By Kevin Yank

Dreamweaver CS4: A Powerful Tool for an Imperfect World

By Kevin Yank

With the just-released Dreamweaver CS4, Adobe has conceded that web design has moved on. No longer are designers content to limit themselves to what can be built with WYSIWYG tools; instead, Dreamweaver CS4 shifts focus to providing powerful tools for code-savvy front-end designers like you and me! With the WebKit rendering engine at its core, Dreamweaver CS4 embraces best practice in every aspect of client-side design. If only it went as far on the server side.

Up to and including Dreamweaver CS3, the program was clearly conceived to protect web designers from all the scary code that goes into building a site. It let you generate HTML markup using toolbar buttons and property inspectors instead of tags and attributes. It let you style that markup using wizards and panels instead of CSS rules and properties. The Code View was there if you needed it, but the program did its best to make sure you didn’t.

In recent years, this had become a losing battle as more and more designers needed to take control of their code. It didn’t just matter what the finished product looked like; designers had started to care about what the code looked like too. Dreamweaver’s helpful attempts to hide code behind simple tools became a hindrance more than a help.

Clearly, Adobe has been paying attention. Although the WYSIWYG Design View is still there, as are the panels and wizards, Dreamweaver CS4 adds support for a whole new way of working—one that is largely code-oriented.

Screenshot: the Related Files Bar

Open an HTML (or PHP, ColdFusion, JSP, ASP, ASP.NET) file in Dreamweaver CS4, and the new Related Files bar instantly displays every other code file in your site that is used to display that page in a browser (or assemble it on the server). Switch on the Live Preview, and instead of the dumb WYSIWYG view of your page, you’ll see the fully-rendered page with all server-side and JavaScript-powered features intact.

Screenshot: Live View

Powered by the open source WebKit engine at the heart of browsers like Safari and Google Chrome, the Live Preview is not merely a preview, but a code navigation tool: double-click any element on the page, and the code panel will jump to the HTML code responsible for generating it. If that code is contained in another file, that file is automatically selected in the Related Files bar so that you can edit it without leaving the main file (or its Live Preview) behind!

Screenshot: select any element, click the crosshairs and get the code related to that item

It gets better: Alt-click (⌘⌥-click on the Mac) any element in the Live Preview, and up pops the Code Navigator with a breakdown of the CSS rules that contribute to the element’s appearance! Click any of these to jump straight to the relevant line of code, where you can make adjustments and watch the Live Preview update instantly.


How the Other Half Lives

With its emphasis on hardcore front-end coding, Dreamweaver CS4 deserves the attention of an entire generation of web designers who thought they had outgrown it. For the first time in many years, Dreamweaver is once again a tool for developers on the leading edge—not those left behind.

That isn’t to say Dreamweaver CS4 is perfect. As it embraces and empowers the current generation of front-end coders, leading-edge server side developers are left in the dust. Near as I can tell, this is due to a fundamental assumption in the application: that the URL structure of your site corresponds to its file structure.

In a simpler time, every distinct page design on your site was represented by an HTML file—or a server-side script file that generated HTML. If you wanted to view that page in a browser, you typed the file’s name in the URL. If you wanted to edit the page, you opened the file in Dreamweaver.

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t built a site that way in a few years. These days, sites are built using powerful server-side frameworks, which dynamically translate URLs into actions to be taken, data to be queried, or—in some cases—HTML view templates to be displayed. In such systems, the names of the files responsible for generating HTML pages usually have little in common with the URLs used to request them. For example, the URL path /article/12/page/3 might map to a template file named /templates/article.tpl.

Out of the box, Dreamweaver cannot deal with this kind of codebase. If you open (say) a PHP script that actually handles browser requests, Dreamweaver’s Related Files bar will not be able to find any of the HTML, CSS, or JavaScript code that make up the pages of your site. If you open up an HTML template, Dreamweaver’s Live View will not be able to figure out the right URL to request to get a page that uses that template.

Watch that First Step…

Dreamweaver has always been a tool for an imperfect world. In previous versions, it aimed to support developers stuck in the old way of doing things who shied away from the code that went into the sites they built.

