MacCetera LLC. Unique Business and Personal Macintosh Support for Southeastern Wisconsin, Creative Web Site Design and Hosting for the World

WelcomeMac StuffWeb Stuff Marc's NotesCool LinksContact Us

Marc's Notes: Comments, Ramblings, Rants & Tips

Dreamweaver and "Professional" web design

The technical world should strive for religious freedom - not the Sunday kind of religion - the "my tool is superior to your tool" kind.

I subscribe to several excellent technical mailing lists... from Mac OS X server geek chic, through the trials and tribulations of beating IE6 and 7 into submission in HTML and CSS.

While I'm proud to be a Mac zealot, I respect the right of people prefer Windows. And in the web world I love Dreamweaver but acknowledge that there are other capable tools for coding web sites. With that as my preamble, it's now time for a real rant so here goes...


On one web development list I read, a question was brought forward regarding the use of Dreamweaver by real web professionals™. There was a rather consistent off-topic thread that weighed in that "real web developers" don't use WYSIWYG tools - and since you can use Dreamweaver as a WYSIWYG editor, ANYONE that uses it can't seriously be considered a "real web developer".

Dreamweave CS3 Editing Window

Hey folks, I'm a "real web developer" and I use Dreamweaver as my primary development tool.

First let's take a look at the editor. Yep that's it - in fact it's a screen shot of this page before I dropped in the screen shot of this page.

The careful observer will see that while there is a very good (mostly) WYSIWG editor (on Macs it uses the Safari WebKit), there's also a section just above the pretty that is a full editing window for the, gasp, page CODE.

If you look up a tiny bit further, you'll see the thee buttons labeled Code, Split, and Design.

I'll grant the purists a little here for those that use Dreamweaver in Design mode, which hides the code view and lets them carelessly create a "web page" with reckless abandon.

As you can see, I work in split mode. And I spend equal time coding both above and below the bar.

From a workflow and efficiency stand point. any religious fervor against using a good tool is silly. The more efficient I am, the less time I spend developing a design, the less my clients will be billed. I have enough work to keep myself busy. This is partially because I can do a decent job for a reasonable fee because I use the tools the way they were intended. Wow, another circular reference. Happy clients produce referrals, and are more likely to come back for future work because they trust me to charge fairly and work efficiently.

Management features

Besides creating stuff, the web developer needs to publish stuff to a server somewhere. (S)he needs to manage the site structure (navigation hierarchy and page consistency). Here Dreamweaver shines.

  • FTP sync between the server and the local developer files.
  • Collaborative file check-in / check-out. Not just with Dreamweaver, but also with Contribute.
  • Use-aware template based design structure. Change a template and DW knows what files use it and propagates the change.
  • Source formatting / re-flow.
  • Error checking and validation tools.
  • Browser preview.
  • Local to external CSS transfer.
  • Full standards reference documentation (from O'Rielly!)
  • Add-ons, from free to fully commercial. i.e. high customization.
  • Integration with Fireworks, Flash, Photoshop and even external text editors.

Editor benefits

Let's look at the neat features of the editor first. This is like Goldilocks and the three bears.

  • Papa bear (aka. code view) ,,,great for CSS, PHP and Javascript, but for HTML it's good if you're a masochistic purist who grew up on Windows and Wordpad.
  • Mama bear (aka. split view) ...the best of all worlds. Tweak the HTML on the top or do the WYSIWYG thing below (then fix the code above - lather, rinse, repeat). It's a really good way to work.
  • Baby bear (ak. design view) ...just OK for layout. Hiding the HTML is as bad as not showing the design in code view.
  • Then there's the nifty editing tools in the toolbar tab groups: Common, Layout, Forms, Data, PayPal, Google, Spry, Text and Favorites, each with a suite of tools.
  • Did I mention that there's auto close for tags (type </ and the last open tag is closed) and section collapse, and more? Lots more!

What I'm saying is at version 8, DW has been evolving for years. It has features. Use them well or use them poorly, your choice.

It's the skill of the user, not the design of the tool that determines what sucks and what doesn't!


And yes, I code in BBEdit too.

Have a nice day,

(1) The opinions expressed in Marc's Notes: Comments, Ramblings, Rants & Tips are exclusively those of Marc Wolfgram.
(2) Only one Macintosh™ computer was permanently harmed - link. (3) Any references to real people may be intentional.
(4) Don't try certain things while driving or at home without proper adult supervision. (5) Microsoft Windows—Just say NO!

Copyright © 2003-2008 by MacCetera, a Wisconsin LLC owned by Marc & Tammy Wolfgram
Mac OS, Macintosh, and other like terms are all trademarks of Apple, Inc. - 25-Oct-2009

Valid HTMLValid CSS