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Dreamweaver CS3

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on June 1, 2007
(Issue 2522, Web Pages Made Easy)

One of the many benefits of teaching at a university is the opportunity to buy related software at the reduced "education" price. With Adobe releasing a new version (3) of its "Creative Suite" series of software packages, we decided to take the plunge and purchase the "Creative Suite Design" package.

It combines Photoshop CS3, Illustrator CS3, Flash CS3, InDesign CS3, Acrobat 8 and Dreamweaver CS3.

It was Dreamweaver CS3 I was most interested in, as I've been using Homesite 4.5 for my HTML authoring the past 4, 5 years.

The CS3 designation isn't really a version designator. PhotoShop CS3, for instance, is really PhotoShop 10 when you launch it; Illustrator is version 13. And Dreamweaver is version 9.

What intrigued me is that Adobe acquired Macromedia last year in large part to be able to finally have a decent HTML editor – i.e., Dreamweaver. An early Adobe HTML editor, PageMill, was well-received but eventually dropped in the face of Allaire's HomeSite, Macromedia's Dreamweaver and Microsoft's FrontPage; it was later replaced by the clunky Adobe GoLive (which was part of the CS2 suite). Purchasing Macromedia allowed Adobe to offer across-the-board document design in an integrated platform – with Flash CS3 (version 9) offering animation support.

While HomeSite is still supported (now by Adobe) and is in version 5.5, I wanted to see how the latest version of Dreamweaver – based on the same interface as HomeSite – compared.

The good

The best news on launching Dreamweaver CS3 is that it maintains its past (and very usable) interface, rather than foisting the common Adobe toolbar interface onto the Dreamweaver platform. While having the common look and feel in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign makes sense, there is also the reality that under Macromedia, Dreamweaver established a large, loyal user base. There is also the reality that GoLive stunk, and so switching previous CS2 owners from GoLive to Dreamweaver is going to cause very few hurt feelings or confusion.

The main coding panel remains intact, with the file and directory browser off to the side. The main panel has tabs to switch from raw HTML code to WYSIWYG designer.

The not so good

Now, I've not used Dreamweaver before – only the related HomeSite 4.5. One difference between my copy of HomeSite and the new Dreamweaver is that instead of previewing documents in an HTML rendering engine in the design panel, you have to launch a browser separately. But Dreamweaver recognized Firefox, Netscape and Internet Explorer (although not Opera); as I'm on a Windows XP box, I don't know whether Dreamweaver would see the Apple browser, Safari, although I'd bet it would.

Also, my old snippets – basically a library of frequently used code – couldn't be imported or even copied over to Dreamweaver CS3; I had to open each snippet in HomeSite and then build a new one in Dreamweaver, copying over the specific code snippet. But that was a huge jump from HomeSite 4.5 (before Allaire was bought by Macromedia) to Dreamweaver 9. My guess is that users of Dreamweaver 8 have no such problem bringing their snippets over.

And the built-in snippets library in Dreamweaver is pretty impressive. Plus, the preview panel in the snippets menu is pretty handy – lets you see what navigation menus will look like before you paste them in. And the snippets library is editable – so you can take the default snippets library and change it to the colors, fonts, etc., you actually use on your sites.


When you buy the Adobe Creative Suite 3, there are no printed, bound manuals – the manuals are all digital, fully integrated into the Help features.

What you do get is a printed Workflow Guide – a 138-page booklet showing how to create work in InDesign, PhotoShop and Illustrator and pull it into Dreamweaver to turn your creations into functional Web pages. (Well, that's not all it does – it also shows how to swap files from application to application in all kinds of directions, but in terms of Dreamweaver, that's what it does.). While not comprehensive or step-by-step, it does refer you to the video instructional guides on the second DVD of the Suite. (Yes, Adobe Creative Suite 3 ships on a single DVD-ROM for the applications, with the support files on a second DVD and content – libraries and samples – on yet a third DVD.)

Three weeks of playing around with Adobe Creative Suite 3 haven't exactly exposed me to the entire realm of possibilities of this incredibly powerful tool. The Workflow Guide says I can create animated effects in Dreamweaver and Flash without knowing code – haven't figured that out, among many tasks available to me.

But I will.

Still, at first glance, Dreamweaver under Adobe is very much like Dreamweaver under Macromedia: the best, sleekest, easiest to use HTML editor going today. For folks who design Web pages for a profession or a serious hobby, that's very good news indeed.