With CS4, Dreamweaver has taken one step out of the ocean and onto the dry land of modern web development. It recognizes that today’s leading developers care about code, and want tools that help them write it, not hide it from them. If you have the luxury of working on static sites, preparing initial mockups for later integration with server-side code, or if you too have only taken the first step into modern web development, Dreamweaver CS4 could be the perfect tool for you. Sadly, I’ll have to wait for Adobe to plant both feet firmly in the now.

It’s a shame, really. Dreamweaver CS4’s front-end coding tools are so powerful that I wish every web developer could use them! I can honestly say that it has been nearly ten years since I would have considered using Dreamweaver myself, but I really want to use Dreamweaver CS4.

Perhaps this gap is something that could be bridged with a slick Dreamweaver extension. Call it the Live URL Mapper. With it, developers could configure the URLs that Live Preview used to request HTML template files, and the static resources (image, CSS and JavaScript files) they referenced. Whether this is possible depends on how extensible Dreamweaver CS4’s Live Preview mechanism is under to hood.

If not, developers using today’s cutting edge server-side frameworks will have to wait for Dreamweaver CS5. With such a strong set of client-side tools, it only makes sense for Adobe to turn its focus to the world of modern server-side frameworks. If Adobe does anywhere near as good a job there as it has supporting modern front-end development, it will turn a lot of heads—including mine.

  • Despite the limitations you point out, it sounds like in the initial basic template creation stage that you could probably save yourself going back & forth between Firefox/Firebug and DW and do it all inside DW.

  • Triomatt

    Sounds like a worthy upgrade and DW CS4 continues to fill one, if not more, niches in a developers toolkit.

  • Mark

    I have used DW for quite a while developing html and ColdFusion sites. I can confirm that DW does in fact translate ColdFusion includes to some degree inside of DW’s WYSIWYG editor. If you have a Remote Development Connection (RDC) Established with the server you can in fact use a live preview to view your dynamic data as well. I am not sure how this works with PHP as that is not a language I use. I have stumbled across extensions in the past that added functionality to DW for increased PHP support. So stuff does exist. Perhaps some real DW gurus can add to this article.

    As a user of DW for many years, I can recommend it over many of the third party apps that are dedicated applications. DW’s templates and libraries help speed up development and maintenance of both static and dynamic sites. And the snippets library is far more useful than any competitor. I can go on, but rather than sound like an Adobe evangelist or fanboy I will stop here.

    Great article for those thinking of getting started, but I would have rather read a more in depth review. Perhaps you can really give it a trial run and report back what you like or don’t like. Maybe a breakdown of useful new features?

  • jamiemcd

    I’m curious, what tool do you currently use, Kevin? I use Eclipse (or rather, Flex Builder) for Actionscript and I like it alot for that purpose. I’ve always used Dreamweaver (only in code view) for PHP, HTML, CSS, and Javascript. I’ve heard about PHPEclipse and ZendStudio, but never tried them.

  • Scott


    I’ve been waiting for a major upgrade in DW for some time; still using DW8. It looks like Adobe is on the right track. Do you have any information on the editing feature that allows users/site owners/non-developers to edit text or other non-protected content? . . . Quasi CMS? I’m a bit fuzzy on what or how this feature might work.

    Power Web Writer Search Engine Optimiztion Service

  • CS4 runs much slower than CS3 — if you have a slower computer you should consider this before getting it. Even something simple where no rendering has to happen, like scrolling through pages of code is much slower.

  • bmilhoan

    It might be that I am not part of your intended audience but when I read articles that have this sort of elitist tone I cringe. I’m sure it was unintended. I don’t know how I’d prove it but I have to think that, at least in this stage of internet-based communication, there are more web pages created and edited by people with incomplete knowledge of coding let alone “cutting edge server-side frameworks”. Your choice of phrasing (“developers stuck in the old way of doing things”, “Dreamweaver is once again a tool for developers on the leading edge—not those left behind.”) points out a bias that I really have to hope is not prevalent in the industry. It’s almost like you believe that internet-based communication and the tools required should be left to the highly skilled. I’ve used, and taught others to use, Dreamweaver expressly because it can be used by us with the luxury to work on static, old-fashioned sites AND you of the other half. It is a grown-up tool for as many folks who find it useful. As far as I can tell, your beef with it is limited to a missing function that a plug-in could handle if one existed. I suspect that someone out there will hear your cry and offer it.

