Playing with Dreamweaver MX 2004 | September 18, 2003

I've been playing around with DWMX 2004 today to check out it's new features. I started off by opening up a few CSS based websites to see how they rendered. The WHSmith site I just finished rendered fine. Much better than in DWMX. However the message website looked pretty much as bad as it did in DWMX. Considering they are both very similar in terms of layout, I was a little perplexed about the differences. So the CSS rendering is a little better than before, but by no means perfect.

Next I had a look at the new browser bug checking feature. This was something pushed at the recent Macromedia event in Brighton, despite this functionality having been in GoLive for some years.

Running some (validated) sites thought the browser checker came up with some interesting issues. Firstly apparently Netscape 6, Opera 6.0 and 7.0 and Safari don't support the title attribute when applied to an image, something which surprised me a little. Secondly apparently the name attribute is required for input tags in Mozilla 1.0, Safari 1.0 and Netscape 7.0. Again, I thought name was deprecated in place of ID's but I guess not.

I then had a play with the CSS code hinting feature. I've bee a longtime actionscripter, so love the code hinting in Flash MX. I was looking forward to CSS code hinting and wasn't disappointed. It's a great memory jog if you cant remember certain styles/attributes and it takes some of the grind out of typing. Generally very handy. I basically use DWMX as a glorified text editor with a built in FTP client and a really good find and replace mechanism, so this is the feature I'll get the most use out of.

The revised CSS panel is nice. Now, when you click on a style it opens up the relevant stylesheet and jumps to that particular style. It's a small thing i know, but quite handy. In DWMX I'd find myself constantly going to the site window to open up a stylesheet, making an amend and then closing it down again, so being able to do this from the design panel will hopefully speed things up a little.I quite like the fact that the body properties panel now sets styles rather than display specific html attributes. However it's a shame that all this is written into the page and not as an external style sheet. The same is true when adding text formatting. It's now all done using CSS (not font tags) but it's still all done in the document and not in an external style sheet. This could end up being a big pain, especially for people not used to CSS as they could end up with styles all over the place.

I have to admit that I was a little disappointed in performance. It was actually a lot slower than using DWMX. This may have been because I had the browser bug checking feature on but still there were times when it was painfully slow. However it hasn't crashed my OS once yet (touch wood) so that's a big improvement on my 1-2 daily crashes on DWMX.

However overall I liked DWMX 2004. Not a major upgrade and no real killer features. The UI has been tweaked to improve workflow. CSS support is better, but by no means perfect. A few nice little touches have been added. I especially like the fact that the file browser has been integrated into the main panel set's rather than floating around on it's own (I think this was just a Mac thing though).

I probably wouldn't advise people to rush out and buy it, but if you currently use DWMX and do a lot of CSS work, it's probably worth getting the upgrade just for the code hinting and marginally improved rendering.

I'd give it a 6/10.

Posted at September 18, 2003 6:56 PM

Comments

jon hicks said on September 18, 2003 7:05 PM

I read that the rendering inside DWMX 2004 is somehow handled by the copy of Opera that comes with it, which in the Mac version is 6. Not really up to 7’s standards. Shame they ddin’t choose something like Mozilla…

I like the sound of CSS code hinting - that would be worth the upgrade for me!

Jeff Croft said on September 18, 2003 9:17 PM

I’m not sure why they would choose Opera for rendering. Seems like a silly choice to me. There are at least two options that would have been simpler, cheaper, and better:

1. Use Gecko. This way, the rendering is the same in DWMX04 on either platform, and is handled by what is generaly considered the “best” standards-compliant browsers with regards to rendering.

2. Use IE on Mac and WebCore (Safari) on Mac. MS lets developers embed the IE engine in Windows apps, and Apple does the same with the Safari engine (WebCore) on Mac. This way, you’d have the most popular browser on each platform as the renderer for DWMX04.

Either of these options seem more logical than using Opera, and I believe either of them would have been free to Macromedia, as well.

Andy Budd said on September 19, 2003 9:06 AM

What would be good is the ability to choose which rendering engine DWMX 2004 uses. That way you could almost browser test from within the app.

stewart said on September 19, 2003 5:02 PM

Hello,

I did a search on google and came across your site, and was wondering if you could help. I have upgraded from DW3 to DWMX2004 (trial version) and can’t for the life of me get the layers to work with CSS as I could in DW3.

In DW3 I simply created my style, clicked on the style in the floating palette and it appeared in the correct position, and all the formatting was kept in the CSS and not in the HTML.

What I’m getting at is… how the heck do you do the same in DWMX2004 so that the formatting stays in the CSS and not in the HTML. Everytime I create a style I cannot get it on to the page….

I hope this makes sense…it makes perfect sense to me.

Great site by the way

Cheers

Stewart

Andy Baker said on September 19, 2003 6:14 PM

I haven’t spent a huge amount of time with MX 2004 but the browser compatibility checker struck me as problematic. There doesn’t seem any attempt to categorise issues by severity. Using unsupported attribute can often be a way of ensuring backwards compatibility but they are flagged as errors all the same. I know you can tell DWMX to not check certain tags but the control didn’t seem fine-grained enough to be that useful.

Basically if you know enough about HTML to interpret the compatibility warnings properly then you probably don’t need them and if you need the warnings you probably won’t have sufficient HTML knowledge to know which ones need to be dealt with.

Back to testing in VMware and Basilisk!

Johan said on September 19, 2003 10:40 PM

I’m mighty dissapointed. Complex css-p sites now look worse than in the earlier version of DW. My biggest hope was to at least have some use for the preview pane in DWMX2004.
I also totally agree with Andy. To have the ability to choose a browser for the preview area would be the absolute best.

Anywho, one nice bonus in DWMX2004 is that the whole “halo”-style of macromedia.com is available as a template with all the css, javascript and images included. Very good as a starting point for a two or three column layout.

jon hicks said on September 22, 2003 10:30 AM

I’ve just upgraded, and the speed is definitely improved, the css code hinting is a revelation, and generally the interface seems to be tidier and neater. However, as mentioned by others, the in-dreamweaver preview is lets it down badly. Maybe someone will come up with a hack or extension to allow other browsers? Especially with other OS X apps tkaing advantage of the WebKIt Framework from Safari 1, its shame Dreamweaver doesn’t.

Matt said on October 15, 2003 11:18 AM

I believe the reasons they chose Opera are thus:

1. it is common across platforms
2. Safari is only Mac
3. IE has been discontinued on Mac and was vastly different to it’s Windows implementation anyway
4. Gecko is a pig to do anything with and is soon to be supported only by the Mozilla group

Opera therefore is the most sensible choice. Though I too would like OS specific browser support for inline checking (Mac: Safari, Gecko?. PC: IE, Gecko?).

Patrick Schriner said on November 5, 2003 8:59 PM

The Mozilla engine is not really good as an embedded engine (at least in Topstyle, which is about the only Application I know that makes good use of it).

The “TypeAhead” (or what is this “find-in-site” called?) interferes with normal User Interaction.

Moreover itīs first loading is quite slow.

And IMHO Opera 7 has the best rendering engine (except for some DOM2 Javascript things, but that hardly matters in a WYSIWYG Tool).

Rodge said on August 9, 2005 8:53 AM

Well, due to a recent machine switch i upgraded to Dreamweaver mx 2004 for mac osx and i have to say I’m very diisapointed with how slow it is, how often it crashes, how often it reverts back to old code and doesn’t accept changes, how often library items and template file sunexpectedly change. Oh and the FTP process is as slow and bad as ever. The macromedia patch updates didnt help either.