Editing an existing remote website in Dreamweaver

Here is one of the most frequently asked-about situations for new Dreamweaver users:

“I have just inherited a website from another person. The files for the website are on a remote server that I’ve never worked with or accessed. How do I get the web (HTML) files from that other server, onto my own computer so that I can edit them in Dreamweaver?”

The short answer:

Establish a connection to the website’s remote server and download the files to your computer.

The long answer:

You’ll need two main things in order to “get” files from someone else’s remote site:

  • A local Dreamweaver site. This is the place on your computer where you’ll store local versions of the web site’s HTML files.
  • A connection to the remote site. The remote site is the place out on the web where the website you need to edit is currently living. (Literally, it is a folder on the computer that is running the web server.) Someone else has put that website out there and now you need to edit it. Before you can edit the site, however, you need to connect to the appropriate remote server so that you can access the files.

STEP 1: Set up a local Dreamweaver site

This is the place on your computer where you’ll store the local versions of the web site’s HTML files. (You always want to edit files on your local computer, never live on the remote server.)

For instructions on setting up a local site in Dreamweaver, see Set up a local version of your site in Dreamweaver Help.

STEP 2: Connect to the remote server

Once you’ve set up a local repository on your computer for the HTML files, you need to establish a connection to the remote site that’s out on the web. The idea is to transfer a copy of the files from the remote site to the local version of the site (on your computer). Once the files are local, you can edit them, and then repost them to the web.

See Dreamweaver Help for instructions on connecting to a remote server.

There are numerous ways of connecting to a remote server; we could give 50 examples here and still not cover every permutation. You will likely need to work with a server administrator or an ISP (Internet Service Provider) to create a successful connection. The server administrator (for example, someone who works at the company whose website you now need to edit) needs to provide you with some important pieces of information, namely:

  • The type of connection method you need to use. (Most often it’s FTP.)
  • The root directory for the website you need to access. (This is the main folder on the remote server where the website “lives”)
  • Your username and password, which will give you access to the remote server

Once you have all of the information you need from the server adminstrator, you’ll fill out the Site Setup dialog box in Dreamweaver. (Instructions for how to do so, according to particular connection methods, are detailed in the Help link above.) When you’re finished, your Site Setup dialog box should look something like this. (You can click on the below image to expand it.)

Use the Test button in the Site Setup dialog box to test your connection. If you connect successfully, you are ready to move on. If you can’t connect successfully, you need to keep adjusting the settings in the Site Setup dialog box until you establish a connection.

STEP 3: Connect to the remote server

The Test button in the Site Setup dialog box does not actually “connect” you to the remote server. Once you know the connection works, you just need to do that manually in Dreamweaver.

  1. In the Files panel make sure your new local site is showing.
  2. Click the Connect to Remote Host button in the Files panel.
  3. The connection icon should turn green, indicating that you have an active connection.

STEP 4: Get the remote files

Once you’re connected, you can get (literally transfer) copies of the files that are on the web to your local computer.

  1. In the Files panel, click the Expand to Show Local and Remote Sites icon.

    Doing this expands the Files panel so that you can see both the remote site and the local site simultaneously. The remote site appears on the left side of the Expanded Files panel; your local site files appear on the right.
  2. Select the files in the remote site that you want to get. Usually, if you need to get an entire site, you select the directory that holds all of the site files. (You can click on the below image to expand it.)
  3. Press the Get button and wait for the remote files to download to the local version of the site on your computer.

Once you have the files on your local computer, you can edit them in Dreamweaver. You can then repost the new versions of the files back to the server, or you can set up another remote site in relation to this same local directory, and post the edited files to a different server entirely.

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  • Awesome article. Follow this article to the T and you won’t go wrong. Ftp address is normally the website itself, e.g. hiddenbed.com.au.
    Thanks you!

  • Wonderful help. I’m just starting to work with Dreamweaver and this was so simplified it made what seemed to be a monumental task, easy. Thank you!