    What Dreamweaver has done and continues to do well is cut down the amount of crap I have to wade through just to get the page up. The File pallet that you lament is what keeps me and many of my kind sane. Without advanced coding skills we frequently make typing errors and it helps us prevent yet another drain on our time. I’ve been waiting for a long time for the Live View feature. My faculty and staff look at me with glassy eyes when I tell them they have to edit their pages without the benefit of resident CSS files because it means that they have to load them onto the server just to check to see if they put the content in the correct div.
    I read this article because people ask me all the time if they should lay out the money to upgrade. The content of the article helps me make the solid case for yes. I just won’t be able to point interested parties to it because it will only piss them off.

  • Ronin701

    Rumor has it that in CS5 they are going to concentrate more on the server side of things, we’ll see, I primarily use CS3 as my IDE, I’m not as big a fan of the frameworks out there as you are. CS4 is still a bit to buggy for me, for example if you have 2 css files open and try to highlight and copy one rule from one page to the other it highlights the whole page and you end up with the whole css file copied , very irritating, another thing I noticed is that if you go into code view and add another field to a select statement the bindings panel doesn’t update to reflect the new field……….
    Some of the new spry and js widgets are nice but as I said I’m still working mostly in CS3 and I’m not that wowed by CS4 do to it’s bugs………….

  • Marc

    bmilhoan – Thank you for saying precisely what I have felt for years.

    I’ve been using Dreamweaver since version 3 (not CS3 – version 3 from about 6 or 7 years ago. The program has always had code view and I spend most of my time there. The site management benefits of using DW as a professional tool have been good from the early days, and have only improved with time. Custom site-wide templates are far better than individual unmanaged pages, and reduce update time dramatically.

    Sure, any idiot can attempt to use a WYSWIG editor and produce a very bad web site in the process, but likewise, anyone can buy a wrench at WalMart and pretend to be a mechanic. Does that make the wrench a bad tool? I code pure HTML sites with rich CSS and understand the box model, cascade, specificity, etc. pretty darned well (always learning), and have often been offended when a solid tool like Dreamweaver is blamed for bad web sites.

    That all said, Dreamweaver does generate some pretty stinky Javascript which I stopped using years ago.

    There is a saying – “a poor workman quarrels with his tools.” I have no quarrel with Dreamweaver.
    — Marc

  • conticreative

    I have been using Dreamweaver since version 8 for Dynamic integration and even back then it was a superior tool if used properly. Once upon a time, I too believed that you could design web pages without knowing much of the code, but that’s an impossibility. However, Dreamweaver, even a version as primitive as MX, can really be integrated quite well in a dynamic workflow. Sure, if it had a few more tools to “understand” dynamic websites better it would be nice, but I am not so sure if that’s even possible and I think it would be cumbersome.

    The workflow I use is quite simple: I run the site in the browser and perform a “View source” (it helps if you use firefox and set it to open the code in DW). Once the code is saved locally (using the “root” button in the save dialog box makes things snappy) it’s a simple matter of linking the CSS files of the local template and make the changes.
    Where DW really helps is the ease with which you can jump around the page and rapidly go to the corresponding html code and then css code. It saves loads of time.

    CS4 has added a wrinkle in the workflow that I am not sure I understand yet.
    It used to be that when I did a “View source” if I didn’t save the file near the local site’s template root and I linked the css files manually, DW would give an error when trying to click on a CSS rule to open the CSS file. And that makes sense. The page was still relatively linked to the server’s mapping.
    CS4 strangely seems to know where the CSS files are and opens the right files without trouble even if I don;t save the source file. In fact, the path in the is totally wrong (by default, it saves in the “temp” folder), yet, I can skip the save and link step and edit the ;local css file directly. I’ll have to look into that.

    In conclusion, CS4 is a step in the right direction, but DW always could be used as a powerful IDE and the Graphic view was always a great asset to the dynamic developer. Just not in the way its creators intended.

    By the way, I use Joomla 1.5 but I have used the same system with scores of other CMS and e-commerce packages. Check out my blog at: for some articles on how to use Dreamweaver with Joomla and other dynamic scripts.

