Even though it's a large program, Macromedia Dreamweaver 8 took only minutes to install. Once installed, Macromedia Dreamweaver 8's interface resembles that of MX 2004. On hand are the same familiar design and code layouts in the right-hand work space, as well as the left-side tool palettes and the bottom Properties box. However, subtle but welcome changes begin to surface once you dig into this program. To start, unlike with previous versions of Dreamweaver, you're not stuck with the default layout. Within the interface, it's possible to drag and arrange windows or save and load customized layouts through the Window menu. Dreamweaver 8 also introduces tabbed file browsing to its Mac edition.
Don't know where to start? Wizards within Dreamweaver walk you through starting either a Basic or an Advanced Web site from scratch. While the Web savvy will find this process breezy, design newbies might get confused even by the Basic queries, starting with a question about server technology.
After using Dreamweaver 8, we noticed numerous work flow improvements. If you're a coder, the new formatting toolbar and the collapsible code are a real boon, allowing you to show and hide select sections of HTML and other code. This tweak allows for much faster navigation than in Dreamweaver MX 2004, and it allows you to get an overview of a large project. The collapsible function isn't intuitive, however; you must select the code you want to collapse instead of just highlighting the head of the section.
Design View now allows you to zoom into a page for a close-up view. And alignment guides from the rulers at the edge of the screen let you position elements with precision. A new hand tool lets you rearrange objects without having to grab their thin borders. Dreamweaver 8 now groups Cascading Style Sheet functions on their own panel for easier access, with color-coded and nested views of divs.
Macromedia also improved Dreamweaver 8's internal rendering engine so that your design more closely reflects how the pages will appear in a Web browser, eliminating potential alignment problems. In our tests, the design pages mimicked exactly what we saw in Internet Explorer and Firefox.
No upgrade would be complete without more power under the hood, and Macromedia has added or improved support for nearly every Web technology, including XML, CSS, PHP, WebDAV, ColdFusion 7 MX, and of course, Flash 8. Missing is support for AJAX. Macromedia fixed the way Dreamweaver imports HTML code from Microsoft Word and Outlook, more accurately rendering documents without truncating tables or adding other glitches. A handy new Paste Special option lets you retain formatting for text and tables.
Though broadband users might not notice, dial-up users will appreciate the new background file-transfer function; you won't waste time staring at a busy icon while you transfer files to and from your Web site. Alas, it's still not possible to transfer files while the cursor is in the Properties box--one of our longstanding gripes.The thorough Getting Started guide of Macromedia Dreamweaver 8 tailors instructions to your skill level. Tutorials are detailed, although we'd appreciate more screenshots or some animation. Dreamweaver 8 includes an extensive help file, plus access to an excellent online support center, with well-written FAQs and tutorials, as well as free forums where you can chat with other users. But telephone support can get pricey in a hurry, so we suggest that you read the manual before you dial. Macromedia lets you call tech-support for four "getting started" incidents, but after 90 days, you're left with prices that would faze Donald Trump: a single incident costs $99 and extended support plans start at $449 per year.