Adobe Dreamweaver CS5 review

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

  • Price When Reviewed: £357 plus VAT . upgrade £159 plus VAT

  • Pros: Great support for PHP programming; Improved CSS inspection; Simplified site setup; Simplified CSS layouts.

  • Cons: Limited support for new Web technologies; No new server behaviors.

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CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is a Web designer’s most important tool for crafting beautiful sites, and Dreamweaver already sports great tools for creating, editing, and managing CSS. CS5 adds an excellent tool for inspecting CSS while in Live View. The new Inspect Mode lets you mouse around a page, and visualize the normally invisible space added by padding and margins; as you mouse over an element, Dreamweaver highlights the space added by margins in yellow, and the space added by padding in purple.

In addition, the CSS Styles panel changes as you mouse around a page, displaying the styles that apply to whatever element you mouse over; this is an excellent tool for visualizing the complex interactions of styles known as the “cascade.”

When you click an element in Inspect Mode, Dreamweaver freezes the Styles panel and displays the list of styles applied to the element. You can then quickly see which properties are applied to the element and make fast edits to the styles.

Inspect Mode is especially useful for pages whose content is generated with JavaScript or a server side programming language like PHP, because it lets you quickly view and edit the CSS for content that isn’t visible in either Code View or Design View (like a JavaScript-generated pop-up menu or a byline on a WordPress blog post).

Additional improvements

Dreamweaver CS5 includes numerous small refinements as well. A revised “site setup” procedure greatly simplifies the process of getting Dreamweaver ready to work on a Website. Now there’s only one method for setting up a site (in previous versions you could choose either the time consuming “site definition wizard” or the confusing “advanced” setup process), that merely requires you to tell Dreamweaver where to find your site’s files, and what you’d like to name the site.

You aren’t required to provide any other information to get started, and if you need to use other features of the program, like its built-in FTP tool, then Dreamweaver asks you for that information only when you try to use that tool.

The program also includes quite a few small, user-interface changes that provide more working room and a more logical organization of buttons. In addition, the “starter” CSS layouts that have shipped with Dreamweaver since CS3 have been re-written and simplified to provide better guidance, and ease of use for those learning CSS-based page layout.

Dreamweaver CS5 has built-in support for Adobe’s BrowserLab service. This Web-based service is a godsend to beleaguered Web designers who try to make sure their designs work in all major browsers. BrowserLab is basically a giant screenshot machine that takes pictures of a Web page using a wide range of browsers on both Windows and Macs -- this is especially useful for Mac users who don’t have access to a Windows machine or multiple versions of Internet Explorer.

Within Dreamweaver CS5, you can choose to preview a page you’re working on in Adobe Browserlab -- this launches your Web browser and sends your page off to BrowserLab, which takes screenshots and presents them to you so you can compare your design across multiple browsers. BrowserLab isn’t a Dreamweaver CS5-only service, however. Dreameaver CS4 users can download an extension to work with BrowserLab, and you can even use the service without Dreamweaver at all.

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