  • jimatjude

    I too am one of those “old” guys, having used Dreamweaver from Version 2. In fact it may have been version one but it is long enough ago that I do not remember. I own and occassionally use CS3, but just for specific tasks. Due to the nature of my clients and employers I drifted from static html sites to asp sites to php sites. When doing PHP Dreamweaver was the only tool, whether the sites were totally, partially, or almost no database driven. At the same time, the early models were poor at and as I found myself doing more and more, I found myself moving deeper and deeper into Visual Studio (shudder?!). Your article suggests I will continue to use VS and not bother to upgrade to CS4. Maybe you just saved me a couple of $$. Or, perhaps I will discover the benefits of Fireworks, Photoshop, and maybe Flash demand a move to CS4 and I will end up with Dreamweaver. But your article saves me a lot of time not having to learn things the long way. Thanks.

  • RudyMentary

    I can empathize with both the hard core and the practical Dreamweaver user. I too am trying to decide if I should upgrade, but the article still has me undecided. My decision is based on the entire CS4 Web Premium suite, so I suppose I need to scour reviews about the other apps.

    I would welcome a discussion of the use of frameworks (cakePHP for example) versus developing PHP in Dreamweaver.

  • Claire

    As far as I am concerned any WYSIWYG Editor are piles of cr***, including DreamWeaver.

    I have NEVER used any of these kinds of cra*** editors as they create more problems than they solve.

    6 years ago, as a newbie to the Internet and HTML web design, I hated those Editors and they were very constricting. So, I took about 2 years and learned to code (X)HTML, CSS, and some basic PHP Templating without using those draconian editors.

    What this allowed me to do was have complete control over the look, feel and coding of the websites that I created. I do NOT, for a nano-second believe that I am the Ultimate Web Designer, but by hand-coding, I have complete control over ALL aspects of my sites.

    All the Best,
    To Health Wealth & Success

  • msplant

    I have been using Dreamweaver CS4 for a month now and I am pretty impressed! I love the new file includes at the top that allow me to easily change my CSS and Javascript without navigating to the files themselves. While I agree with you about using frameworks, I have been building templates for a while now and truly am glad to be back in Dreamweaver! Between site sync and the file tools they got me sold. I also wish it would push all my files on save not just the one that’s open. Correct me if I am wrong.

    Bravo Adobe!

  • conticreative

    I have t take issue with Claire’s comment right before mine. I have been dealing with this mindset for years now and I strongly believe that those that like Claire dismiss the idea of a visual editor IDE are missing out on a great deal of productivity tools that I know make me a lot faster at what I do and also make me better.

    I will agree that no one in their right mind would design a website (or I should say “Should”) with a visual editor. Dreamweaver or whatever. In fact, I am on the advisory board for a local college and I was distraught when I learned that that’s the way they teach web design there (the coding part is under the programming department. Web design under the design department and the two don’t like each other. The students suffer and after 4 years they only have a vague idea on what HTML is. Let alone JavaScript and other server technologies).

    As I was saying, you’d have to be a masochist to use Dreamweaver’s graphic editor to design web sites.
    However, there is no need to be a snob. For me the name of the game is to be as effective as possible and as I outlined in my previous post, I see no reason why I should parse through 3000 lines of code to find an element on a page when DW allows me to simply click on it in visual mode and it takes me right to the part of the code behind it (assuming you are working in split view).

    To boot, after it takes me there I can then click on the CSS properties and it iopen the right CSS file for me right at the spot I need to edit.

    Not only that, but it gives me a list of dependencies for any specific css rule so I can easily see the parent rules and once again jump to them if necessary.

    Now, I can do pretty much the same thing using the Firefox web developer toolbar and in fact I will use that system about half the time. But the ability to go into DW and do it there saves me a ton of time.

    I should also point out that I am really good at doing exactly the same thing in a pure text editor with Firefox as a supporting player. In fact, I have run several tests and I made a point of learning how to work that way so I could teach it to those that do not have DW. I am about 50% as effective as I am with DW and the visual view.

    Especially with the kind of development I do, with Joomla, WordPress, Drupal, Typo, etc. Some of the files I have to work with at some point or another will have multiple CSS files and lot’s of stuff going on in them whereas if I could not visualize the elements I need to work with it would be almost impossible for me to work at all.
    The search window can only do so much. It won’t tell you the CSS parents nor it will take you to it. Dreamweaver does. It will also tell me f I have duplicated a rule in another css file.

