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You are here: MacNN Forums > Software - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Developer Center > When do you encourage Dreamweaver usage?

When do you encourage Dreamweaver usage?
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besson3c
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Nov 28, 2006, 04:36 PM
 
Dreamweaver is often categorized as a "pro" app, and for the life of me I can't figure out why. I'd like to know what your thoughts are on when it is relevant in today's day and age, and when you have recommended it with success? If you like, you can also address Contribute (an app I particularly dislike, but I won't get into that)...

It seems that a great emphasis on this whole Web 2.0/dynamic/semantic content thing is with dynamic content, often database-driven. What usage does Dreamweaver have for producing dynamic, database driven content, perhaps driven by a CMS?

It seems that the selling point of Dreamweaver is its site management, WYSIWYG, and text editing abilities? It would seem to me that if you are developing modern sites with a more dynamic backend that Dreamweaver is little more than an expensive text editor?

If you know of avid pros that use it, would you say they shell out this money for the app simply because of its merits as a text editor? Or, are there less people interested in constructing sites in this so called "new fashioned" way I've described, and perhaps I simply don't have an accurate gauge of the direction of the web or what people are doing these days?

Granted, I'm sure there is still a great need for simple sites consisting of pages of static content, and that is cool. However, is it safe to bill Dreamweaver as a pro-level app if this is really its intended usage?



A lot of this seems to boil down to people's (understandable) reluctance to learn how to hand code. However, as evidenced by apps like Rapidweaver and iWeb (and sites like CSS Zen Garden), it seems like avoiding the code is becoming more and more a difficult and undesirable thing to do and being replaced by apps that take on templating. If this is correct and/or the future, will you continue to recommend Dreamweaver, and if so to whom?

I apologize in advance if this line of questioning irritates some, that is definitely not my intentions. I don't mean to sound close-minded.
     
SirCastor
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Nov 28, 2006, 06:57 PM
 
A while back I was helping a friend of mine make some changes to the website. She was a design major in college among other things and she used Dreamweaver quite a bit. I was frustrated at this because I'm a purist and I do virtually everything by hand. Occasionally I would voice my dismay at Dreamweaver and she would reply "this is Web Development for girls!"

My general experience has been that designers who make websites fall back on Dreamweaver. Quite possibly because that's what they learned in school. It's benefits are very drawing to a designer. Sites generated appear virtually the same in all browsers, and it's sort of Rapid Website Development with the bells and whistles of a lot of sites.

I agree with you, the draw of DreamWeaver is built on people not desiring how to hand code, and really who can blame them? That's why you hire people like you and I, to do the dirty work.

There are still a large number of websites that fit into a category which has little to no need to take on the advantages of Web 2.0. A lot of sites for small businesses, for instance, don't need interactive applications. They supply information for further contact. The most interactive system that is provided in these kinds of sites is getting "i have a question" or "I need a shipping rate" data. Even if you want to make that AJAX enabled, it can be done with Javascript, and Dreamweaver does that just fine.

I don't recommend anyone buy and use Dreamweaver over hiring a professional developer. I see professional Web Designers use it often. So I suppose that it depends on who people are interested in hiring.
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mrl14
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Nov 30, 2006, 01:42 AM
 
I recommend it to people who want to learn web development. I tell them to read over a tutorial then build their site with Dreamweaver. That way they can look at the generated code and learn what it is.

All the drawbacks of WYSIWYG editors are not important to some people. Most people don't even know what web 2.0 is. They are happy with a very simple web site.

But I would agree, I see it as more of a beginners application to tell you the truth. It's much easier now to find good tools that let you write more efficient code. Or if someone doesn't even want to deal with code then they can use iWeb or Rapid Weaver. When someone wants to learn, i think it is still a good tool.
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mania
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Nov 30, 2006, 01:57 AM
 
Never. Tis the bane of web development. As far as I am concerned a 'designer' should just do her thing in photoshop and hand it over to someone who can write xhtml and css (not to mention php and javascript as well)
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iomatic
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Dec 2, 2006, 01:45 PM
 
I learned hand-coding, but I like DW for rapid development. I still have to go in with TextMate, BBEdit or CSSEdit to work out some fine tuning, but I think it's great for fast writing of standard crap like "<!DOCTYPE…, <html></html>", etc., mass uploading, one-button uploading, including uploading dependencies (changed items only), full site/selective code, text or tag file search and replace, root-aware file moving, and of course WYSI(mostly)WYG, and rarely, templates, etc.

