The unstoppable rise of Adobe Dreamweaver

by Andrew Whiteman

When we run Dreamweaver training courses, we are always amazed at the number of different types of Dreamweaver user who attend our courses. There is simply no longer a typical Dreamweaver user. We get people working from all types of organisation in all types of role. Private individuals, accounts specialists, marketing specialists, academics, workers in the health services…

One thing is for certain, on our courses, we are now getting far more people learning Dreamweaver who are not and do not intend to become specialists in web development. They are, more typically, people who need to develop web content and who perceive Dreamweaver as the best program to use for the task in hand. Coming to this conclusion is almost inevitable since Dreamweaver is widely perceived as the software tool of choice for both the casual and professional web developer.

Dreamweaver has obtained its position as undisputed number due to the fact that first Macromedia and now Adobe have paid careful attention to the needs of web developers of all types and to the technologies used to build web sites. They have managed to create a product which satisfies the needs of both amateur and professional web developers and which embraces emerging standards in the web sites are constructed. As web developers and web development has evolved, Dreamweaver has evolved with it. That’s why Dreamweaver is still around while all of its original competitors have disappeared.

In the early days of the web, all web development was done using fairly raw tools, like Windows Notepad. In the mid to late nineties, when companies started releasing WYSIWYG editors which allowed users to work in a user-friendly, visual environment, serious web developers didn’t rate these programs very highly. Even in those days, however, Dreamweaver was a cut above the rest. Macromedia wooed coders by bundling popular code editing software with Dreamweaver (HomeSite on Windows and BBEdit on Macintosh.)

While other programs such as FrontPage were content to generate code which contained a vast array of confusing proprietary elements which were not essential to the page, Macromedia were adding features to Dreamweaver which demonstrated their commitment to making it a serious web development tool. With each release of the program, they made the coding environment more complete, adding features such as line numbers, code-hints and colour-coding. They also added powerful utilities for checking and cleaning up the code generated visually and in other environments such as Microsoft Word.

Macromedia also added a number of features aimed at speeding up web development which they knew would be attractive to serious web developers. For one thing, they offered a series of features which would automatically generate server-side content and save developers a great deal of programming time. Initially, these features were only available in a special edition of Dreamweaver called “Dreamweaver UltraDev”. When these features became available in the standard edition of Dreamweaver, the program became much more attractive to the serious web developer.

Recognising that many web developers are members of a team, Macromedia also added features to Dreamweaver allowing teams of people to collaborate on the same site while avoiding the risk of two people making conflicting changes to the same page. Dreamweaver’s collaborative features were called “File Check in/Check out”. The program also introduced a feature known as “Design Notes”. This allowed one developer to attach a note to a particular web page which could then be browsed by other members of his or her team.

As new technologies have emerged, the makers of Dreamweaver have also responded by taking them on board and modifying the way the program generates code. Thus, in the latest release of the program, Dreamweaver CS3, it is assumed that the user will be building websites using cascading style sheets (rather than HTML tables as was previously the case) and Dreamweaver offers a series of thirty or so different CSS page layouts that can be used to build efficient pages and adapted and personalised at will.

The latest Dreamweaver also includes some groovy new features which embrace the Ajax technology using the Adobe’s Spry Framework for Ajax, a library of automatically generated JavaScript code which allows the creation of interactive web page on which page content can be updated in response to user actions without the page having to be reloaded.

Each new release of Dreamweaver brings exciting as well as practical new features which always seem to slot nicely into the familiar easy-to-use interface. This coupled with the fact that Dreamweaver always allows experienced professionals full access and control over every aspect of the web pages and web applications they are developing should ensure that the program continues to be the automatic choice for any individual or organisation needing a decent software tool for web development of any kind.

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