Over the past two years, Dreamweaver appeared to lose ground to competing applications. The release of version 8.0, however, shows Macromedia hasn't lost its taste for innovation.
The open nature of Web standards has meant that it would always be difficult for any app to force itself onto the market as a universal standard for Web design. The quality of early releases of Dreamweaver led it close to being a de facto standard for Web development software. Innovation in later versions - which increased its popularity - culminated in the release of the glorious Studio MX suite.
MX 2004, however, was something of a minor upgrade - at least for Dreamweaver. The good news, however, is that version 8.0 shows this program is still more than capable of taking on competitors such as Adobe GoLive. This column is not a repeat of the enthusiastic reviews that are already appearing for Dreamweaver 8.0, but rather a demonstration of the benefits you can derive from the two most important features in this release: enhanced CSS support and the ability to work visually with XML.
Design with style
For some time now, it has been standard to use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) instead of embedded design elements such as tables and font tags. Not only do the latter generate ungainly code that can look awkward in different browsers, they don't allow you to make quick and extensive changes to the look and feel of your site in the way that CSS does.
Brought into version 8.0 is a unified CSS panel - see figure 1.
Previously, information on style sheets used in a document, as well as the options for making changes to such things as positioning, typefaces and colour, tended to be rather patchy and we often recommended third-party programs such as TopStyle Pro. The CSS panel, however, not only simplifies creating and editing style rules, but also provides additional information that will be appreciated by experienced Web designers.
It is possible to toggle between All and Current viewing modes. To edit any style, click on it and make changes in the Properties table beneath it. While dedicated apps such as TopStyle still have a slight edge, most Web designers will no longer have to move out of Dreamweaver to fine tune their pages.