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Software Review: Adobe Master Collection — Dreamweaver CS5 from Adobe Systems

This is the fifth of a series of reviews that will cover what is contained in the Adobe Creative Suite 5 (CS5) Master Collection. When Adobe released CS5 this year, they not only will release single version products, but also five separate suites of products. They are Design Premium, Design Standard, Web Premium, 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.

Adobe Dreamweaver CS5, a hybrid based Web development software application that was originally developed and distributed by Macromedia. It was acquired by Adobe in 2005, and it is available for both the Mac and Windows operating systems.

As a hybrid, Adobe Dreamweaver CS5 is both a WYSIWYG editor that allows you to see the results of what you are developing before having to publish to your Web site and a code-based editor that lets you hand code your sites as well. This lets less experienced developers work without having extensive coding skills as well as more experienced developers fully hand-code. It doesn't stop there; it also gives developers the tools to create professional grade Web sites as well. Please visit Adobe for complete system requirements.

So what is new with Dreamweaver CS5?

• Simplified site setup – through a revamped Site Definition dialog box. To access your files in Dreamweaver, it was always a requirement to have a site definition. Now you can start off with just a site name and local site folder. From there, you can add as much detail as you like. Dreamweaver will prompt you for the additional details as they are needed. For more advanced projects, you can specify multiple servers with custom names to make use of staged, networked, or other server types.

• Enhanced CSS starter layouts – have been rewritten based on user feedback and CSS best practices. These changes range from simplified selectors to modified document structures and starter code for menus. To help ensure success with the new layouts, instructions and comments are included both in the CSS code and in the text of the document. This means that if you’re just beginning to design for the Web, CSS starter layouts ease the learning curve by providing a structure upon which you can create your own designs.

• Support for PHP-based content management systems – now means that Dreamweaver provides a complete environment for creating Web sites based on PHP-based content management systems such as WordPress, Joomla!, and Drupal. Creating the look or theme of CMS pages has historically been difficult, because these pages are built from a large number of smaller linked and included files that had to be edited in separate code editors and tested with separate browser-specific tools. With Dreamweaver CS5, authoring and testing support for PHP-based CMS is now built right into the authoring environment.

• Custom and site-specific code hinting – has been added for objects as well as functions. Dreamweaver CS5 expands upon this support, which now includes code examples and links to PHP online documentation for the functions and objects in PHP 5.2, as well as code hints for constants. Site-specific code hints enable you to more easily handle PHP coding tasks on a site-by-site basis with Dreamweaver. Theme files for blogs and other custom PHP files and directories can be included (or excluded) so you can customize the coding environment of Dreamweaver CS5 when working with third-party PHP libraries and CMS frameworks such as WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla! or other frameworks. In fact, hints for those three CMS frameworks are included and recognized by Dreamweaver. To help you write code more accurately, Dreamweaver CS5 provides enhanced PHP code hinting on the fly by dynamically parsing PHP code and updating it as you type—even with code that has not yet been saved to disk. The code hints for PHP core functions and objects include the function signature, the module that defines the function, and a connected description pane that mentions the PHP versions in which the particular function is available, the method and parameter descriptions, and a link to the manual page.

• Comprehensive CSS support – now makes the ability to iterate and experiment with CSS during the development process. As a result, many Web designers and developers have use third-party browser-based tools to assist in the visualization of page elements, their properties, and their effects on one another. With enhanced CSS tools and Live View (based on the WebKit browser engine), Dreamweaver CS5 gives you more creative freedom, allowing you to remain in your editing environment throughout the development process.

• Integration with Adobe BrowserLab – makes it much easier to ensure that your pages look good in all targeted browsers without have to own and maintain multiple computers with different setups. Dreamweaver CS5 integrates with Adobe BrowserLab, a new, separate, CS Live online service that provides a fast and accurate solution for cross-browser compatibility testing. While working within Dreamweaver CS5, you have the ability to interact with your page in Live View, including the ability to freeze JavaScript-triggered interactions, and then send this “snapshot” of the page directly to BrowserLab for an accurate preview in the specific browsers and operating systems you’ve chosen. Onionskin view in BrowserLab allows you to overlay the same page in two different browsers or browser versions, which is extremely helpful in determining exactly what the differences in the way code is displayed between different browsers.

If you are looking for an organized system for building Web sites then provides an excellent platform and is fully capable of handling all of your major tasks when it comes to building sites. This includes working with JavaScript, CSS, HTML, managing files, and publishing your site.

The new features, especially the integration with PHP and PHP based CMS will make this a terrific upgrade for those involved with PHP-driven sites. Add to this, Dreamweaver CS5, the integration with BrowserLab, enhanced CSS starter sets, and the simplified setup, I think this makes for a very worthy upgrade and highly recommend it for a new purchase.

About T. Michael Testi

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

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