Friday, November 05, 2004

bagging dreamweaver - just don't

Nice article by Eric Meyer that explains the mysteries of collapsing margins in CSS.

Now, on to today's rant. I get a bit miffed when people bag Dreamweaver as though it was beneath them to even touch such a heinous beast; as though it was a badge of honour to handcode. Yeah, verily though shalt write the code and all of the code. All I can think is that these people have way too much time on their hands or only manage a site or two at a time.

I am completely all for handcoding and in fact that's what I started doing before WYSIWYG editors came up to scratch, and haven't really stopped since. If you don't know the code you can't fiddle with it successfully and heck, often it is faster to delve in and sort it out rather than selecting from menus. Don't just rely on your editor, whichever one you may use.

What I don't get it is there is a lack of understanding about how DW works. You actually get a choice of viewing your stuff in Design View or Code View, and hey, guess what? You can view and edit in both at the same time! Amazing. So, for beginners, Design View might get them started but for hardcore handcoders, it speeds up your development time being able to jump in and out of both views with nary a fuss.

It's extra cheese when you manage huge sites of more than 100 pages, or multiple sites.

In my case, I develop online learning modules which I've set up in a hierarchical structure - each new module links up the tree to common images and styles, while having it's own img directory. DW's site management features make maintaining these a breeze - hundreds of pages that I can update at the touch of button with no databases or backend in sight.

In the past, CSS was a bit of bugbear with DW in that it did not render it correctly in Design View but in MX with DesignTime stylesheets this was alleviated somewhat. With MX 2004 the problems are much fewer. I tend to write my CSS by hand but still within the DW environment - mainly because I like doing it and I don't lose the skills.

Other benefits of using DW can be seen when you have to convert existing stuff to XHTML and Standards compliance. DW does the chunky conversion part for you, and then you can clean up missing alt tags etc by using the W3C validator. It's a relatively easy process and one I just did for a module with over 100 pages. Using DWs advanced Search and Replace functionality made it a cinch to catch all the little errors and mass update them in one fell swoop.

Time is of the essence and another nifty feature that keeps you rolling along is the fact that you can edit images and Flash content directly from DW. Select an image and click Edit with Fireworks and the original PNG opens before your very eyes; do your thang and click Done and the image is updated in DW; the same applies for Flash objects. You probably wouldn't think such a thing would reduce working time by much, but it does - truly!

So I guess you can tell I love Dreamweaver. I pretty much love all my Macromedia products and with increased support for Accessibility and Standards in each new version, things can only get better.

My advice to any newbie is to learn the code as this gives you the ability to use the full throttle power of the beast that is... Dreamweaver!

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