smart Objects, you can drop PSD files into Web pages without losing track of source files. Dreamweaver also allows the option of altering selected images in Fireworks.