Dreamweaver, Macromedia's professional visual Web editor, has often been lauded for its easy-to-use but powerful visual editing environment. Dreamweaver 4.0 shifts the focus a bit with improvements to its coding environment. The new features are simple, yet they will be helpful to those developers who like to hand-code much of the time but who use Dreamweaver for its ability to design complex tables and place layers or to rearrange a page's layout visually. Dreamweaver, Macromedia's professional visual Web editor, has often been lauded for its easy-to-use but powerful visual editing environment. Dreamweaver 4.0 shifts the focus a bit with improvements to its coding environment. The new features are simple, yet they will be helpful to those developers who like to hand-code much of the time but who use Dreamweaver for its ability to design complex tables and place layers or to rearrange a page's layout visually.
A new emphasis on the code
Prior versions of Dreamweaver forced Web builders to hand-code in its paltry HTML Inspector or to launch an external editor if they wanted to get their hands on their own HTML code. Dreamweaver 4.0 still provides the HTML Inspector for hand-coding, but it is better integrated within the program because you can launch it within the main window (called the Code view). Regardless of how you view your code--in the main window or in the separate HTML Inspector window--you can now use the standard Dreamweaver menus at the same time. You'll also get improved customization options when you're coding; these options include live syntax coloring, code navigation, and auto-indenting, which are all accessible from a new code-centric toolbar. In our opinion, the program has gone a little code-crazy: you could, if you wanted, have the Code view open in the main window and launch the HTML Inspector on top of it. Future versions of Dreamweaver should phase out the HTML Inspector, which now seems extraneous, especially because there's also a new Split view where you can see your changes as you make them.
Playing well with others
Site management still powerful
Although the site management features of Dreamweaver are still more powerful than in many other editors, some of the new tools are rather lackluster. For instance, several of the new site reports are just a retooling of the HTML Clean-Up command (Remove Empty Tags, Remove Redundant Nested Tags, and so on). You can find more reports in Microsoft FrontPage, which has data on slow pages, recently added files, uncompleted tasks, and more. However, the Site/Check Links Sitewide command is a handy-dandy feature. Another helpful addition, Dreamweaver's Asset panel, helps you manage all of your site's different media files. You can sort the files, add them to a favorites list, or group them in categories. You can even keep a list of colors used in your site so that you can easily add them to your page on the fly, without having to look up their hexadecimal or RGB values.
All in all, Dreamweaver continues to be one of the very best visual editing tools on the market. Although its newest features don't seem groundbreaking in themselves, it's the overall emphasis on hand-coding that makes Dreamweaver an even more well-rounded program. We know of few Web builders who have worked only in the Layout view. So if you've avoided Dreamweaver in the past because you didn't want to go WYSIWYG, now is the time to make the leap from a code-based editor. Dreamweaver does both equally well.