Dreamweaver is still dying
Perhaps the most significant new feature of Creative Suite 6 is the introduction of Creative Cloud, a monthly subscription that provides ongoing access to Adobe’s full power. This includes not only the major applications, but the services too (for example, the full range of Typekit fonts, not just the open-source Edge fonts). In addition, subscribers get access to new application functions as soon as they’re developed – last September, Adobe released Dreamweaver CS6.1 to Creative Cloud customers only.
Dreamweaver’s Insert menu and Insert panel have been completely reworked to fit a new HTML5-orientated workflow, with a focus on semantic tags, fluid grid layout DIVs, and a new form-handling approach that, while considerably more complicated, provides access to new controls such as email, URL and search. The biggest change is to Dreamweaver’s media handling: Flash animations and video are now downplayed in favour of options to insert HTML5 video and Edge Animate OAM compositions. A complete reworking of video handling means you can now manage the necessary multiple sources, poster images and Flash fallback from the Property Inspector.
I can’t help thinking it’s only a temporary reprieve, and that Dreamweaver remains in terminal decline
To coincide with this Dreamweaver update, Adobe also announced a number of changes and improvements to its PhoneGap Build service. Its new Hydration capability facilitates faster online compile times, and can automatically push updates to previous installations and notify testers. Crucially, Adobe also took the service out of beta, and, for its official launch, dropped the price to $10 a month for up to 25 private apps (you can also create one private app and any number of open-source apps for free). Better still, Adobe announced the service would be completely free for Creative Cloud subscribers.
Six months later, there was more good news in the form of another Dreamweaver update: CS6.2, again available only to Creative Cloud members. Surprise, surprise, it’s all about updated and improved HTML5 capabilities and workflows, including enhancements to fluid grid handling, and more HTML5 and jQuery form inputs. This time, the biggest change concerns the handling of web fonts: now, when you call up the Manage Fonts dialog, it presents a visual selector through which you can select any of the Edge Web Fonts to make them quickly available inside all your future projects.
Dreamweaver 6.2 also adds direct integration with another Edge service via Adobe Edge Inspect (formerly Shadow). This great utility enables you to preview your site in Google Chrome on your desktop PC and, after installing the relevant apps, on all Apple and Android mobile devices connected via your local network. Once again, Adobe has made a free version available that lets you work with one mobile device at a time, while Creative Cloud subscribers can remotely control and test as many devices as they want simultaneously.
The switch to handheld, mobile-based computing and the associated shift to HTML5 has changed the nature of the web, and given new impetus to the idea of design-intensive, hands-on authoring. Dreamweaver has undoubtedly benefited from this, and in many ways it’s defining the new standard in terms of hands-on design. However, I can’t help thinking it’s only a temporary reprieve, and that Dreamweaver remains in terminal decline. In other words, I still think Dreamweaver is dying.
The obvious question is “why?” Partly, it’s down to implementation. Dreamweaver’s HTML5 capabilities might be leading-edge, but they’re hardly smooth, and the constant changes to workflow suggest Adobe itself isn’t sure of the best way to do things.
Take video: surely you should be able to simply point at a file and have Dreamweaver convert it into all the necessary formats and insert the code for universal playback? Then there’s fluid grid layouts, the handling of which is sort of visual and almost wysiwyg, but not quite. Selecting web fonts visually was a big step forward, but you have to switch in and out of Live View to actually see them in your design. You can’t even do this with inserted Edge Animate projects, because Dreamweaver’s Live View rendering isn’t up to the job – you have to preview them in your browser.
For another reason I think Dreamweaver is in decline, let’s go back to that “Create the Web” session. Strangely, its presenter seemed slightly disappointed that so many of us were still using Dreamweaver, and, more tellingly, when he demonstrated Adobe’s new support services – PhoneGap Build, Edge Web Fonts and Edge Inspect – he didn’t use Dreamweaver to show off the integration. Instead the emphasis was all on Adobe’s three new Edge applications – Animate, Code and Reflow – all of which are available for download and are free to Creative Cloud members, including those using the month’s free trial.