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Macromedia Dreamweaver MX

Web layout, design and application-building suite By Dave Nagel
I began my career on the Web, as many of you did, not only writing and designing the content for my Web sites, but also coding those sites manually. It was just easier that way. In those days, you either coded manually, or you used one of those programs that referred to themselves as "WYSIWYG HTML editors." These HTML editors were clunky and, at best, offered a fraction of the features designers needed to create and maintain professional sites. In short, they were lame.

HTML, of course, is about the easiest computer language to learn. So I was never actively seeking out an HTML editor as an alternative to working in a regular text editor. I'd try them out as they made their way to me, sure, but none of them were worth the space they took up on my hard drive.

Then along came Macromedia Dreamweaver, and suddenly it made sense to switch from manual coding to a Web page layout program. Why? Well, Dreamweaver was really the first full-featured HTML editor that could truly be called a Web page layout program. It combined features familiar to print designers with the functionality and site management capabilities fundamental for making complex sites work.

I was a fan from Day 1.

Of course, that's all in the past, and Dreamweaver can't survive on just its glorious memory--not with competition from Adobe GoLive and proprietary inhouse Web publishing systems that proliferate despite their obvious drawbacks.

Over the years, Dreamweaver has evolved to meet the growing needs of Web designers. The more recent releases have focused on enhancing the program's multimedia capabilities with Flash, Shockwave and QuickTime, as well as other media formats. And it's received some pretty major additions to its toolset and workflow.

Now with the release of Dreamweaver MX, Macromedia has taken the application into a whole new realm of Web authoring capabilities while still retaining the all-important design and site management focus that has made it the tool of choice for so many developers.

Development tools
The last major release of Dreamweaver came in December 2000, nearly an epoch ago in software years. Back then, the major focus in terms of new features was on creative tools and integration with multimedia. After more than a year and a half, little has changed in this regard. MPEG is still MPEG; Flash is still Flash; and cutesy little JavaScript tricks are still cutesy little JavaScript tricks.

The new version of Dreamweaver does little to extend these features.

Where the real change in Dreamweaver MX come is in development tools. In this regard, Dreamweaver MX is really a completely new application, integrating ColdFusion Studio and Dreamweaver UltraDev, as well as a host of new features for application development. These include ColdFusion development tools, including site wizards, code samples, reference material, Components, Web services and integrated debugging and tracing; support for HTML, XHTML, XML, ColdFusion, ASP, ASP.NET, JSP and PHP Web sites; Support for XML, including creating, editing and validating XML code and importing XML schemas; and support for J2EE and .NET.

The software also offers new coding features, such as code hints, tag editors, extensible color coding, tag choosers, "snippets" and code validation.

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