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First Look: Adobe Dreamweaver CS3

The old dog has a few new tricks By Kevin Schmitt

With the announcement of the brand spankin' new CS3 line, we now know that Dreamweaver has replaced GoLive as the visual Web editor of record for Adobe's bundled products. So what can long time and first time users alike expect from Dreamweaver CS3? Let's peel back the curtain and take a gander at some of the new and notable items in Dreamweaver CS3.

In a nutshell, most of the noticeable additions to Dreamweaver CS3 can be placed in one of two categories: Ajax and CSS. And then there's a couple points we'll just throw on the miscellany pile. So let's break things down thusly:

First, the random hits

The big question for both Mac and Windows users alike concerns the latest and greatest hardware and software. Mac users will no doubt rejoice in knowing that Dreamweaver CS3 (along with the rest of the CS3 suite, naturally) will now run natively on Intel Macs (and PowerPC ones, in keeping with the promise of Universal Binary applications). Windows users looking to move to Vista might also be pleased to hear that Dreamweaver (again, along with the rest of the CS3 line) is ready to roll on the new OS from Redmond.

With the system requirements out of the way, you may be wondering what Dreamweaver CS3 looks like now that it's an Adobe product. The answer is that it looks pretty much exactly the same as it did when it was a Macromedia product (fig. 1). No facelift, no "CS3 look" as pioneered in the Photoshop CS3 Public beta and extended to the former Macromedia Flash. Is that good or bad? Depends on what you're expecting, of course. Long-time Dreamweaver folk don't have to re-train themselves, but those who may be coming from GoLive might be frustrated at having to learn a different interface. While the lack of an interface refresh may a debatable point, Dreamweaver CS3's first law ("respect the code") is definitely still the Prime Directive. Furthermore, standards-based design, a hallmark of previous versions of Dreamweaver, is not only retained but extended upon, as we'll see shortly.


Figure 1


 


One item to mention before we dive into the CSS and Ajax portions of our program today is how Photoshop CS3 and Dreamweaver CS3 work together. It goes a bit like this: copy a portion of your Photoshop image ("a portion" could mean a single layer or a section spanning multiple layers), switch over to Dreamweaver, and paste it in. Dreamweaver will then ask you how you'd like to save your image (fig. 2). Dreamweaver notes the original source file and allows you to edit the original at any time directly through the selection of the optimized image you made by copying a portion of the source image.


Figure 2

Ajax?it's not just for programmers anymore

Adobe's announcement of an updated version of the Spry framework back in December was somewhat overshadowed by the release of the Photoshop CS3 public beta around the same time, but for those who were paying attention, you now know what Adobe was hinting at back then. The Spry framework (which, to be brief, is a designer-friendly way for mere mortals to create Ajax-based sites) is deeply embedded in Dreamweaver CS3 (fig. 3), and provides several categories of JavaScript-y goodness.


Figure 3: The Spry Framework gets its own tab in the Insert panel.

Spry Widgets. Dreamweaver CS3 ships with a slew of ready-made interface components, ranging from menu bars (fig. 4) to tables and lists to accordion panels to validating form elements. Many of these widgets can be fed content via XML, which allows for interesting live data possibilities.


Figure 4

Spry Effects. If you've ever seen a page slide or fade elements in and out without resorting to Flash, you've seen the types of eye candy that Dreamweaver CS3's Spry Effects provide easy access to. It's as simple as selecting an element on your page, applying an effect through the Behaviors panel (fig. 5), and testing the final effect in a browser.


Figure 5


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