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Adobe Creative Suite 5 expands and extends its graphic reach

By Serdar Yegulalp
April 12, 2010 11:00 AM ET


If you're looking for an answer to the ongoing question of whether Dreamweaver is a Web programmer's tool or a Web designer's tool, Adobe's answer is a firm: "Both." In the past few years, there have emerged many more people who wear both Web design and Web programming hats -- blog theme designers, for instance. Dreamweaver CS5 aims to satisfy those programming for the Web from the inside out, and those designing for it from the outside in.

The program's layout hasn't drastically changed since CS4, so Adobe has preserved things like the pregenerated panel layouts for different types of users or tasks: Designer, App Developer, Coder, Minimal and the "classic" Dreamweaver layout. Where there are changes, they're for the sake of making things more immediately useful. The "New Website" dialog, for instance, makes it much simpler to create a new site without having to answer a whole bevy of questions upfront (such as "What's the site's FTP address?") that might be known only to the site's admins, not its designers.

Because Dreamweaver is used by both coders and designers, many new features are aimed at programmers and app developers. This doesn't just mean page templates and syntax highlighting for JavaScript, C#, Visual Basic and PHP, although all that is in there. It also means that if you use the popular open-source Subversion software as your version-control system, for instance, Dreamweaver can use Subversion to check pages in and out and will alert you to any compatibility issues between editions of Subversion.

Adobe CS5
Dreamweaver's live inspection.
Click to view larger image

One function that shows how the program has been written for both programmers and designers is the ability to store and publish files in four different locations for each site: a local folder, a repository, a staging server and a live server. A designer can stage his changes locally or on a staging server without touching live code. That said, I've never been fond of Dreamweaver's local/remote file explorer, which even after all these revisions seems really clumsy, but I suspect that's more my own pickiness than anything else.

By far the most powerful new features in Dreamweaver are contextual ones -- things that make it easier to change the design of something while it's live and in place. If you're designing a WordPress blog, for instance, you can plug directly into the blog and edit its design interactively, instead of going through that whole rigmarole of "mess with stylesheet/edit templates/upload everything/dump cache/preview in browser" most of us are familiar with by now. Minor gripe: the JavaScript engine doesn't support breakpoints or single-stepping through code, just enable/disable.

One of the best new features of Dreamweaver isn't part of the program itself but is an integrated service: BrowserLab, a Flash-driven Adobe Web site that lets you examine a page as if it were being rendered by the most popular browser engines. "Useful" doesn't begin to describe it: You can perform side-by-side renderings of pages and even view them as onionskin layers, where the results of different browsers can be seen on top of each other and compared. If you want this function in a stand-alone application, Adobe Contribute (the suite's collaborative Web site editing tool) sports it as a native feature.

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