$.02
     
besson3c  (op)
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Dec 2, 2006, 02:17 PM
 
Originally Posted by SirCastor View Post
A while back I was helping a friend of mine make some changes to the website. She was a design major in college among other things and she used Dreamweaver quite a bit. I was frustrated at this because I'm a purist and I do virtually everything by hand. Occasionally I would voice my dismay at Dreamweaver and she would reply "this is Web Development for girls!"
Web development for girls? Girls are perfectly capable at learning programming and markup languages


My general experience has been that designers who make websites fall back on Dreamweaver. Quite possibly because that's what they learned in school. It's benefits are very drawing to a designer. Sites generated appear virtually the same in all browsers, and it's sort of Rapid Website Development with the bells and whistles of a lot of sites.

I agree with you, the draw of DreamWeaver is built on people not desiring how to hand code, and really who can blame them? That's why you hire people like you and I, to do the dirty work.

There are still a large number of websites that fit into a category which has little to no need to take on the advantages of Web 2.0. A lot of sites for small businesses, for instance, don't need interactive applications. They supply information for further contact. The most interactive system that is provided in these kinds of sites is getting "i have a question" or "I need a shipping rate" data. Even if you want to make that AJAX enabled, it can be done with Javascript, and Dreamweaver does that just fine.

I don't recommend anyone buy and use Dreamweaver over hiring a professional developer. I see professional Web Designers use it often. So I suppose that it depends on who people are interested in hiring.

My experience with this has been, like most Apple applications, a tool like this can take you so far until you hit a wall. Once that wall is hit, it takes more effort to recode something properly and really take care of business in the most efficient manner than it would to simply get it right the first time.

I understand the attraction Dreamweaver offers, but I also don't understand why people haven't learned what you have said and what I've said, and that is basically extolling the virtues of producing clean code. Additionally, Google assigns higher page ranks to well-coded sites, so unless this is a well-kept secret wouldn't this provide some additional motivation?
     
besson3c  (op)
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Dec 2, 2006, 02:20 PM
 
Originally Posted by mrl14 View Post
I recommend it to people who want to learn web development. I tell them to read over a tutorial then build their site with Dreamweaver. That way they can look at the generated code and learn what it is.
But do they actually do that, or just remain satisfied with the results Dreamweaver puts out?

All the drawbacks of WYSIWYG editors are not important to some people. Most people don't even know what web 2.0 is. They are happy with a very simple web site.
Right, and for those people, whatever goes... This discussion is about modern dynamic sites, not even necessarily web 2.0.
     
besson3c  (op)
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Dec 2, 2006, 10:27 PM
 
Originally Posted by iomatic View Post
I learned hand-coding, but I like DW for rapid development. I still have to go in with TextMate, BBEdit or CSSEdit to work out some fine tuning, but I think it's great for fast writing of standard crap like "<!DOCTYPE…, <html></html>", etc., mass uploading, one-button uploading, including uploading dependencies (changed items only), full site/selective code, text or tag file search and replace, root-aware file moving, and of course WYSI(mostly)WYG, and rarely, templates, etc.

$.02


Maybe I'm a little weird since I'm also well entrenched in Unix such that the virtues of the mass uploading stuff you are describing aren't as much of a benefit to me since I have my own tools in place to handle that.
     
skalie
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Dec 3, 2006, 04:46 AM
 
Originally Posted by iomatic View Post
I think it's great for fast writing of standard crap like "<!DOCTYPE…, <html></html>"
Copy and paste from something I've made before and fully understand, or grab the header.inc.php file.

mass uploading, one-button uploading,
My ftp program uploads files, or am I missing something here?