    In fact, I sometimes I even use the graphic view almost in the way it was intended.Let’s say that I have to make a change in the HTML code instead of the CSS. That means I have to first figure out some good HTML in place of the existing one, then I have to search and find which file in the CMS outputs that code, go there and change it. DW here saves me time a couple of ways:

    1) I can change the HTML and in view mode I can tell if it’s halfway decent saving me a trip to the browser.
    2) With global site search I can take a snippet of code and look for it in the most likely place in the source files
    3) (I know, I said a “couple) I like the code completion feature where I can limit ,my typing and DW will suggest the most likely snippets.

    Frankly, if there is a tool that allows me to be more effective and faster, I don’t see any reason not to use it. “Code snobs” were around even back in the days when DW 1 came out, but even back then I was able to use DW as a powerful text editor (and no one can tell me it isn’t) and relay on the split view to see things like colors, margins and padding. Things I still relay on today just because it is more intuitive.

    Naturally, DW only does a half decent representation of how things look in a real browser, but sometimes that’s all you need to move on to the net task.

    The new Live View is actually kind of nice. One thing I have been using it for so far is to style drop down menus. I can change the CSS in one window and see the change take place in the other half of the split. Not half bad.

    My suggestion to old and new HTML jockeys is to reconsider your workflow and see if DW might just give you that extra productivity boost you are not getting from your text only IDE. Above all, don’t let a misplaced sense of superiority dismiss a tool that thousands of professionals use everyday.

  • I only started in the world of web in 2005, with no real idea about how anything worked. I started out with notepad, which I used for a whole year before getting my first job as a frontend developer.

    I now use dreamweaver, just the code highlighting makes my life much easier, athough I do use the design view as a navigator. With out the design view I would waste alot of time, looking through pages of code. I think Dreamweaver works just fine for frontend development, I have not really come accross a better tool for the job.

    The other tool I use in conjunction with Dreamweaver is Firebug, with out it I would be entirely lost. It sounds like Dreamweaver CS4 has incorporated this, I would really like to see if CS4 improves my productivity. As a frontend developer I spend more and more time coding with jquery, also having this displayed within Dreamweaver CS4 would stop me having to switch between programs.

    However my job role has progressed into a php developer for which I still use Dreamweaver although I am considering switching to php eclipse. It is a real shame that Adobe could have really cleaned up and kept everything within one package. This would surely save a lot of time and effort.

    I will definetely be trying out CS4, it would be great if it had other rendering engines, ie6, ie7 and mozilla, imagine only having one program running for web development.

  • christos

    I have read and can see both sides of the argument above. I had a look at the beta version of DW and saw enough in that to upgrade immediately. Ok, I’m no spring chicken, I have trouble remembering syntax in the various different codes, which, without DW would slow me up immensely. I have been a Kevin Yank and Sitepoint fan for a long time and, am a tad disappointed in him sneering down at the rest of us from his high coding ivory tower, and the same goes for the rest of the geeky-coders with their boxy web pages so loved only by themselves, diversity, the human race is famous for it, lets have more of it, live and let live and less of the snobbery. Power to Adobe – Dreamweaver CS4 I love it :)

  • I was just reading some more comments, I fully agree with conticreative, I just dont understand your commment Claire. Whether or not Dreamweaver has WYSIWYG functionality, it does not have to be used. I personally would not even know how to use it.

    Dreamweaver is a very advanced text editor with lots of added features like completing your css or html attributes, or adding in special characters. I mean who knows the code for a TM or an em dash? Anyone who does know this should really consider, getting out and socializing, it is an up and coming trend.

    There is no way I would employ someone who insisted on using notepad, as I know that person would be wasting productivity by avoiding dreamweaver.

  • nightwatchman

    At school we used Dreamweaver to learn how to code! The teacher told us to mess with the stuff in the Graphic View and watch what happened in the Code View of the split window in order to understand what the code actually did.

    Dreamweaver was our teacher, it was not a perfect teacher, but no matter how much it screwed things up occasionally, it is still a fond memory of my introduction to web stuff and it remains a valid tool for who ever can get some use out of it.

