A Second Look at Dreamweaver

Now that Dreamweaver’s in it’s 9th incarnation, I was reflecting during the CS3 launch on how far it’s come since version 1.0. But despite the progress, it seems that some people’s perception of Dreamweaver may still be stuck back in those 1.0 days- particularly as it relates to Dreamweaver as a ‘serious’ development tool. With Ajax representing a new resurgence in Javascript development (and providing a neat new buzzword to replace the hated ‘DHTML’ curse), there’s a lot more technical folks working in the HTML/CSS space writing Javascript these days.
This week the subject came up again- Dion Almaer of Ajaxian posted an article titled “Dreamweaver for Ajax… should we take it serious again?” Dion was prompted to post after his surprise at Ajax development shop Nitobi releasing extensions for Dreamweaver, including a poll to see how many of Ajaxian’s readers were using Dreamweaver for Ajax development . And I have to admit- I ended up a bit surprised too. 22 percent of the respondents (at the time of this writing) used Dreamweaver as their primary development tool. This came in third behind Eclipse-based editors (24%) and bare-bones text editors like TextMate, BBEdit and TextPad (41%). For a highly technical crowd, that’s a pretty darn good showing.
The comments that accompanied the Ajaxian article and poll were equally interesting. Whereas there were the expected zealots bashing ‘WYSIWYG editors’ in general and Dreamweaver in particular, there was also an equally strong showing of people ‘coming out of the closet’, so to speak- and using Dreamweaver in a variety of points in their workflow Which personally, I find answers Dion’s question rather definitively. If you’ve dismissed Dreamweaver in the past due to it’s prior shortcomings (or for the percieved street cred of a stripped down text editor), it’s definitely time to take a second look.
You might also be pleasantly surprised.

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  • While I can easily agree that Dreamweaver has many nice tools for designing web pages, (this comes from it being a mature product); it also lacks a certain maturity for the web development process. Speaking from a strictly JavaScript point of view:
    Dreamweaver, for example, does not have code completion/assistance tools for the core, or external JavaScript libraries. Similar tools exist within Dreamweaver for HTML editing with tag completion and attribute assistance or using the CTRL + Space when writing PHP.
    Dreamweaver also only directly supports the built in JavaScript framework. While useful, it does not account for all of the scenarios that a web developer might run into. There are many mature, well-backed frameworks for JavaScript (jQuery, Prototype, moo-tools, etc.) that cover even more options.
    I wouldn’t personally use a text only editor – a well-developed IDE will always provide a programmer with the necessary tools to be more efficient, and allow them to do more if given a chance. And I hope that Dreamweaver can become that IDE, but unfortunately at this point, Dreamweaver does not contain all of the necessary tools to be the best tool for web programming.

  • Good points all, Walter- thanks for posting! We’re definitely aware these are two areas that could be improved, so it’s great to get some external justification.

  • Jeff Atwood’s article ‘The software imprinting dilemma’ can explain lots of those comments on DW…

  • Great article, Andres- I think that pretty much sums up the dilemma. Thanks!

  • Code completion for PHP and JS are definitely missing for the hand-coders.
    Maybe also some outline/list view for app vars/classes/function and their data/return types would help show DW is serious about being a Web Dev environment. There’s the Application, Bindings, and Components panels which are good panels and I think can be adopted for JS apps.
    Also, I think a good mention is that anyone can end up using any JS framework/library and Flex Builder 3 has a decent approach to using multiple frameworks in a single IDE.
    Also, ugh, DW still gets some people thinking it re-writes code.
    To be honest, I wrote a lot of DW extensions for myself and some where Server-Side Behaviors and I don’t think people catch on early to how easy (custom) app development can be when parts like SSB get setup/made.

  • Scott, as much as I am a fan of DW, I have some people asking if DW CS3 includes HomeSite+, as prior release of DWMX and DW 8 did.
    I hope you’ll forgive me turning this blog entry to a chance to get that answer, but I’ve looked all over the Adobe site to find confirmation. If there is a page, please do feel free to share that. Thanks.

  • Charlie- I don’t believe HomeSite+ ships with DW CS3 anymore, sorry.

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