    Now can you do a similar blog on how to actually edit my existing website on Dreamweaver? 🙂

  • New to Dreamweaver and still hesitant but this article when followed word by word I was able to FTP the site and down load the whole site from remote site. Well written. Thanks

  • I agree great article but the part that I need was only discussed at the end in 1 paragraph:

    “Once you have the files on your local computer, you can edit them in Dreamweaver. You can then repost the new versions of the files back to the server, or you can set up another remote site in relation to this same local directory, and post the edited files to a different server entirely.”

    I need to understand how to create a test or live production area for my remote site so I don’t have to download the remote DB onto my computer – how do I set up a test server in DW that is online but not the live version? I need step-by-step. If it’s posted already, would love the link. Thanks –

    Raegan Hill

  • Sadly, The absence of Direct Font Selection and Font Size Pixel Adjustment either with new text or alterations is a Great Disadvantage for people to whom Style Sheet complex modification is very clumsy and time consuming. Is a major barrier to Dream Weaver migration.

  • using CD4 through 6 and I have the same problem, remote files will not appear in the remote file window. what appears is the folder, with a /. I cannot see the files only the remote files.
    I use Go Daddy, and the problem appears to be with Dreamweaver. Help!

    did not have this problem with Cs3

  • I can follow this and many other tuts to the T, it works great. The sites start down and dreamweaver is hooked to a local site on my home network or on the same pc and all is great. However, by the time it finishes it says you must set up a site in order to use dynamic pages and when you go to open it, it will not allow you to put in the site name stating that site already exists, even when you go to save a file to local it says the folder is not in the site root and offers to save the file to the site root, once it chooses its spot and saves its file it comes and tells you that you didnt save the file in the site root, which it did just overwrite the other file and both are in deed in the local site root. The css file cannot be added to the site setup as there is not any folder across the 12TB that it considers it’s site root, I have tried them all at this point. I set site root as C:\inetpub\promotis then the image site root should be C:\inetpub\promotis\images (and I have tried every variation within 3 degrees of that address as well) Once or twice it hooked up to the file, pulled the images from it then as soon as I went to immediately save it said I had not defined a site root. It often likes to throw up that php docs are the wrong kind of document to use on a Apache SQL server.

    I have had it for two months and I usually just figure things out on my own but this has me, I am quite sure the program is capable of more than running me in a giant loop of identifying servers and files and then denying that they are what they are but at this point I have found it to be nothing but completely useless.

  • Hi guys,
    I’m also facing the same problem. I’m new to Dreamwaver.
    I have downloaded the website locally and I’m now looking to do just small improvement, like fixing errors, maybe update some of the old technologies used, small change in the design, thing like that. Can I have some advice on Easy and Quick tips and tricks.
    I appreciate in advance everyone’s feedback in advance.


  • Novice needs help. My website is all set up and has been for years. I have certain pages that get updated frequently each day by my changing links and information on my local pages (in Design mode) and then “putting” the form.

    I used to have an additional floating horizontal window where I would make theose changes (change links, fonts, text, etc.). It has disappeared and I can’t figure out how to get it back. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

  • CS6 has some great features to edit wordpress, drupal and other cms sites. However even with phpmyadmin installed locally just getting the remote site into dreamweaver and editing it doesn’t seem to work.
    I have a support ticket with ipage hosting about just how to edit wordpress sites I have on their servers.

    Adobe just how does one pull a local wordpress site down off the remote server and edit the site like other sites.

    It is amazing what dreamweaver can do with them i just wish i could get it to work.

  • Bottom line is adobe needs to get some decent resources put up to resolve this issue. I don’t know anyone that knows how to do it. I, not knowing about CS6, bought CS5.5 just before the release. Right now I am out of pocket 2600 and 30 a month to use notepad++ for building php sites. It, to me, honestly just seems like a very sloppy B tier software issue, like you would expect to be having three months later with freeware, not a 2600 software bundle.

    Which is fine but I am getting further and further away from the place where I was very excited to get the master suite. I thought the level of tools used was going to increase the level of professionalism and make my services better but it simply hasn’t. Projects don’t finish well when you can’t get them started.

  • I downloaded two existing sites from the Web. In one case all went well. In the other case, the local site window only displays the root folder , without content. Yet I am absolutely sure that the whole site is there. There is now “triangle”to the left of the root folder symbol and nothing happens when I click on the folder.