Iincluding uploading dependencies (changed items only)
Usually edit live to site, but sounds good.

full site/selective code
wat dat????

text or tag file search and replace
Pretty much standard stuff in a text-editor.

root-aware file moving
Usually decalre the root path as a global variable, and use it throughout the site, which I believe should negate that feature.

Didn't mean to single you out by quoting you iomatic, but I am still looking for a decent reason to use Dreamweaver as opposed to a decent text editor.

It does check one's site for dead links, I've heard, which would be well handy, but apart from that I find that it loads too slow.

And, er, WYSIWYG until you open it in IE, if Adobe can come out with a version of Dreamweaver that can write cross browser compatible css code for postioning, I'll queue up all night in the snow to purchase it.
     
iomatic
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Dec 4, 2006, 01:08 PM
 
Like I said, I still hand-code, but once you set up a site in DW, it has some very good specific tools, without having to understand grep | into the real world. I'll expand on the positives:

1. Uploading a file will check to see if your css, js, or images and other embedded media have also been updated, and chuck those to the server as well. Live coding? Definitely not my style.

2. You can select certain directories, certain files, the whole site, or of course one document and do a search and replace, slightly quicker than BBEdit.

3. You can do a S&R on text-items only, or source code; not a big deal, but you can search for specific attributes in a tag and strip or replace, add more attributes, or strip or replace the whole tag, or add a parent tag, etc. Pretty versatile. So rather than grepping a big-ass statement, or doing multiple <this> and </this> S&R, you can use its F&R dialog. Slightly handier for HTML IMHO, but to each their own.

4. Root-aware file moving. Let's say you have hard-coded images (../../directory), css, js, includes, etc. You move the file in a different directory, or into a subdirectory. DW will then ask you if you want to change the links to work as well. BAM! Done. No S&R necessary.

5. CSS crutch. I can't for the life of me remember every single nuance of tag properties, nor every tag or every property, so I rely on DW reminding me of what I can use. That's not a big deal. But what is is seeing the tag hierarchy; what parent tags are associated with the sub-element. You can see if a font property has already been applied, and you can change or add an override pretty easily in the CSS palette. This is really handy so you don't over-code.

This setup works for me, and it certainly helps with rapid development. As before, I don't think DW is as much a plaything, as it is another set of tools, if you know how to use can only save you time. After all, time == money.


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skalie
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Dec 5, 2006, 04:03 AM
 
Thanks for the expansion, iomatic, you mention some nice features, and I think I will test out the css functionality in the very near future, in the interest of lessening the "over-coding" clean-up.

Guess there's a lot of luddite in me, afraid to let a piece of software play with my precious hand code, afraid of losing total control probably. It also annoys me that Dreamweaver always seems to want to know what my root directory is before letting me try out something, feels like an evasion of privacy.

Live coding does have one really cool advantage, hit "save" on the editor, then lean over and tap "refresh" on the browser, in my case, my iBook. That saves me about one click per edit.
     
besson3c  (op)
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Dec 5, 2006, 01:43 PM
 
Originally Posted by skalie View Post
Thanks for the expansion, iomatic, you mention some nice features, and I think I will test out the css functionality in the very near future, in the interest of lessening the "over-coding" clean-up.

Guess there's a lot of luddite in me, afraid to let a piece of software play with my precious hand code, afraid of losing total control probably. It also annoys me that Dreamweaver always seems to want to know what my root directory is before letting me try out something, feels like an evasion of privacy.

Live coding does have one really cool advantage, hit "save" on the editor, then lean over and tap "refresh" on the browser, in my case, my iBook. That saves me about one click per edit.

