For those of you who haven't heard yet, Macromedia recently announced
a whole new family of products which they've dubbed Macromedia MX.
This MX family includes updated versions of almost all the
products in the Macromedia line and sees them working together as never before.
Included in this new line is a new version of Dreamweaver named -
aptly enough - Dreamweaver MX.
The nice people at Macromedia were kind enough to get me a preview copy
a while ago and spend some time introducing me to the product. Now that the
news has broken (and my NDA has lifted), I'm free to pass my impressions
on to you.
The first thing you'll notice is that the Ultradev moniker used on previous
versions of the development flavor of Dreamweaver is gone. Luckily, the spirit
of Ultradev, which I liked so much in the past versions (reviews of
v4), is still alive
and kicking and is actually better then ever. While the name has shrunk, the
product has done just the opposite. Dreamweaver MX actually incorporates
the best points of Dreamweaver, Dreamweaver Ultradev, and HomeSite
(a great little editor in it's own right) into one extremely powerful product.
The basic user interface has evolved, but is not radically different from previous
versions of Ultradev with one exception: it now has an MDI
mode and actually is set up this way by default. For those of you who have no idea
what I'm talking about, let me give a brief explanation:
There are two basic types of window management commonly found in Windows applications:
SDI (single document interface) and MDI (multiple document interface). I can't think
of a better way to explain the difference then to just show you the selection screen
from Dreamweaver MX:
The option on the left is the MDI. You'll notice that, in this mode,
the application itself is made up of one main window and all the sub-windows are contained within it. Most recent apps allow
you to customize this layout and dock the sub-windows to the edges of the application's
The option on the right
is the SDI. There is no containing window and, as a result, there is no background to
the application itself. The windows just float around and can be moved independently,
but there's nothing containing or connecting them.
Anyway, you get the idea. If you're from a Windows background, you'll probably
like MDI much better.
Continuing on with my earlier point: MDI is great! As stupid as this sounds, this was one
of the reasons I never really switched to Ultradev 4. Maybe it's just me, but
when I'm developing, I keep everything I'm using open and running so I can get to it quickly.
Isn't that the whole point of putting half-a-gig of memory in these workstations?
Well, with Ultradev 4, I just couldn't get used to seeing all the other running
applications sticking out from behind my workspace.
Development Platform Support
For those of you who read my review of Ultradev v4, one of my chief complaints
was the lack of any real support for features in the newer versions of ASP
(ASP v3 at the time). No longer are they behind a generation. In fact, this
time around Macromedia is right on Microsoft Visual Studio.NET's heels. The
product includes full ASP.NET support and they do a darn good job of it too.
The ASP.NET pages generated have code that looks much like code you would
write by hand does.
In addition to excellent ASP.NET support, Macromedia didn't take support
for classic ASP out of the product (unlike one Redmond-based company did).
Now I understand we'd all like to forget about all the garbage we've written
in the past, but the truth of the matter is: you can't. Supporting older
code and sites is a necessity. In an ideal world, the sites would be
updated and converted over to ASP.NET, but give me a break - I wasn't paid enough the
first time I built them... I'm not going to go back and fix them for free. And you
try telling a client that you need to update their 20-page presence site that happens
to have some IDCs and HTXs to a newer technology to make it easier for you to manage
and that you want them to pay for it! Heck, it's for exactly this reason that we've
still got an NT4 server running some of our older sites. I'm amazed half of it's
still working... I'm not about to intentionally give myself headaches by trying to
migrate that stuff to .NET. That being said, I do need to support it when one of those
customers calls me up to make a change and with Dreamweaver MX I can do that from
within the same environment I do my .NET work in.
I do realize that VID6 and VS.NET can coexist on the same machine, but
should I really have to jump back and forth? After all... it's all
web development isn't it?
