I finally got around to thinking about Dreamweaver and purchased version 8. Granted, I just installed it yesterday and have only had a little time to work with it, but I am working with it as my default version now.
In this article, I'll give you a look at some of the new features and my opinions of my overall experience at this point.
I'm sure some folks will just assume that, because I am a long-time Microsoft MVP, it's part of my make-up to automatically dislike other software companies. Not so! I like companies with good products and good service. I was quite impressed with Macromedia, the most recent owners of Dreamweaver, who purchased the main format from the popular HomeSite folks.
I was a HomeSite user/beta tester. When HomeSite was purchased by Macromedia, I went back and took another look at Microsoft FrontPage, assuming I might move to that as my web development software. I know a lot of people love FrontPage and I'm sure it's a good product. But I personally found dealing with the FrontPage Extensions to be a hassle. That fact frustrated me and stopped me cold, so I've never gotten into FrontPage enough to decide if I actually like it or not.
Since Dreamweaver 3 was so similar to my favorite HomeSite software, I bit the bullet and moved over to Dreamweaver. I quickly found it very easy to use (probably because it WAS now a glorified version of HomeSite). I've stuck with Dreamweaver through version 3, 4, MX and MX 2004. Version 8 recently arrived.
My Purchasing Experience
I'm really getting a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to dealing with Adobe. As I explained in my Rotten Apple article, I've only had to deal with Adobe a few times, but to date have not been impressed with their Customer Service.
Side Note: And to the reader who called me stupid and said it was my own fault for not writing down my Adobe key, mentioned in that article, I'm well aware of that fact! But since I have several hundred different software programs on my computer, when I burn out the system and need to occasionally rebuild, it is sometimes hard to find all the needed keys. I should be able to go back to the company who sold me the software and request a new key. Of all the companies I have ever spoken with, over the years, regarding new keys, Adobe is the only company who was unable to honor my request. Not very impressive!
I decided it was time to get Dreamweaver (DW) 8, installed and have a look.
I hit the Macromedia site, which is now owned by Adobe. I attempted to purchase the upgrade four times and each time had to bail out of my browser. My account had old information that I first needed to update through My Account on the site. But when I added the DW Upgrade to my Shopping Cart, the old information continued to be displayed on the purchasing page. The fact that my account record was now updated but the purchasing page didn't properly update apparently freaked out the site's coding, because it attempted to process the information all four times and then crashed. I removed the purchase and tried again. But each time, it was more than the site could handle.
After wasting 30 minutes wrestling with it, I gave up and created a new account. My purchase now went through without a problem. Seems Adobe's customer record keeping process hasn't improved.
I finalized my purchase, after clicking No Thanks to several notices asking me if I wanted to upgrade to the Suite version for just $699 more! And I didn't purchase the extra $15 user manual nor any of the other additional features they offered me. My final purchase was $211 for the update, plus an additional $1 they apparently charged me to use a debit/credit card on the site!?!?! I didn't discover this fact until I received the extra email from my card alert letting me know that I also had a $1 purchase from Adobe. They never mentioned that fact on the site and I've never been charged for debit use on a software site before? Most sites recognize that it is also a credit card so it is a straight purchase. I was hoping to have the credit card process go through since my card also gives me back 1% on credit purchases. That means that was another $2.11 I apparently lost!<sigh>
I installed DW8. It opened. But not before it migrated my entire MouseTrax (and all it's subsites) into the new version. That was a surprise, since I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to pass over all my pages to the new version. I wanted to see what it looked like and play around with it before I pass my precious pages into its belly. But I didn't have an opportunity to make that decision for myself. Okay! Hopefully, it'll allow me to return to version 7 if I decide to do so. It did. That's one thing I have always liked about DW...it always installs the new version into a separate, new directory, which allows me to easily return to the old version if needed. Once I'm comfortable with the new version, I can uninstall the old version without affecting the new version or any site settings.
Thankfully, the migration appears to have been flawless. <knock, knock, knock>
The opening page appears. I was a little confused because I didn't see the standard stop showing this option at the bottom of the screen and the top seemed to be cut off.
Then I realized that the Properties panel was maxed at the bottom. Once I closed that, the entire opening display showed. I was then able to check the option to stop showing this page when it opens. Unfortunately, I've never been able to figure out how to close this window without making a choice. So I had to close DW and reopened it to confirm the dialog box was now gone.
I was then notified that I should check the DW web site because there may be updates for this version. I clicked the link and, sure enough, there is an update patch out for DW8 already. I downloaded it and installed it.
While on the site, I also downloaded several PDF manuals on DW8, versus paying for the hard copy manual they had offered during the purchase.
After quickly installing the update, I checked out the release notes to see what had been fixed and what issues were still outstanding.
I was ready to get back to nosing around. At first glance, it looks the same as version 7. That's good. I wanted to get to work soon and was hoping to use version 8 right away, but didn't have a lot of time right now to deal with a new learning curve. The fact that they apparently made improvements without messing with the interface too much was good news for me.
The last major interface revamp was between versions 4 and MX when they removed the free-form window layout and moved the program into a solid window with panels. It took me awhile to get used to that new format, but I've liked it. Granted, I was used to the free window layout having used Microsoft Visual InterDev, so as long as the software worked well, I had no problem using either layout.
