The World Wide Web continues to evolve, growing in scope and complexity, with new technologies popping up every year to make the Web look and work better. Even people building personal Web sites now employ various programming languages and server technologies to dish up content. Throughout its history, Dreamweaver has managed to keep pace with this changing technological landscape with each new version.
Dreamweaver 8 is no exception: It's capable of working with more technologies than any previous version. Whether you're creating database-enabled Active Server Pages, adding your favorite site's XML-based news feeds directly to your home page, using Cascading Style Sheets for cutting-edge design effects, or simply sticking to straightforward HTML pages, Dreamweaver has just about all the tools you need.
If you've never used Dreamweaver before, see Chapter 1 for a welcome and the grand tour. If you're upgrading from Dreamweaver MX 2004 or some other version, you'll find that Dreamweaver 8 offers a host of new features aimed at both the novice Web designer and the seasoned HTML guru.
Dreamweaver 8 adds significant improvements to Dreamweaver's Cascading Style Sheet support. The program improves on Dreamweaver MX 2004's already excellent display of complex CSS designs. Now, even as you use cutting-edge CSS techniques to design your pages, Dreamweaver's visual Design view provides near WYSIWYG—what you see is what you get—editing power. In addition, to streamline the process of CSS style creation and editing, Dreamweaver 8 introduces a completely new CSS Styles panel that groups editing tools and CSS style inspectors into a unified, easy to use control panel. The program also makes it easy to create and use style sheets for different media types—for example, styles for pages you want viewers to print out—and new CSS visualization aids make it easy to see the placement and properties of CSS positioned elements.
To aid Web page design and layout, Dreamweaver 8 offers many new tools that have long made life easier for print page-layout veterans. Now you can zoom in and out of your page, which helps with pixel-perfect placement of graphics and page elements. Guides provide handy alignment aids, which you can freely move around the page to help with placement of page elements.
You may find that you need different windows open when you work on different Web sites. For example, say you want the Application panel open when working on a database-driven site, but you want to hide it when working on plain old HTML pages. Dreamweaver 8 lets you create and save different work-space layouts. So, when switching over to a database-driven Web site, you won't need to waste time arranging the panels to fit your workflow—just turn on your previously created workspace layout and watch Dreamweaver rearrange its panels and inspectors for you.
One of Dreamweaver's greatest time-savers has always been its FTP tool. When moving a page from your computer to your Web server, you don't have to switch to a different program, and go through a bunch of steps, to simply transfer files; Dreamweaver can get a page to or from your Web server with one simple button. It can even transfer a whole site's worth of files with a single command.
Unfortunately, in previous versions of Dreamweaver, doing this transfer also meant you had to wait and wait and wait while Dreamweaver beamed files across the Internet; you could never do anything else in the program while it was busy with this operation. Well, the wait is over. Dreamweaver 8 includes background FTP. Now, even if you move a thousand pages from your home computer to your Web server, you can still work on your Web site as Dreamweaver quietly and dutifully transfers files in the background. In addition, vastly improved file synchronization lets you feel confident that Dreamweaver can make sure all of the files on your Web server are up to date.
For those people who write their HTML code by hand (eeeww), Dreamweaver 8 offers many coding enhancements, including a coding toolbar that offers a palette of buttons for common code-editing tasks (even hand coders like to push buttons with their mice). In addition, as you scan a 200-line HTML document, you can neatly hide chunks of HTML using code collapse. This feature lets you hide lines of code that you don't need to concentrate on—for example, a part of the page that's complete, or not relevant to the coding task at hand.
One of Dreamweaver 8's most exciting new features is its visual XSLT authoring tool. Using Dreamweaver's visual design tools, you can create documents that display XML data just like a Web page. The program simplifies the creation of XSLT style sheets—a highly technical programming language. If you ever learned to write HTML by hand, writing XSLT code is about 10 times more difficult. Fortunately, Dreamweaver simplifies the process so that it's no more difficult than creating a Web page (in fact, the two procedures feel nearly the same). So now you can include news headlines collected from XML-based Web feeds directly on your site. Imagine adding headline news from CNN, sports news from ESPN, or local weather information from the National Weather Service right on your home page. Dreamweaver's also added support for PHP 5 and ColdFusion 7, so you can use the latest versions of these server-side programming languages in your Dreamweaver sites.
And if you don't find the answer you're looking for in this book (say it ain't so), you may find it in one of the many new built-in reference guides on topics like SQL, XML, and XSLT, provided by one of the most respected technology publishers, O'Reilly Media (which also happens to be the parent of the Missing Manual series).
Macromedia occasionally issues updates to Dreamweaver. To make sure you're using the latest version, visit the Macromedia Web site at www.macromedia.com/support/dreamweaver/downloads_updaters.html.