    Code snobbery sucks, bragging about having certain abilities, it’s like putting the alternatives down in order to bolster some underlying feeling of inadequacy in another department….

  • nightwatchman

    As someone who has far more ability ensuring the aesthetics and content of the website are delivered as required by the client than text only coding, I could not exist without a wysiwyg editor.

    I gather the needs of the client, bang up a site in dreamweaver, or actually rapidweaver is even more able to completely release me from focusing on the code, run it by the client and if we’re heading in the right direction, get my mate (who is totally munted when it comes to design) to write the code, which he can do while watching the morning news and eating his Cornflakes.

    I help him mock up sites he has to do, the wysiwyg editor is, it is plain to see, an invaluable link in the chain. Remarkably, Rapidweaver manages to punch out fully compliant code about ninety percent of the time, it cost me about seventy bucks and pays for itself over and over again. I could pay someone over and over again to write code instead….

  • cycleboba

    What would be some examples of what you refer to as “today’s cutting edge server-side frameworks”?

  • I started out aobut 8 yrs ago using an HTML editor with code completion, syntax highlighting, and some snippets. Then I moved on to Macromedia’s Homesite – the forerunner of DW – that came bundled with TopSite for CSS.

    I still use Homesite but not Topsite or Topsite pro because of the uncluttered simplicity and the fact that I can customize it to meet my needs. Code completion and the ability to store code snippets keeps my productivity on par with others.

    I’ve tried various version of DW up to CS3 and will try CS4. But it seems so cluttered with things that will slow my productivity. I want complete control over the css and html and not have it completed for me. Also, because I use CMSes, I usually building one or two templates per project, not several static pages. I think after reading this review, CS4 is tempting to old school hand coders like me, especially if it stays out of my way…

  • kousik

    Guys just hang on…the subject is Dw CS4. its certainly not about your knowledge or productivity.its about building a site and tools to build u really think a handcoder will finish his coding before someone who is good with Dw…??

    So better agree on this.

    Dw rocks..

  • Anonymous

    The old version has a bonjour service in it which can be removed but for the CS4, the bonjour service is built in the core of the application and that is not nice. if anyone what to know about bonjour service, it come from APPLE – file sharing, all iTune products have it but I don’t why it is necessary in CS4. It may use to ‘spyware’ on users. Well, you can use Google to search for bonjour service and let see what you get.

  • mihaidoru

    Excellent article, congrats!
    I’ve used DW and still have DW3 for HTML/CSS. For server-side I use Eclipse PDT.
    I agree with you that the enhancements in DW4 are a blast but just need to be taken a step further.

    The current solution I employ for what DW4 is proposing, is using Firebug for front-end debug and other tools for server-side.

  • DAZ

    I agree that anything that gives productivity gains is useful, but you can get all the stuff that DW does from open source software.

    Any decent text editor does code completion and source code highlighting? And Firebug already does what this new version of dreamweaver does (ie hover over an element and see the underlying styles – you can even live edit them).

    Add to this that DW still has some quirks (such as the the awful classes it produces like .class1 and the aforementioned support for server-side urls) and you are paying a lot of money for an inferior product.

    It just seems a waste of money … but, you pays your money ….


  • Don at Adobe


    My name is Donald Booth and I work on the Dreamweaver team at Adobe. First I want to thank Kevin, for a fair and honest article. We have been watching the comments with some interest and wanted to touch on some points.

    First, not only is the article fair and balanced (and please excuse the Fox parlance, but it is apt), but the comment thread is as well. We try to stay out of the “notepad is better’ debate; we all use what works best for us.

    Some points on features: Live View is a great step for DW,cutting the number of Preview in Browser trips required in basic development. It was a lot of work to get it in and now that we had it for a while (of course we see it long before you do), we have had time to work with it and discover its strengths and weaknesses.
    You discussed extending the mechanism to recognize the required complexity to work within frameworks. We recognize this limitation and are working on something to enable this workflow.
    We have been looking at content frameworks for a while now, WordPress, etc, and looking into how we can support that workflow: styling templates, multi-level include support, etc. One of the difficulties we have it trying to pick features like that are things like:

    Which framework to support? It’s a lot of work to build in support and it makes sense for us to wait and see which ones rise to the top. For instance, in the AJAX world, jQuery looks to be the de facto standard for javascript frameworks and we can look into how we can better support that. If we had picked a framework to support 2 years ago when we started CS4, we may have chosen poorly. When we build something into the product, it is going to be there for a few years at least and we want to be correct and relevant.