When it appeared that not much had changed, I moved to the Help menu to review the What's New details. Okay, they added/improved some of the main capabilities in DW, such as now offering better control for XML, RSS and CSS. That's nice. I don't deal with XML or RSS much yet, but those are on my To Master list, so it's good to know that improvements are there when I get around to needing them.
But at the moment, I was more interested with the general use features. They've added some nice features and some critical ones. That's good news.
And they have added/improved some advanced features/capabilities.
I went through the list of general feature updates.
The new viewing tools are nice. At the bottom of the main window, you'll now find a few tools you can switch. The hand tool will be useful since I often find myself having to hit F4 to max out the view to more easily get around. Sometimes that view would get stuck, forcing me to have to close/reopen DW. So this should be useful to more easily move around the entire page.
As with a PDF page, I can now grab the page to move it around as needed, versus dealing with scroll bars. Nice.
And the Zoom tool is great! Many times I've wished there was a way to zoom out to see a more complete view of my page. Now I can. Even better, I don't always need to use the zoom in/out tool (shown below), but can quickly set the view I want in a Zoom input box. Just like with using Microsoft Word (the program I use the most), I can now click to choose the view percentage I want, or just enter any number to zip to that size. Love it!
DW8 now also allows you to drag down guides, which I'm sure will be useful to me at some point. I'm not big on fancy designed pages with a lot of image cuts, but there have been times when I've wished there was a guide and resorted to using the Grid. So this may come in handy.
A new feature that I consider a major improvement is that DW now handles file maintenance in the background. THANK YOU for this one! With thousands of pages in numerous web sites, the thought of synchronizing or dealing with searches has been a hassle, since I wasn't able to do anything else while those processes did their thing.
Now, when I'm doing something like pulling down server logs, running reports or running full site searches, I can click Hide to have this done in the background so I can get on with my work.
Yes! This is a fantastic time saver. Previously, I had to Cloak all the other folders to save time when I needed to run reports or handle other file processes. Now it can work away in the back while I work away in the front! When minimized, the above dialog box moves to your Taskbar.
If you want to check on its progress, you can click the Log... button you'll now see under your panel tray along the right.
Another feature I stumbled upon, that appears to be very useful to me, is the new shortcut icons that I now see along the left panel of the code window. Being a developer, I work in the code view a lot. I'm constantly hitting Ctrl + ~ (tilde) to flip between Design and Code view. And yes, it really threw me when they changed that shortcut between MX and MX2004. Took me weeks to stop hitting Ctrl + Tab to get into the code! Glad to see they did not change that key again in 8.
Probably the coolest feature with these code improvements is the new ability to collapse code blocks. I haven't had time yet to figure out exactly how useful this is, but I know there have been many times when dealing with huge blocks of colored code that I've actually grabbed a chunk out to a new page just to get a more focused view of the portion I need to read.
With this new feature, you can select chunks and collapse them away, out of your immediate view. Nice! I have a feeling I'll be taking advantage of this feature a lot!
They've added improvements to the CSS panel for easier viewing, too. I didn't have a problem with the old view, but there were times when I had to search for the details of a style through a long list. Now you can move to this Current view and click on any text in a page to instantly see all the attributes. And it appears that you can click to modify attributes right in this view, versus moving to the CSS page or right clicking to go into Edit. This type of improvement is, obviously, more for the newbie to help them better understand the idea of CSS versus having to deal with lots of confusing coding. But this could prove quite handy???
I had to zip over and make sure they didn't trash my beloved Design Notes! Didn't have to worry there. Seems they didn't do anything to the reports. Nope...it's all the same. Including that ridiculous search criteria dialog box. It still has all that wasted space and you still can't read what you've entered due to this poorly designed dialog box. A redesign here would have been nice, but I'm so used to this problem an improvement would probably mess up my routine. <wink>
One thing I do a lot in DW is convert Word docs to HTML pages. Authors send me articles in Word, which I then convert to HTML within Word and open in DW to clean up. DW did a pretty good job handling this for the most part, although there was a constant warning message that appeared letting me know it didn't recognize Word 2003. After a click to dismiss that dialog, it still did a decent job, even if it warned me it was confused.
They updated the wording to now say Word 2000 and newer and the warning doesn't show. And from what I can tell, it still does a nice job cleaning up the proprietary code mess that Word HTML renders. Although I still have to try it out on a version that uses UK English. That always gave DW heart failure and meant a lot of manual clean up for me.
The Final Verdict?
Well, the jury will need to remain out for a bit while I get a chance to work with the new version on a regular basis. But so far, it seems pretty stable and very much like version MX 2004. In fact, so much so that I wonder if it was worth the $211+ to upgrade? Sure, there are some nice editing features added, but it seems the bulk of the update was done to features that I probably won't be using anyway???
So I guess I'm glad that it didn't change enough to cause me to have to relearn much, but then again...I also feel that I was charged a lot of money for just a few bells and whistles. Sure, the background processing will save me gobs of time and time is money, but I don't know if that makes this a major version change and worth all the fanfare and cost??? Granted, my view may change as I move along with this version. But I guess if you're a basic designer and not a heavy duty dev who needs the extra format processing features, it may not be worth the price to update yet? If you can afford it, it's always great to have the latest version, but at this point, I think this upgrade is a bit pricey.
It might have been a better move to charge less for the basic design update and add the larger feature updates as separate purchases for those who need those features...maybe as plug-ins or extensions? But then...that would have probably meant more work and less overall revenue. So I don't see that happening here (or in most software programs) anytime soon.