Ajaxian: Time to Take Dreamweaver Seriously?

Ajaxian’s Dion Almaer asks an interesting question of the Javascript/Ajax crowd – is it time to take Dreamweaver for Ajax seriously again? I think the question is really a broader one- is it time to take Dreamweaver seriously again – to which I respond with a booming “HELLS YES”. Particularly in workflow ecosystems where a combined designer/developer workflow is crucial, I might add.

The comments in the Ajaxian article’s thread are interesting- I was pleased to see there’s certainly a contingent of folks within giving a thumbs-up to recent release(s) of DW, along with the expected ‘WYSIWYG editing is for dolts’ responses, the latter of which Dion’s question may actually be a valid one for. My answer is simple- I’m a designer who likes code. I spend most of my time in DW’s code view exclusively, and occasionally do quick mockups/proof-of-concept work with the WYSIWYG tools. DW CS3 is speedy and nimble for me (particularly when compared to the glacial performance of MX 2004 and perhaps DW 8), and I have no problems using it regularly as a code editor – again, with the occasional drift into the GUI-driven features if I’m doing quick tests/proofs.

Now I can’t (and won’t) argue with those who simply prefer completely stripped-down tools like Notepad or TextMate/BBEdit – I occasionally do as well (have been a BBEdit user longer than a Dreamweaver user), and understand the minimalist approach – but the extended features of DW (along with it’s recent updates for code-centric folks) are way too much to discount wholesale just for percieved street cred on my part, or the spectre of old (and now- largely resolved) code trust issues in the visual editing features.

Anyway, I’d be interested in your comments, suggestions and opinions on this, too- as Dreamweaver is a app very near and dear to my own workflow I’ve also got strong (and yes- potentially biased) opinions upon it myself. Sound off below, why dontcha?

14 Responses to Ajaxian: Time to Take Dreamweaver Seriously?

  1. TJ Downes says:

    Scott, it seems to me that there’s a massive transition from DreamWeaver to Eclipse. Frankly, I’m torn. DreamWeaver has a ton of features that Eclipse and the plugins I use can’t offer. I feel less productive in Eclipse in general. DreamWeaver, albeit a memory hog, gets better with every release. Yep, there’s things I can’t stand about DW, but overall I like it a lot. I think DW would be taken more seriously if it included the ability to use Subversion for project version control and ANT (for obvious reasons).If you’re a design heavy shop it’s certainly very difficult to move away from DW. If you’re a development heavy shop Eclipse is a more natural choice. But what if your shop is a good mix of the two? It certainly leaves a huge gap.

  2. Hi, TJ-Massive migration? Not seeing that myself, but sure- ColdFusion/server-side coders have adopted Eclipse more lately as it’s more geared towards those workflows specifically. If your shop is mixed (as ours is), I don’t see a major issue with using both together – we regularly use FlexBuilder/Eclipse alongside Dreamweaver on local teams.You’ve illustrated the classic design vs. developer split, but I think the real problem with this overall scenario is an assumption that there should really only be one ‘good’ tool choice for developers or designers, when in reality there’s quite a few available- and DW plays rather nicely with all of ’em (IMHO). My opinion, at least.