    I tried to call for help . I called from France a US based customer service number. After a few minutes on who I am I was denied support because I am trying the product and not a paying subscriber.

    I welcome any help… before I decide that I want no more business with adobe.

  • I’m trying to link a page throughout the site at top navigation button hot spot and bottom navi.
    I managed to get the correct link from the top navi in the index page but don’t seem to be able to accomplish this throughout the site html pages.
    I have the ftp connection to the site set.
    Any help much appreciated.

  • Awesome! I can’t believe I didn’t know about the Expand to Show Local and Remote Sites button! I just needed a portion of the site, and that did it for me 🙂 Thanks

  • Thank you! Excellent bit of work which helped me a lot.

    Best wishes!

    P. :o)

  • load the source html page into Dreamweaver then add code for the effect you wish
    here is an example http://www.cancunsteve.com/howmuch2.htm

  • This link does not work
    http://help.adobe.com/en_US/dreamweaver/cs/using/WS753df6af718a350a-bcd96ed131687d6742-7fff.html on text ” Set up a local version of your site”

    STEP 1: Set up a local Dreamweaver site

    This is the place on your computer where you’ll store the local versions of the web site’s HTML files. (You always want to edit files on your local computer, never live on the remote server.)

    For instructions on setting up a local site in Dreamweaver, see Set up a local version of your site in Dreamweaver Help.

  • Exactly what I needed to know. Now let’s hope it works!

  • I recently bought a new computer- imac mountain lion. I’ve had a website for years through dreamweaver. I just installed dreamweaver cs5 because my old dreamweaver 8 no longer works on this computer. Redefined new site in manage files, defined a new local root folder, got the entire site from the remote files that showed in my remote panel and all images are broken. How if I just got all the images from my remote server- so they are there- and just downloaded same to my local root folder can the images not show in design view? Site shows fine on the web but design view- even preview in browser or live view shows text only and no images. Help too big a site to have to fix every single broken image. I found I can pull them IN to design view but they don’t show automatically anymore! The site was created when I was just learning so the directory is a mess but too late to fix. I wanted to redesign most of the pages but can’t when no images show in design view.

  • I had an old laptop and Dreamweaver 8 and roughly 2-1/2 years ago I was no longer able to update my website, so it became moribund. Now I have a new MacBook Pro and the Adobe Dreamweaver CS6 package uploaded, and though it appears to be connected with my site via FTP and creates a lot of activity when I ask to synch or get-and-put new files, nothing happens to the live site. I need some close coaching, I think, and I need it fast because I have to remove a page on behalf of someone else asap.

  • Hi,
    My website was created several years ago and has several thousand pages. It is a family history site and I need to make changes though I have been inactive on the site for awhile. I am using Dreamweaver 8 and an IMac with Snow Leopard. Often as I change a file on my local site and upload it to the remote site, the changes do not appear on my website. When I check the file on my remote site it shows the change but no there is no change on my site. I’ll admit that I have gotten a bit rusty–however, some time the changes do appear on the site. What could the problem be?? Does anyone have suggestions.


    • Maybe you can try updating dreamweaver to a later version and see if this version will reflect the changes that you see on the remote site.

    • Try clearing your browser’s cache and then refresh the page. Hope this helps..

  • I maintain a large website on two computers, one in office one at home; the office computer syncs the entire site fine with the remote server, but when I synched the home computer with the entire remote site, using MAMP on Mac OSX Mountain Lion, it put the pages into the correct Site I had defined on my computer, in MAMP/htdocs/nameofsite/ but it put all the web pages into public_html. Dreamweaver CS5 at the office didn’t do that. Now my Mysql Connections that originally worked in CS6 no longer hook up, and Dreamweaver has created a new Connections folder outside of public_html. HELP! How can I resolve this? Do I need to dump my Dreamweaver preferences? If so, where is it? There’s no user/Library folder anymore. I’m also unclear about when I synch the Connections/connAdmin.php file that’s used on the server with the server’s connection info, does that overwrite my local site’s Connections/connAdmin file that uses local credentials? This is confusing. I need to be able to connect to my Mysql tables and can’t define my sites anymore. Please, does anyone have any advice? Thanks.