Ok... sorry I got off on a rant there... what's this topic...
oh yeah: platform support... I'm back now. In addition to excellent
Dreamweaver MX also includes support for ColdFusion, JSP, and PHP making it
an excellent choice for shops that do development across multiple server
While we're talking about platforms, anyone out there developing
ASP.NET pages from a workstation running Mac OS X? Well, it's supported if
you buy the Mac version. Try and find another program that gives you this
level of ASP.NET support on a MAC!
Cross platform... that reminds me - it does web services too. I've been told
it integrates better with Cold Fusion MX in this regard, but it does them for .NET as well.
The Text Editor Rules
Perhaps the best improvement in Dreamweaver MX is the inclusion of the
HomeSite-style text editor. As I mentioned earlier, HomeSite has always been
a great little editor. Now you get all the stuff that made HomeSite great
in an Ultradev-level development tool. Context-sensitive auto-complete,
the tag inspector, code hints, snippets, the tag editor, and even customizable color-coding
are all included.
Accessibility and Standards Compliance Checking
Are you coding for accessibility? You should be! This has become a real
hot topic as of late. With government regulations now requiring sites be
designed to be accessible by everyone, the accessibility tools and validators
will be extremely helpful.
In addition to making accessible pages, the tool itself has had some accessibility
features added. The one I like is the customizable keyboard shortcuts for everything!
I've picked up some weird preferences for keyboard shortcuts along the way and it's nice
that the tool will work with me and not make me learn it's particular hotkeys.
What about XHTML... started moving over yet? No? Dreamweaver MX has great
support XHTML including a converter. Just go File -> Convert -> XHTML and you're done!
On the topic of XML related technologies, the environment works great for messing
with straight XML files as well. A nice touch when it comes time to edit your config.web file.
See For Yourself
Enough of me rambling on... here's a screen shot so you can take
a look at it for yourself:
Now I realize that you can't tell much from a screen shot, but Macromedia
has solved this by offering a free trial download of the Beta so you can
play with the product for yourself. You can find it by going to the
Dreamweaver MX Site
and clicking on the download link.
The pricing I've been hearing has been extremely reasonable. Dreamweaver MX is
reported to be going to list at around $399. Macromedia's Studio MX
(which includes Dreamweaver MX, Flash MX, Fireworks MX, FreeHand 10, and the
developer edition of ColdFusion MX) is said to be priced at $799. Those are
retail non-upgrade prices. Upgrades are reported to be around $199 for Dreamweaver MX
and $299-599 (depending on what products you're upgrading from) for Studio MX.
While none of those numbers are pocket change, they start to seem like it when
you compare them to the prices of comparable products. For comparison, the list
price for VS.NET Pro is $1079 or $549 to upgrade. Add a decent graphics program
(like Fireworks MX), a rich content tool (like Flash MX), an illustration program
(like FreeHand 10), or even an order of fries and
you're close to, if not already over, the price for the entire Macromedia Studio MX
which includes them all - except the fries.
Finally there's another option (besides VS.NET or Notepad) for ASP.NET development.
If you're coming from more of a VB or C++ background, then Dreamweaver MX might not
be the product for you, but for all you Dreamweaver, Ultradev, and HomeSite users, the
upgrade is a no-brainer. I'd also lean towards Dreamweaver MX if you do anything
outside the .NET arena. PHP, JSP, and probably even classic ASP all are easier
with Dreamweaver MX then with Visual Studio.NET.
For those of you not covered by one of the above groups, I recommend you get the demo and
decide for yourself. It's still in Beta so don't be surprised if it crashes on you once or twice, but assuming they
get the bugs out, the product I've been playing with is the first thing I've seen that
gives Visual Studio.NET a run for its money. Which product you prefer will probably
come down to a matter of your own personal tastes. Dreamweaver MX does take a little
getting used to if you haven't used Dreamweaver or Ultradev, but
once you get the hang of things, I think you'll agree that Macromedia has done an
excellent job of producing a first-rate development product. That, along with the
fact that they are selling it for a fraction of the cost of the competition, should
make you think long and hard about whether or not VS.NET is really your best choice