As with Fireworks, Dreamweaver was passed over when the Creative Suite 3 interface overhaul was rolled out, so for long-term users the radically different look could be quite a shock. The upside, however, is the new interface is a great improvement on the old one – it’s more orderly, so you’re not fighting through a mess of windows on complex projects, and therefore faster to use. It’s also easier for those used to other Creative Suite tools to get to grips with.

The interface improvements aren’t just confined to the CS4 ‘tabs and tiles’ approach. Dreamweaver CS4 includes its own, Web-design focussed enhancements. These include the Related Files bar, so you can click from an HTML file to the CSS style sheet and JavaScript files that drive it – making navigating through complex projects easier.

Live View gives you a view of how your page will look in a browser, when all of the various code and scripts come together. You can see both how it will look with full code-based interactivity built-in, and how the output code is rendered by the browser. This is a massive advance over the previous version’s built-in rendering engine. However, because Live View uses the open source WebKit rendering engine, it shows how your designs are output in Firefox and Safari (and others), but not IE.

The Properties Inspector (now the Properties panel under the new interface) has been split into separate HTML and CSS modes. All of the formatting controls have been stripped out of the HTML section, so you have to create these in CSS – which is best practice, if a little patronizing.

The new HTML data sets function builds dynamic tables using a wizard-driven approach based on Adobe’s Spry framework for Ajax. This could be used to turn an HTML- or div tag-based table into a table that can be sorted by columns or row, or into a series of stacked containers – or you could take the information from a dynamic source such as RSS feeds.

Other new tools include support for Adobe’s InContext Editing technology, which sits on your Web server and allows your clients to edit sections of pages that you set live on the page through their Web browser, rather than using the Contribute tool. Embedding SWFs now automatically generates the code to get owners of older versions to upgrade, while support for Photoshop Smart Objects allows you to sync to any changes made in Photoshop within Dreamweaver.

As with many of the other tools within Creative Suite 4, Dreamweaver CS4 is more efficient to use than its previous release, allowing you to produce Web projects faster than before.