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Software Review: Adobe Master Collection – Dreamweaver CS4 from Adobe Systems

This is the fourth of a series of reviews that will cover what is contained in the Adobe Creative Suite 4 (CS4) Master Collection. When Adobe released CS4 this fall, they not only released single version products, but also six separate suites of products. They are Design Premium, Design Standard, Web Premium, Web Standard, Production Premium, and Master Collection. You can go online to compare what is contained in each version. The goal of this series it to define what each product does and provide information of what the new version brings to the table.

What do you need to run Adobe Dreamweaver CS4? On Windows you need an 1 GHz or faster processor, Windows XP SP2 or Vista, on Mac, PowerPC G5 or multi-core Intel processor, Mac OS X v10.4.11 – 10.5.4 (Leopard), 512 MB RAM, 1280×800 display with 16-bit video card, 1.8GB hard drive space for installation and DVD-ROM Drive.

 Dreamweaver CS4Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 is a Web development software application that was originally developed and distributed by Macromedia and acquired by Adobe in 2005.  It is available for both the Mac and Windows operating systems. Adobe Dreamweaver CS4, now in its second incarnation as an Adobe product, is maturing and evolving more into the Creative Suite product line.

Dreamweaver was first introduced in 1997 and since then has added features as the development of the Web continues to mature. Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 is effectively a WYSIWYG editor that allows you to see the results of what you are developing before having to publish to your Web site. It allows one to hide the HTML code and strictly develop on the screen, which allows non-coders to create Web pages and sites. It doesn't stop there; it also gives developers the tools to create professional grade Web sites as well.

So what is new with Dreamweaver CS4?

Multifaceted and enhanced workspace you will notice from the very first look and you will see that that Dreamweaver has undergone a major change. Now you have spring-loaded panels that expand with a single click for quick access and then collapse when no longer needed. Dreamweaver is also more adaptable to the individual user with the new Workspace Switcher that rearranges the environment to best suit the way that you need. Too much change worries you? Don't worry, there is even an option for those who like the look and feel of the prior version which will allow you to switch back.

Rendering and Code Enhancements contain further upgrades to the core functionality to make Dreamweaver better suited to modern Web development techniques. Whether CSS external style sheets, JavaScript libraries, or server-side code, you now have better access to included or linked files through three new interconnected features: Related Files, Code Navigator, and Live View.

CSS Best practices is the latest evolutionary step in Dreamweaver that brings CSS rule creation and modification to the forefront in the Dreamweaver CS4 Properties panel. Formerly known as the Property Inspector, the Properties panel has been updated and split into two modes: HTML, and CSS. You can use the HTML panel to set common properties, and the CSS panel to handle the formatting controls.

Photoshop Smart Objects is part of the next level of evolution in the Dreamweaver and Photoshop integration. Now, for the first time you can simply insert a Photoshop PSD file into a Dreamweaver CS4 page to create a Smart Object image. This way any changes to the PSD image, will prompt you to re-sync from within Dreamweaver, and when you do, your image will be updated.

HTML Data sets now give you ease of use with accessibility. You can now create your data in a standard HTML table, a series of div tags, or an unordered list and then step through a wizard to integrate that data into a dynamic table on the page. This will give you the ability to create sortable columns, a master-detail layout, or other sophisticated display using the Spry framework for Ajax. It also works for XML files to render information from RSS feeds and other sources.

 Dreamweaver CS4InContext Editing service from Adobe lets anyone who can use a browser update content easily. First you design your editable pages to retain total control over the look and feel of your sites. Then you designate the parts of your page that you want to let the client change, and all the other sections will be locked and editable only by you.

SWF inserting has now been enhanced with W3C-specified XHTML-compliant code so that now when you add a SWF file to your document, Dreamweaver adds two external dependant files and in-page ode that detects the player version and, if necessary, installs it quickly and unobtrusively.

It is clear that Dreamweaver is making its claim as the premier standard for the professional Web designer and editor, and this CS4 version continues the trend. A couple of my favorite updates include the Photoshop Smart Objects that let you integrate and update easily your Photoshop files without having to reinsert and re-layout from within Dreamweaver.

Next is the HTML data sets; Dreamweaver has had the ability in the past to interface with databases to create dynamic Web sites, but it required some heavy lifting in the programming arena. Now using the Spry framework, the heavy lifting is done for you.

These alone make it worth the upgrade for most people and when you add the better CSS handling and other updates, this is a no brainer for just about everyone and so I highly recommend Dreamweaver CS4.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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