    I should mention that if defined, Live view uses the Testing Server (from the site definition) get process dynamic code, so if the testing server is configured properly, these frameworks should render in Live view correctly.

    To touch on DAZ’s comment. We did a lot of work in CS4 on the CSS PI and we are pleased that .style1 .style2 is a thing of the past. It pained us as much as you over these last few years. The CSS PI is an interesting study in striking a balance between keeping DW a lean productivity tool and assisting those that don’t know CSS well to start doing things the correct way. We spent a lot of time on that and feedback is welcome.

    On Server Behaviors and the dynamic side of DW, we’re looking into how people are working on the server-side today and what tools they need to do it.
    When we talk to customers, we find that PHP is the clearly dominant language for server side folks. Knowledge like that helps us focus where to put our resources.
    It comes down, as always, to economics. Do we do server behaviors or do we figure out how to do something like Firebug within DW? What is best for our wide range of users?
    Threads like these are important to us because we get honest feedback from a number of users.

    Scott, were you perhaps referring to In Context Editing? Info on ICE can be found here:

    Ronin: to your bugs, I was unable to reproduce them, but didn’t have a lot to go on. Feel free to contact me with more details.
    Same for you, conticreative. I am not sure what the CSS thing is you referenced.

    I hope I have touched upon some of the issues/concerns brought up in the article and in this thread. We do try to keep our thumb on the pulse and honestly, the number one way we decide on features is by customer request. So please, request away.

    If you have questions or feedback, I am



  • conticreative

    It is great of Don, from Adobe to stop by. It’s good to know they take note of us users.

    Hey Don, one improvement that hit me like a ton of bricks: I believe DW should build on its strengths and one of DW greatest strengths it’s its “Search & Replace” features. I am yet to find an IDE with quite the same sets of features. However, the other day I realized that I do far more “quicky” searches in the same document than I do search and replace within the document or site searches, So it downed on me:
    How col would t be to have a search box built right into a toolbar that searches the document in focus?
    It would speed up my workflow greatly.

    As an alternative, it would be almost as good if we could dock the search window to one of the palettes.

    Have you guys ever considered something like it?

  • Before DW embraces any specific development frameworks, it first needs to assist the developer with some very important things:

    – code autocomplete – HTML and CSS autocomplete is awesome – if that could be replicated with variable and function autocomplete it would make a massive difference

    – I think the second problem is more complex, but is directly related to autocompleting code – that is for the current document to understand the structure of the application. DW should read other included files and detect when you are doing something that won’t work, like using a function that is not declared.

    – and if you really want to impress us, syntax validation

  • Don at Adobe

    Conticreative, I think Find and Replace might be one of my favorite features in the product, esp the stuff you can do with Specific Tag.
    But honestly, every time I invoke F&R, I am a bit surprised when the little toolbar doesn’t appear at the bottom of the app, a la Firefox.
    We do get requests for enhancing F&R and search in particular. I can add your vote to the list.

    Wheeler, we added dynamic Javascript code hinting to CS4. Attach a js file and when you are typing in a block, you should get function/object/method hinting.
    And if your js syntax is incorrect, we will flag it…

    Thanks for the discussion!

  • Don, I forgot to mention that I was talking specifically about php in relation to autocomplete, which tied into my second point about the current document not currently seeming to know about all the other included files. For autocomplete to completely work DW would have to read all the included files and understand what is available in the current scope.

    I know that the inbuilt php functions autocomplete which is great, but if that was extended to variables I have previously declared and functions/methods, it would be truly awesome.

  • zoonunit


    Thanks for dropping by. I develop in Drupal and Firebug has been an “almost” perfect add-on to Firefox. It can identify all the CSS, the line numbers and files. The only thing missing is the ability to WRITE changes back to those CSS files from within the Firebug interface. One workaround I use with Dreamweaver is to load the corresponding CSS files in DW, then note the line numbers from the CSS in Firebug, go straight to DW and make the changes, save, then refresh my browser.

