Dreamweaver CS3 review

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10 We rate this 7 out of 10

  • Price When Reviewed: 335 . 139 . 705 . 1195

  • Pros: Good integration with Photoshop. Drag-&-drop Spry widgets. Improved style management, and useful built-in, commented CSS layouts.

  • Cons: Interface a little dated. Design view preview still not great. Lots of dated samples lurking in the ‘New Document’ dialog.

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Dreamweaver is almost as ubiquitous in the Web-design arena as Photoshop is in the world of print. Unusually for a Web tool, its huge range of tools caters for designers and developers alike.

This latest release is Dreamweaver’s first incarnation since Adobe acquired the software as part of its buyout of Macromedia. It’s still the top Web-authoring tool – rightfully ousting GoLive from the Creative Suite, and
still having the lead over Expression Web – but we couldn’t help feeling a little underwhelmed by this upgrade.

That’s not to say Dreamweaver CS3 isn’t without new features of merit. The application’s shift towards encouraging designers to use Web standards continues, with enhanced CSS-style management and a plethora of genuinely useful built-in layouts.

And, you can drag-&-drop rules in the CSS panel, reordering them or moving them between documents. Rather than being overly designed, the included layout documents offer bare-bones starting points, which should make them useful, even to experienced designers. These layouts are also commented, allowing newcomers to explore the Code view in order to see how everything works. It’s a shame that Adobe didn’t ditch the slew of legacy samples, however.

Elsewhere, Spry integration (above) is the most noteworthy addition, enabling you to rapidly add interactive functions and special effects to Web pages. These range from graphical effects (highlights, shrinking page sections, fades) to tabbed interfaces, drop-down menus and ‘accordions’ (containers that reveal information when their labels are clicked).

As with Dreamweaver’s new layout documents (below), the Spry widgets are styled in a basic manner, enabling you to customize them – and they’re significantly more useful than the JavaScript-based equivalents offered in previous versions of the application.

Unsurprisingly, Adobe has enhanced Dreamweaver’s integration with Photoshop (below). Copy-&-paste an image from Photoshop to Dreamweaver and an optimization dialog appears. Amend the original and paste it over the version in Dreamweaver and your optimization settings are retained. Although inferior to GoLive’s Smart Objects, this integration is still a welcome timesaver.

As with any upgrade, new features have to be weighed against the costs involved, and Dreamweaver CS3
may not be compelling enough for everyone. Performance on pre-Intel Macs is poor, and although the new features impress, Dreamweaver 8 users should upgrade only if they need some CSS hand-holding or fancy using the Spry additions. For Intel Mac users or Dreamweaver users battling on with MX 2004, however, buying Dreamweaver CS3 is a no-brainer.

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