You don't need Dreamweaver to do the live coding thing you are describing, if this is what you meant?
     
skalie
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Dec 5, 2006, 01:50 PM
 
I realise that, I was replying to iomatic's "Live coding? Definitely not my style." comment.
     
iomatic
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Dec 5, 2006, 02:11 PM
 
I just have a 'live' Web server (as a backup measure) on my MacBook Pro, and use localhost/

Then upload when confident.
     
aleph_null
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Dec 11, 2006, 03:25 PM
 
I recently TA-ed a graduate level class that involved building a simple website for a design portfolio. We used Dreamweaver. There were varying degrees of competence with Dreamweaver and with computers in general, but for the most part, they wouldn't have been able to produce anything without Dreamweaver.

So for those folks who need something up on a website but have no background in html, coding, or anything like that, and who don't want to have any, Dreamweaver is still a good choice.

I agree that it is less useful for anyone doing serious web application-type work, which is becoming more akin to traditional software engineering, and hence requiring tools and skills from that domain.

-----

On that note, I'd be interested in everyone's take on my php-based replacement for Dreamweaver's templating facility. I've been working on it for a few years and using it as my main web-authoring tool, fixing it and adding features as the need arose. It's not been made publicly available, but I intend to do so as soon as I feel it's easy enough to install and get running in a variety of development environments.

If you have a moment, please take a look at its overview page at

http://immortalcookie.com/juniper

and I'd love to hear:
  • if my description of it makes sense
  • if this would be a valuable tool for you (especially you guys who code by hand)
  • if you would be interested in trying it out as a beta tester, of sorts

There is mention of an OS X front-end app for it, but that's not available and is realistically probably at least a year from being ready. I'm just interested in your reactions to the php rendering engine.

Thanks!
     
besson3c  (op)
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Dec 11, 2006, 05:26 PM
 
Originally Posted by aleph_null View Post
I recently TA-ed a graduate level class that involved building a simple website for a design portfolio. We used Dreamweaver. There were varying degrees of competence with Dreamweaver and with computers in general, but for the most part, they wouldn't have been able to produce anything without Dreamweaver.

So for those folks who need something up on a website but have no background in html, coding, or anything like that, and who don't want to have any, Dreamweaver is still a good choice.

I agree that it is less useful for anyone doing serious web application-type work, which is becoming more akin to traditional software engineering, and hence requiring tools and skills from that domain.

-----

On that note, I'd be interested in everyone's take on my php-based replacement for Dreamweaver's templating facility. I've been working on it for a few years and using it as my main web-authoring tool, fixing it and adding features as the need arose. It's not been made publicly available, but I intend to do so as soon as I feel it's easy enough to install and get running in a variety of development environments.

If you have a moment, please take a look at its overview page at

Immortal Cookie Software: Juniper

and I'd love to hear:
  • if my description of it makes sense
  • if this would be a valuable tool for you (especially you guys who code by hand)
  • if you would be interested in trying it out as a beta tester, of sorts

There is mention of an OS X front-end app for it, but that's not available and is realistically probably at least a year from being ready. I'm just interested in your reactions to the php rendering engine.

Thanks!


How does this compare with other PHP templating tools, such as Smarty?
     
aleph_null
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Dec 11, 2006, 07:34 PM
 
Good question and I wish I had any experience with Smarty so I could answer it well.

From looking at Smarty's website, it looks like they're comparable in functionality, though different in focus. Smarty is obviously more mature than Juniper and comes with a community of support. Juniper does not currently cache pages, though I personally haven't had any speed issues with it.

Maybe someone here can help with respect to Smarty's features.

It looks like the fundamental unit for Smarty-generated pages is the .tpl file while the element is the fundamental unit for Juniper. Elements are intended to be independent, reusable objects. .tpl files appear to be treated as snippets. Both, it appears, can be used either way. You can define several elements in one (XML) file, or spread them across several files.

Elements will very often contain other elements. It looks like in Smarty the same sort of thing can be achieved by using the include function in a .tpl file.

Elements' scope extends over directories below that in which they're defined (except for themes, which are the highest-level scope), so you define them in one place and use them anywhere within their scope by name. Their top-level definition can be overridden in subdirectories.

