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If there’s a weak link in Adobe’s plans for world domination, it’s probably GoLive. Photoshop, Illustrator, and Acrobat are all doing quite nicely, and after a slow start, InDesign is starting to look like a credible rival for QuarkXPress.

But when it comes to Web design, Macromedia’s Dreamweaver still dominates, serenely untroubled by the capering of the upstart GoLive. It’s hard for GoLive to compete head-on with the massively powerful Dreamweaver, especially since the recent release of Dreamweaver’s impressive 2004 upgrade. So Adobe has opted for a different strategy, emphasizing GoLive’s compatibility with the rest of the Adobe range and its place within a wider workflow process that encompasses print, the Web, and even mobile computing devices such as 3G phones.

The list of new features in GoLive CS therefore leans heavily towards integration with Photoshop and other Adobe products. The last version of GoLive included a feature called Smart Objects, which allowed you to place files, such as a Photoshop image, onto your Web pages. GoLive would then create a separate Smart Object version of that image, which remained linked to the original source file so that it could easily be updated if the original file ever changed.

This capability has now been improved significantly. There are Smart Object options for placing Photoshop, Illustrator and PDF files onto a page, and when you select the source file it is opened up in a preview window that acts like a mini-version of ImageReady. You can convert the file into a format suitable for use on the Web, and then place it into the GoLive Layout Editor, where you have new tools for resizing and cropping Smart Objects. Whenever you subsequently open or refresh a site containing Smart Objects, GoLive automatically checks for changes to the original source file and updates the Smart Objects automatically.

Another integration feature is the ability to bring page designs over from InDesign. The latest version of InDesign includes a Package For GoLive export option that converts all the text and graphic elements in a page layout into Web-ready formats.

This isn’t the same as simply saving the InDesign pages as HTML, though. Instead, you can open the InDesign package in a preview window within GoLive and then re-use individual text or graphic elements by dragging or dropping them onto a GoLive page. This will often be better than simply converting InDesign pages into HTML, as you might have layouts, such as a two-page spread, that don’t really work as Web pages. Using this package option will allow you to quickly re-use your material within a more suitable Web design.

GoLive’s ability to work with PDF files has been improved, with a new PDF Preview tab in the main document-editing window. This prepares a preview of your page, as it will look when exported as a PDF file, while the Inspector palette allows you to specify a variety of PDF settings, such as font embedding, and compatibility with specific versions of the PDF file format.

All these features are designed to make it easier to use GoLive alongside other Adobe products – especially if you’ve bought the complete Creative Suite bundle, as this will allow you to use the new Version Cue version-management system. The idea is that if you’re preparing images in Photoshop, or page layouts in InDesign, then GoLive becomes the obvious choice to prepare that content for use on the Web.

It’s not a bad strategy as far as it goes. Trouble is, it doesn’t go all that far. GoLive CS may well appeal to Adobe’s existing users – print-based designers who are looking for a quick way to re-use existing content on the Web. But if GoLive is ever going to make a dent in Dreamweaver’s market then it needs to appeal to professional Web developers. Those developers don’t really care that GoLive can now import colour swatches from Photoshop. They’re more interested in tools that will help them with coding their Web pages.

Fortunately, GoLive has got some improvements in this area as well, most notably in its support for cascading style sheets. There are new CSS commands in the main Type menu, and the CSS Editor now allows you to quickly define styles. This includes support for @media rules that can be used to create pages containing options for different output devices, such as a computer monitor, or the screen of a handheld computer or phone.

GoLive’s hand-coding features have been improved as well, with a code completion feature similar to Dreamweaver’s hints. This monitors whatever you’re typing in Source mode and provides on-screen suggestions for tags, CSS rules and other types of syntax as you go along. There are improved options for line numbering and colour coding to help you find your way through code, and a Difference option that can compare two versions of a file to locate differences in coding. The improved Library palette includes dozens of predefined code snippets, page templates and CSS rules
to further speed up routine coding tasks.

It’s interesting to see that GoLive now has a companion product called Co-Author, which is similar to Macromedia’s Contribute and is designed to allow non-professionals to edit and update pages created in GoLive.

All in all, GoLive CS is a very healthy upgrade. It’s no Dreamweaver-killer, though, and it’s not likely to tempt professional Web developers into swearing undying loyalty to Adobe. We suspect, though, that this was never Adobe’s intention. It seems more likely that GoLive is actually meant to keep Adobe’s existing users happy so that they don’t use Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign for their print work and then jump ship to Dreamweaver when it comes to putting their work onto the Web. That’s a relatively modest ambition, but at least it’s realistic, and GoLive CS will probably get a warm welcome in organizations that are already heavily committed to an all-Adobe workflow.