Adobe Dreamweaver CC review: first look

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Adobe Dreamweaver CC review: first look

Adobe has launched its new suite of applications for subscribers to its Creative Cloud programme. We’ve already taken a first look at Photoshop CC and Illustrator CC. Now it’s time to see what’s new in Adobe’s best-established web creation tool, Dreamweaver.

CSS Designer

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At last, Dreamweaver’s clunky CSS editor – a confusing and stubbornly modal creature, basically unchanged in more than a decade – has been replaced by a more modern panel-based interface. Highlight a section of text (or any other page element) and you can now see at a glance what CSS selectors are applying to it, and what the resultant properties are. You can also experimentally adjust CSS properties on the fly, and see changes instantly updated across your open pages.

Is it perfect? No. When you’re inspecting an element it’s not obvious which properties derive from which selectors, so it’s still easy to get confused once styles start nesting. And though Adobe splits CSS properties across five categories (layout, text, border, background and “other”), there’s still more settings here than will comfortably fit in a pane – though if you have a big enough monitor you can drag the CSS Designer out to the side and make it a second full-height panel, which makes life easier. Despite these quibbles, it’s a vast improvement on what went before, and on its own makes this new CC edition quite tempting.

Fluid Grid layout

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Dreamweaver’s new Fluid Grid layout system lets you create responsive designs that automatically resize to suit the resolution of the viewing device. In these days of mobile phones, tablets that’s a good idea, but the way it’s implemented is hardly intuitive: you end up dragging elements sequentially onto the page, and the idea of WYSIWYG basically goes out the window. It’s a nice idea, but if you need to make a responsive page we prefer the simplicity and immediacy of something like Twitter Bootstrap’s responsive grid.

One-click jQuery

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Dreamweaver now also comes with a library of one-click layout elements using jQuery and jQuery Mobile (replacing the old Spry ones). These include buttons, calendars, progress bars, password entry fields and “accordions” that let the user view selected parts of a longer vertical series of data. It’s a great and portable way to lend a page a bit of pizzazz, but it’s not quite simple as it sounds: the jQuery elements don’t seem to fully respect CSS, and we’ve so far searched in vain for a way to make text styles in embedded widgets properly match the rest of the site.

Worth the upgrade?

That basically covers the major upgrades in Dreamweaver CC. Undeniably, it’s a short list; yet arguably it represents a bigger step forward than the new versions of Photoshop and Illustrator. For anyone who uses Dreamweaver, the new CSS Designer will make life easier every day.

Of course, it’s open to question whether Dreamweaver itself is the best choice these days for web design and development: even the Creative Cloud suite itself offers two alternatives (namely Edge and Muse). But if you’re a web professional wavering over Adobe’s new subscription model, we reckon this is one update that could tip the balance.

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