  • I can’t instill DW in my laptop
    how can I set up it

  • I am unable tyo connect to server to upload an amended file.
    The changes appear on files on my computer but not on the actual site
    I am using dreamweaver 3

    please help

  • Hi – I’m not an expert, but I have a question:
    To have a local server on my computer, do i need to download WAMP? is this safe?
    I want to edit a php template with DW.
    any suggestions is very appreciated!
    Thank you,

  • harbihordun says:

    My website was created not quite long and has several thousand pages. It is e-commerce site and I need to make changes. I am using Dreamweaver 8. Often as I change a file on my local site and upload it to the remote site, the changes do not appear on my website. When I check the file on my local-host it shows the change but there is no changes on my site. I’ll admit that I have gotten a bit rusty. What could the problem be?? Does anyone have suggestions

  • Cleaner London says:

    WOW, Excellent Article, I am very impressed to reading the content. Do that continue

  • I believe you have to ‘get’ the page or site first . Like adding it to your local machine ….only then can you open the file for editing

  • Thanks jvares for the much needed clarity on setting up a site inside setup management. I too had a lot of problems doing that and that’s why I appreciate people like you in bringing clarity in what seems to be a daunting task starting out in DW. Now I need to know how I can fix my rollover links that are suddenly not operative. 🙂

  • well written, clearly mention each and everything, anybody can do that. thanks

  • Shashikanta says:

    Thanks a lot.

  • женя says:

    как редактировать сайт php визуально?
    how to edit the php website visually?

  • Mark Carson says:

    The link “Set up a local version of your site” is broken. Did not check others.

  • tony kawule says:

    hi help me on how to link php pages to html pages in dreamweaver

    • Emily Sermons says:

      Hi Tony – are you perhaps referring to a PHP include? A PHP include is when you include a PHP file in another PHP file with the use of an “include statement.” There’s a good guide here: http://www.w3schools.com/php/php_includes.asp

      If you’re referring to something else, can you elaborate some more on what you’re trying to do?

  • i created [my site] on sitebuilder, who seems to be gettiing worse by the minute, how can i access my site with DW and edit it all on my computer and host it somewhere else?

  • Preran Kumar says:

    Hi Morgan, I am not sure about the kind of code that sitebuilder generates. If you can export standards-compatible HTML and CSS, you can recreate your site in Dreamweaver using those files.

  • daublethejoy says:

    The business I’ve started working for has a website that hasn’t been updated in years. They created it with Dream Weaver 5, I believe. They’re wanting me to research what we need to buy to go in and edit and update the website. The computer we have here is a MacBook Pro running OS 10.6.8. Looks like Dream Weaver CS6 will run on this computer, but my question is – will it actually be able to edit the website that was created on an old program? Love to know your thoughts.

  • Preran Kumar says:

    Question on using site created in Dreamweaver 5 on Dreamweaver CS6: Yes, you can edit an HTML file that was created in Dremweaver 5 on CS6. However, remember that there have been significant changes to both HTML and CSS, as well as Dreamweaver that has adapted to stay in sync. You will probably end up working mostly in the code view because most of the user interface for designing websites has significantly changed. If you need additional inputs, feel free to consult our experts on the Dreamweaver forum. http://adobe.ly/1JjeDam

  • I have a newer version of DW CC in the old version I used I would click a file and then preview in browser to get the URL to link on my website now when I do that it points to the local files instead of a URL to the remote site, I am using the remote server when I click on preview in browser…any help you can provide would be great.

  • natagolister says:

    Perfectly written!
    I will immediately take hold of your rss feed as I can’t to find your
    email subscription link or e-newsletter service.
    Do you have any? Please allow me recognise so that I may just subscribe.

  • Question – I recently got a new computer to use on the go and due to the large files bogging my other computer down, it was starting to get a little slow.

    My local folders and files and everything is set up on Dreamweaver on that computer. I want to be able to use both to work on files and put them on to my remote host, but I don’t want to mess anything up. And I don’t want to mess with the local stuff before I know for sure. Please let me know!

  • Great article. Just what I’ve been searching for. Thanks

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