Juniper has built-in support for localization, theming, and client sensitivity. A single element can render in a different way depending on language, theme, and browser. I don't know how Smarty deals with those issues.

Also, you can fetch elements by name asynchronously (AJAX) in Juniper. Specify an object id and the element name you want (and any arguments/attributes on it), and call, for example:

Code:
juniper.asynch.swapContentIn( domObjectID, "newElement" );

And the most obvious difference would be the OS X front-end app, which, as I mentioned, doesn't actually exist yet. =)
     
besson3c  (op)
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Dec 11, 2006, 08:18 PM
 
I have some questions for you...

First of all, what is the benefit of using a third-party templating system such as Juniper or Smarty? I've been debating doing some research on this for my own projects, such as the Webkit, but I haven't really understood the need yet. I'd be happy to try Juniper out if you could sell me on this need... (hopefully this won't be a waste of your time, as I'm sure refining your sales pitch would provide you with some good practice anyway)

Also, here's an Ajax question for you (or anybody else):

Apparently it is not possible to make two simultaneous Ajax calls from the same handler without spawning a second thread? How would I make two simultaneous Ajax calls properly and have each thread return a result so that this is handled properly?

I hope my question makes sense, I'm not quite confident that I really understand the issues here fully....
     
aleph_null
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Dec 11, 2006, 11:25 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
First of all, what is the benefit of using a third-party templating system such as Juniper or Smarty?
Well, offhand ...

I suppose the most obvious advantage is not having to copy markup. Or propagate changes to the copies. Write it once, reuse it anywhere. Making a small change to a design or chunk of code that's used almost identically on 10 pages requires changing one bit of markup in one file, not 10. Your site is less error-prone, easier to develop, and much easier to maintain. Web development is painful enough as it is; I can't imagine not having some sort of templating system.

A second advantage is in separating content from presentation. By divorcing content from how it's presented you can manipulate one without breaking the other. CSS provides some degree of this on its own (cf CSS Zen Garden) but it's sort of like using a screwdriver to drive nails. It works, but using a hammer is a lot nicer. Theming and templating systems are hammers.

Another advantage is that as the authors and users improve the templating system, you'll often get new features for free. It took me an annoyingly long time to write a general-purpose "working" indicator for Juniper that behaved correctly when fetching multiple elements asynchronously. It's bundled in Juniper for free and that's work you don't have to do, nor do you have to care about how it works.

Speaking of ...

Also, here's an Ajax question for you (or anybody else):

Apparently it is not possible to make two simultaneous Ajax calls from the same handler without spawning a second thread? How would I make two simultaneous Ajax calls properly and have each thread return a result so that this is handled properly?

I hope my question makes sense, I'm not quite confident that I really understand the issues here fully....
Well, I've managed to avoid learning the lowl-level details of how AJAX works by using slightly higher-level abstractions. I use prototype in Juniper and it is possible to spawn several asynch requests and receive the results of each request independently. Each request is represented as a unique Javascript object, so in that sense, it's a different handler, but each handler can be an instance of the same function.

For example, at http://patternleaf.com/photography, when you click on a thumbnail, the exif data, photo, title, and caption are all separate asynch requests running at the same time. Which, er, is maybe not an awesome design decision, actually, but it does make the point. =)

I don't know if that answers your question ...
     
Millennium
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Dec 12, 2006, 09:14 AM
 
Most dynamic Websites today make use of templates for display purposes. The templates are basically HTML files with some code from another language (hopefully a very small amount of code) mixed into them. PHP, for example, is very easy to adapt to this style, while ASP and JSP make it easy to adapt code from .NET or Java for the same purposes.

DreamWeaver has a use here, in that it can generate the HTML on which these templates will be based. The additional code is then added to the files, and you're done. Truth be told, however, it's still at its best when it's used for rapid prototyping and not production-level code.
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MaxPower
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Dec 12, 2006, 11:32 AM
 
Another php-based template system to check out is CakePHP : the rapid development php framework. Its RoR-esque which is endearing and annoying, depending on who you talk to.
     
   
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