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Adobe Dreamweaver CS3 review: Adobe Dreamweaver CS3

Dreamweaver CS3's universal binary alone could make the upgrade worthwhile for some users, and improved CSS plus new Spry features will be welcome to pros, but that's not a lot of advances for the steep price.

Daniel Drew Turner
4 min read

Adobe Dreamweaver CS3 is the first rollout of this Web design application since Adobe acquired Macromedia. In addition to universal binary support for Mac users, Dreamweaver adds more help for coding with CSS and Ajax, as well as extended Photoshop integration.

7.8

Adobe Dreamweaver CS3

The Good

Adobe Dreamweaver CS3's interface will be familiar to users of previous versions; improved CSS capabilities; good integration with other CS3 applications; universal binary for both PowerPC- and Intel-based Macs.

The Bad

Dreamweaver CS3's Spry framework features should be tested for compatibility; browser compatibility check requires an Internet connection; update is not a groundbreaking move forward; lack of intuitive design spells woe for Web design newbies.

The Bottom Line

Dreamweaver CS3's universal binary alone could make the upgrade worthwhile for some users, and improved CSS plus new Spry features will be welcome to pros, but that's not a lot of advances for the steep price.
Adobe Dreamweaver CS3

Two years ago, our installation of Macromedia Dreamweaver 8 took only several minutes. This year, however, Adobe Dreamweaver CS3 took 21 minutes to install on a dual-core Power Mac G5, and closer to 15 minutes on a Windows XP machine. In addition, installation required us to quit all open browsers and, strangely, even Microsoft Word. We should note that with our G5, Dreamweaver CS3 uses Adobe's custom installer application rather than the Mac-standard method of dragging and dropping. You'll also have to deal with an activation process--designed to stop bootleggers in their tracks--before you run the application.


The overall interface should be largely familiar to longtime Dreamweaver users. This Web site layout application serves more Mac users, too.

Once installation is complete, Dreamweaver CS3 greets you with a face that looks more like the work of Adobe but will be familiar to users of previous versions. There are some new, dockable palettes to accommodate new features, but the Welcome screen, toolbars, and main window are largely unchanged.

Perhaps the most significant new feature to Dreamweaver CS3 is invisible to users. This is the first universal binary version of the program, which means that it will run natively on both PowerPC- and Intel-based Macs. Newer Macs won't have to rely on OS X's Rosetta emulation environment, so owners of newer Macs should see a performance boost.

Visible new features include improved support for Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), with a large array of templates and new tools that help users to manage styles. This makes it easy to reorder and rename styles, as well as to move them to other style sheets. This should be a timesaver for serious Web professionals. Also helpful is how Adobe has packed the provided CSS code with comments, such as explanations of how utilized CSS elements work or how to work around myriad ways Internet Explorer fails to properly render even well-made Web pages. And Adobe Device Central helpfully previews how your designs are likely to appear and operate on various handheld gadgets.


The New Document window offers useful choices of blank pages and templates.

Dreamweaver CS3 gets improved integration with Adobe applications such as Photoshop CS3. Instead of having to perform a complex sequence of steps, you can drag a Photoshop file directly to Dreamweaver CS3, which can handle various save-for-Web tasks; you can also select and copy any area of a Photoshop image, complete with layers, and paste that area into Dreamweaver CS3. And if you double-click on the image, Photoshop opens (faster than it did before the Adobe-Macromedia merger) so you can edit the original. As in the past, Dreamweaver plays well with Fireworks for prototypes and with Flash animation.

However, Adobe's Spry framework for Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) is the largest qualitative change within Dreamweaver CS3. This addition is a JavaScript library of code snippets that makes it easy to add in client-side behaviors. The library is broken into Spry Effects, which are animations such as image movements; Spry Data, which binds dynamic data to HTML; and Spry Widgets, which create interactive elements such as pop-up menus.


Adding Ajax-based effects, such as making an image grow or shrink with a mouse click, is a drag-and-drop deal with Dreamweaver CS3's Spry framework.

Experienced Dreamweaver users and even those getting started with Ajax coding should find using Spry elements similar enough to the process of adding other familiar elements to a Web page. Spry comes with some interface widgets, data connectors and objects, and a handful of special effects behaviors, such as Shake, Slide, and Squish. This relatively straightforward framework will allow rapid prototyping and development of rich Internet applications, but perhaps professional developers can get by without it. That said, those learning the baby steps of Web design should take a class or read some books before diving in. Dreamweaver's advanced features won't be intuitive for anyone who hasn't studied them first.

As for support, Dreamweaver CS3's Welcome screen offers links to Adobe Web pages for information, but not all of these pages were live at the time of this review. The application has an extensive in-program Help feature that allows for browsing and searching topics on all applications in the CS3 suite, and Help links to animated tutorials as well. Adobe also offers LiveDocs, online documentation with all the in-application data plus updated information and user forums. You'll receive two incidents of free installation help within 90 days of buying Dreamweaver CS3, and double that many calls if you purchased one of the Creative Suite packages. The rest of the support options and costs are not finalized yet. Live help has been pricey in the past; we'll update this review when we learn more details.

Overall, we don't recommend that most users to upgrade to the costly Dreamweaver CS3 as a standalone product. However, for those itching to benefit from the most seamless and feature-packed suite of interactive design tools on the market, the update makes a worthwhile component of the Creative Suite 3 packages shown in the chart below.

Adobe Creative Suite 3 packages
  Price: full Price: upgrade
Creative Suite 3 Master Collection
Creative Suite 3 Master Collection
$2,499 $1,999 (from Studios, CS, or CS2);
$1,399 (from two older suites)
Creative Suite 3 Design Premium
Creative Suite 3 Design Premium
$1,799 $599 (from Studios, CS, or CS2);
$1,599 (from individual apps)
Creative Suite 3 Design Standard
Creative Suite 3 Design Standard
$1,199 $399 (from Studios, CS, or CS2);
$899 (from individual apps)
Creative Suite 3 Web Premium
Creative Suite 3 Web Premium
$1,599 $499 (from Studios, CS, or CS2);
$1,399 (from individual apps)
Creative Suite 3 Web Standard
Creative Suite 3 Web Standard
$999 $399 (from Studios, CS, or CS2);
$799 (from individual apps)
Creative Suite 3 Production Premium
Creative Suite 3 Production Premium
$1,699 $799 (from Studios, CS, or CS2);
$1,199 (from individual apps)

7.8

Adobe Dreamweaver CS3

Score Breakdown

Setup 7Features 8Performance 0Support 7
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