FOTD 04: Dreamweaver 8 – Background File Transfer

If you’re a seasoned Dreamweaver user, you’ve undoubtedly encountered more than a few file transfer-related roadblocks when uploading/downloading large batches of files, checking in/checking out en masse, synchronizing sites, and so on. Once you started a file transfer in DWMX 2004 or earlier, you were essentially locked out of Dreamweaver until all the files had been transferred- essentially stuck twirling your thumbs as the progress bar made that tedious left-to-right march. Well, as you probably already guessed from the title of this post, file transfers are now a background task in Dreamweaver 8.


Kicking off a file transfer in Dreamweaver 8 nets you this new, modeless dialog box:

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collapsed Background File Activity dialog

While the new Background File Activity dialog is active, you can minimize it, move it behind other windows, basically do what you couldn’t do in prior versions of Dreamweaver – GET BACK TO WORK! But there are some other little niceties to this updated feature that you’ll want to know about, first of which involves clicking the little ‘details triangle’ and expanding the dialog to it’s fully-expanded state, where you can watch a running list of the files being transferred and their status as so:

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expanded Background File Activity dialog

Along with making the Background File Activity window modeless, with the expanded view you now get a much better idea of what’s happening in real-time. The old File Transfer dialog simply showed you what was being transferred at that moment, but this gives more context to where you’re at in the process and what’s occurred most recently. You can also save the transfer log after everything’s completed for a more definitive record of what’s changed- probably not as useful for smaller sites, but on large or group-maintained sites where change logs are commonly shared this can be a very timesaving feature, indeed.Now it should be noted that there are some tasks in Dreamweaver that aren’t supported while files are transferring, particularly the following:

  • Put, Get, Check-in or Check-out of files or folders
    (obviously this is being performed on other files at the moment…)
  • Undo checking files out
  • Create a database connection
  • Bind Dynamic Data
  • Preview Live Data
  • Insert a Web Service
  • Delete remote files or folders
  • Preview in Browser on a testing server
  • Save a file to a remote server
  • Insert an image from a remote server
  • Save files with ‘Automatically Put on Save’ checked on in Preferences
  • Drag/drop or cut/copy/paste files on the remote server
  • Refresh Remote View
  • Switch to another site
  • Edit the current site definition
  • Cloak or Uncloak a folder

As you probably guessed about half-way down that list (if not earlier), all of these operations in Dreamweaver could potentially affect or change either your current site definition or site cache, so they aren’t allowed until the transfer is complete (for example, can you imagine the havoc potential if you were allowed to change your remote site address mid-transfer and half your files got sent to the wrong location?). Outside of the list above, however- pretty much everything else is fair game while files are flying between your local and remote servers.And as a final touch- just in case you’ve minimized or hidden your transfer window and gotten back to productive pursuits, you can always eyeball the status of your transfer down at the lower left of the Files panel.

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the File Panel visual interface

A little animated Dreamweaver icon on the left provides visual feedback that the transfer is chugging along, and the file that’s currently being transferred is shown to the immediate right of the icon. The ‘Log…’ button over to the right of the icon will jump you back to the Background File Activity window for a deeper view on your progress. Simple and easy!Extension developers side note: there’s a new DW API method – site.serverActivity() – which returns true if DW is currently interacting with a server. In the past this wasn’t as much of an issue as users couldn’t work in Dreamweaver while a file transfer was active, but for certain types of extensions you may want to check for an active transfer first before performing your extension’s action- that’s how you’ll do so in the DW8 extensibility layer.I’d elaborate further, but really- that’s all there is to it! Make sure to check out Greg Rewis’ most excellent Captivate simulation of this feature here for a visual walkthrough to complement my editorial ramblings, as well. Background File Transfer is absolutely a long-needed (and invaluable) addition to Dreamweaver, in my opinion. If you used to rely on Dreamweaver’s onerous file transfer dialog as a coffee break alarm, you’ll probably need to work on some new excuses before the DW8 upgrade hits your doorstep. ;-)