    Now that DW CS4 has live view, why can’t it identify the CSS files like Firebug and then allow developers to link to and save CSS changes?? Is it because the PHP server doesn’t serve up the actual file location to the browser? If that’s the reason, then why can’t DW get the file locations from the test server settings, using the developer’s FTP login and PW? Or perhaps we would need to map to the files within the server definition? (As with many developers, I develop on a local server such as xampp, so I have direct file access to the CSS files)

    If I could just jump straight to CSS from live view in a PHP rendered app like Drupal, and then save that back to the original CSS file, that would be a TREMENDOUS productivity boost.

  • Anonymous


    My only reason for not using DW is server-side code. And speed, sometimes, especially if I am going to edit a little bit (I use Notepad++ for simple editing). DW is open on my taskbar for most of the work, including PHP, but if I have lots of server-side things to do, I see that a powerful server-side IDE can save me a lot of time, and switch to that IDE (namely Zend Studio for Eclipse :))

    Well, I hope it’s not a problem to mention a rival name directly, but I must express that my dream tool would be a marriage of DW (for obvious reasons), ZS (obvious, again) and Notepad++ (for Unicode and newline viewing/conversion utilities, lightweightness and some other things.)

    PS : I am too in the league of developers who are yet to find a tool/IDE that match DW’s S&R superiority :) How the hack did you make something like this?!

  • halil


    My only reason for not using DW is server-side code. And speed, sometimes, especially if I am going to edit a little bit (I use Notepad++ for simple editing). DW is open on my taskbar for most of the work, including PHP, but if I have lots of server-side things to do, I see that a powerful server-side IDE can save me a lot of time, and switch to that IDE (namely Zend Studio for Eclipse :))

    Well, I hope it’s not a problem to mention a rival name directly, but I must express that my dream tool would be a marriage of DW (for obvious reasons), ZS (obvious, again) and Notepad++ (for Unicode and newline viewing/conversion utilities, lightweightness and some other things.)

    PS : I am too in the league of developers who are yet to find a tool/IDE that match DW’s S&R superiority :) How the hack did you make something like this?!

  • duwei

    1. Low cost high quality.
    2. Best Adobe Flex outsourcing service provider.
    3. More than 60 full time in-house Flex developers.
    4. Our company Busycode Inc. was registered in San Francisco, Beijing and Nanning.
    5. Our skill set is “Adobe Flex/AIR/Flash + .NET/Java/PHP + SQL Database”.
    6. Our keywords are Flex developer, Flex coder, Flex programmer, Flex expert, Flex engineer, Flex specialist and Flex outsourcing service provider.
    7. Please visit or

  • david

    i use dreamweaver for the cakephp framework, and the most annoying thing is that i can’t tell dreamweaver cs4 that ctp files are php code. so syntax highlighting don’t come out of the box for cakephp. this will be the same for any framework that doesn’t use php or html as extensions. unfortunately for me, i have both a php and a ctp file for my front end design. i grew up on dreamweaver and c++ programming, and the fact that i can see the dumbed down version of my code and click on the design view to fastforward to code made it a major advantage for me.

    unfortunately webdesign/development is not about about creating generic php, html, js, ect files any more. It’s not so simple. If adobe would just add a simple way to associate specific file types to be viewed as generic code types, then it would be a very good tool. I’ve had to hack my dreamweaver to highlight my ctp files with correct code highlighting.

    unrelated to cs4, i would recommend adobe web cs4. all the other apps work very well for web dev, and flash especially. I was able to use papervision 3d flawlessly with the new flash.

  • david

    to add to my last comment, dreamweaver cs4 has a much better css editor this time around. MUCH BETTER!

  • conticreative

    This is a post for David and anyone having issues with DW recognizing files other than the default ones.

    I encountered the same issue with Magento’s PHTML files. They are PHP files but DW would refuse to treat them as such. That meant no code didn’t work.

    Luckily, I found a Tutorial on the Magento website on how to add phtml files to DW and make it recognize them as full php files. It’s not as simple as adding PHTML (or CTP) to the files extensions in the configuration.

    Basically there are 3 (If I recall correctly) files that need to be updated.
    Follow this link and use it as a blueprint for your purposes:

Get the latest in JavaScript, once a week, for free.