  3. Kevin Hoyt says:

    First off, I’m pretty floored by the number of folks in that survey that only use TextMate (or the likes). I’m a big fan of the product, but it is literally nothing more than a text editor. Managing large amounts of code would be a nightmare. Dreamweaver, with its notion of “sites” makes big projects a snap.Of course more IDE’s have a project view, so there’s nothing really earth-shattering there.Many of the features in Dreamweaver are starting to seem pretty dated. All those data wizards that crank out JSP, CF, ASP, etc. had their day, but more and more of this data connectivity is being done with Ajax techniques. To that end, the addition of Spry is really cool, but that’s just one of at least a couple dozen of the more common Ajax frameworks out there. And that really brings me to the kicker… Code intelligence.If I’m moving more and more to Ajax techniques, that means more and more JavaScript. Even my most basic AIR application that’s enough to actually call an application has a few hundred lines of code in it, spread across a few different JS files. I want Dreamweaver to read and interact with those files as though they were Java in Eclipse. It’s that simple.I want an “outline” view where I can click on a function and jump to it. I want to get code intelligence for every last variable, class, framework inclusion, etc. If I include Yahoo! Maps via a script tag, I want Dreamweaver to digest all that code too and tell me the API. If the code intelligence is robust enough, I’ll make fewer code errors to begin with, and on rarely have to reference an API documentation for any framework, making me far more productive.To be fair, I love the CSS and visual features of Dreamweaver. I was probably among the few to complain that the Timeline was gone (and then later added back in). The CSS panel is amazingly smart and enables me to quickly access and change any style regardless of how deeply cascading it gets.That being said, when building Ajax applications (esp. with AIR), I find myself with very complicated CSS and DIV layouts. The design view in Dreamweaver is great for general purpose HTML, but it really lacks when you start using absolute positioning. There’s no tool on the market that does complex CSS layout for *applications*. To me, this would be a killer feature. I would suggest that about 50% of my application development time is spent in design, but I have to do it all through code and runtime checking. If Dreamweaver could enable this for me…I could see a panel where different Ajax frameworks components could be dragged and dropped onto the design view.Think Flex for HTML/CSS Ajax developers… Killer code smarts, and dead-on design view (maybe allow me to select a target browser?) would make Dreamweaver great again. But then how many designers would you leave behind? You can’t be everything to everybody anymore Dreamweaver, the field is just too big these days.A nickel,Kevin

  4. Hi, Kevin-Ironically, I think my workflow likely mirrors your own very closely. I don’t use ‘auto-code’ features like the server models, nor behaviors in the JS layer. Some ‘visual features’ in Dreamweaver are – in my opinion – just building blocks to get you started, but web designers and developers alike usually migrate past them quickly once they come up to speed.Dreamweaver’s code surface, particularly in CS3, is excellent. That, alongside the large site management/FTP features and code hinting features alone, keeps it highly relevant for me in my day-to-day work. I still use visual features for mockups/proof of concept work regularly- much akin to a hardcore Flex coder who can easily code up a UI, but chooses to drag/drop mockups in interest of time, and clean things up downstream. Having that prototyping functionality available at all times is a HUGE productivity boost to me when I need it, and completely unobtrusive when I don’t.CSS panels are equally useful in code view to see cascading rules and effects, quickly navigate large stylesheets, et al. I use them constantly in developer mode. I’d like to see some of your complex CSS/DIV layouts and pass them on to our QA team, as we use many variants of layouts in smoke-testing the app and encounter few issues – particularly for developers (designers, IMHO, think much more out of the box in this respect). Help us make the product better!Now personally speaking, I don’t think Dreamweaver has ever even remotely tried to be everything to everyone (speaking as a part of the extended DW team for over 7 years now), nor will it ever. Just ask CF developers who expected DW to become the next HomeSite+ or .NET developers who expected Dreamweaver to compete directly with Visual Studio, or even designers who (errantly) expected it to turn into GoLive during CS3.As for some of your suggestions/feature requests, why don’t you swing by the DW team area sometime and see what we’re working on? You might be a bit surprised…

  5. Jim Priest says:

    I’ve been using Eclipse/CFEclipse for a long time – I never really used Dreamweaver much. Now I’m so reliant on the SVN and Ant integration – I couldn’t switch to DW. Also the Aptana plugin seems to be filling the void for CSS/HTML/Javascript development.

  6. Makes sense, Jim- hard to miss DW if you’ve not really used it. Sounds like you’ve got a solid workflow together, though.

  7. TJ Downes says:

    Scott, yes, I was referring primarily to web application developers. Many of them, including myself, are heavily involved in the design and layout aspect of the site in addition to the application development.Most designers I know still use DreamWeaver. I do see some designers switching toward Apatana w/ Eclipse, but it doesn’t seem to be a trend.I really don’t see how they play well together at all. I mean, if you don’t use DreamWeaver projects that’s fine, then you can say DreamWeaver plays well with any text-based editor. However, if you utilize DreamWeaver’s full capabilities you soon find yourself alienated from using any other tools to manipulate your pages. DreamWeaver templates and projects are easily damaged by not sticking within the DreamWeaver project framework. History becomes unusable. DreamWeaver’s site cache becomes corrupted. I can name a host of issues that prevent DreamWeaver from playing well with other environments when using this functionality. Which is unfortunate because DW’s project and templating functionality can be pretty powerful if you use it properly.

  8. Hi, TJ- considering we’ve been using DW and CFEclipse/JSEclipse/Flex Builder together for quite some time (I managed a team of 8 engineers on the last major Macromedia.com redesign that coordinated on a code/server level with roughly another 30 eng/DBA/designers, for example), I guess we have very different real-world experience and opinions on this.You’ve hit on a key point, though- using Dreamweaver properly. Anyone can push a button and ‘create a page’ with visual tools, but I’m still amazed at the misconceptions about DW sites/etc and integrating with other environments. Heck, Visual Studio writes great code but you’d be foolish to think the visual coding features write as tightly as doing it by hand. Dreamweaver is no different. Here at Adobe we integrate DW with not only other coding tools but SVN and Perforce repositories, and have yet to run into a significant issue with cache corruption/etc in the mixed-client environment. If I’m ever in your neck of the woods, I’d be happy to look over your team’s workflow/server setup and point out any red flags I see.

  9. Matthew says:

    Dreamweaver helps me deploy apps faster.It is part of other apps I use (Aptana, PHP eclipse and Firebug) in my workflow.Thats all it comes own to for me.I look forward to the perfance improvements and new features in the new DW cause fast is most important for freelancers and agency based work.If we have tools that help get the job done faster Ill use it. Dreamweaver definately helps me do that on a daily basis.

  10. Matthew- I couldn’t agree more!

  11. Jarod Morris says:

    Forgive me for putting this in a place that I am 99.9% sure it does not belong.I am using Flash CS3 and have been trying to load a .flv file into my .swf file using the FLVPlayBack. I’ve found great tutorials on it and I have it working on my local machine. When I upload the files to my webserver, they no longer work. I understand that on the local machine, often the .flv is found by Flash with the string C:/Document and Settings//projectfiles…. etc. I have changed the contentPath parameter to reflect the url fo where the .flv file is on the server and I get nothing. I have tried to make the path relative to the .swf file and upload the .swf and the .flv in the same folder (which I havea always done) to make it easier and possibly work. Of course, that did not work (or I would not currently be asking for help).When I type in the http://www.campaignsdoneright.com/emma/EmmaDance.flv as the contentPath, and the check box for Download FLV for cue points and dimensions is checked, I get the error of “Failed to load FLV: [url here]”. If I do not have that checked, I do not get the immediate alert, but it doesn’t cause it to work either. It seems there is something amiss with my settings or something which I am unable to find any documentation on. None of the tutorials I’ve found have anything helpful in this area. It would be nice if more tutorial authors wrote “Oh, and if you experience this __________, the problem is this _____ and fix it like this ______. Filling in the blanks for all of us newbies that get frustrated. Please email me with any links or helpful informaiton.jarod morrisjarod.morris@gmail.com

  12. Hi, Jarod-Yeah, probably not the right place as I’m not working on the FLV team anymore (and don’t have much spare time for helping debug projects), but you might try making certain your web server is serving up FLV files with the right MIME type (for the record, I also prefer using relative links in the FLA file to point at the related FLVs). Excerpted from LiveDocs:Tip: To load FLV files from a web server, you might need to register the file extension and MIME type with your web server; check your web server documentation. The MIME type for FLV files is video/x-flv.If that isn’t your problem, I’d strongly recommend posting links/sample code on the Adobe user-to-user forum, as honestly I’ve not had much trouble getting FLVs to work correctly following those basic steps (MIME type, relative paths). HTH?

  13. Matt says:

    You can do SVN integration with dreamweaver using an extension called subweaver: http://code.google.com/p/subweaver/

  14. For what it’s worth- Dreamweaver CS4 supports SVN natively, so no extension is required (anymore).