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Preface > The Big Picture

The Big Picture

Dreamweaver is the dominant WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) software program for professional web development. Dreamweaver can help you build and manage complex web sites that work appropriately with Netscape Navigator (NN), Internet Explorer (IE), and other browsers.

Although Dreamweaver 4 includes an integrated HTML editor, it is much more than just an HTML tool. Yes, Dreamweaver allows you to work with all of the normal HTML formatting structures such as tables, frames, and layers, but it also provides many tools for managing web sites, whether they use HTML only, or server-side languages such as ASP or ColdFusion as well.

Refer to Appendix C for a good overview of the issues you'll need to consider before, during, and after developing your site.

Here is a quick rundown of Dreamweaver's primary features.


Dreamweaver has two ways of looking at tables: the traditional way and the Layout view (new in DW4). The traditional table (Standard) view allows you to configure each cell of a table individually, but is hard to use for complex tables. Layout view uses visual tools, which would be available in a desktop publishing program, to lay out complex tables. For more information, see Chapter 3.


Dreamweaver easily creates the most popular frames configurations, such as equally centered left and right frames, top and bottom frames, and thin frames on the left, top, right, or bottom of your screen. For more information, see Chapter 4.


Layers originated with Cascading Style Sheets and are supported in the 4.0+ versions of the most popular browsers. Layers allow you to format information without setting up a grid and allow you to superimpose multiple layers of information in one page location. For more information on layers in Dreamweaver, see Chapter 4, Chapter 14, and Chapter 17.

Styles, Libraries, and Templates

Dreamweaver offers several time-saving ways to standardize pages and reuse components. Dreamweaver helps you use formatting standards such as Cascading Style Sheets, but also implements its own system of templates (on which you can base similar pages), libraries (for reusing and updating commonly needed components), and HTML styles (to help you apply formats easily). See Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, and Chapter 11.

Assets and History

The Assets panel makes it easy to find and reuse elements throughout your site. The History panel allows you to undo, record, and automate almost any step or process.

Roundtrip HTML

Dreamweaver has various tools that make it easy to work with HTML documents created in Dreamweaver and other HTML editors. The Roundtrip HTML feature allows you to modify your Dreamweaver documents in any HTML editor, with little or no change to your document's structure. For more information about Dreamweaver's HTML tools, including Roundtrip HTML, see Chapter 7.

Site Management

Dreamweaver includes advanced site-management tools to synchronize the local copy of your web site files with those on the web server. Dreamweaver's collaborative tools also allow teams of developers to work on a site simultaneously. Checking files in and out as they are being edited prevents two team members from working on the same document concurrently. Design Notes allow workgroups or single developers to track changes that have been made or need to be made to individual files. For information on defining sites, managing sites, and the Dreamweaver Site window, see Chapter 6.

You can use Dreamweaver to create and manage a new site from scratch or to manage an existing site originally created with other tools.

Site Checking

Broken links are an offense punishable by death, or at least the death of sales. Dreamweaver incorporates checks for broken links, external links, and orphaned files. Site checking and error reports are covered in Chapter 6.


Dreamweaver includes a wide variety of ready-made JavaScript behaviors that run properly in most web browsers. Dreamweaver's Behaviors panel allows you to select the level of browser support you need and then limits access to only the events that work in the selected web browser versions. For details on the behaviors shipped with Dreamweaver, see Part III.

Firework Integration

Fireworks is bundled with Dreamweaver in the Macromedia Dreamweaver 4 Fireworks 4 Studio bundle. This book covers how to integrate Fireworks with Dreamweaver in Chapter 5. Chapter 13 explains how to import Fireworks rollover images, sliced tables, and other effects into Dreamweaver.

I highly recommend that you use Fireworks for your web-based graphics. Its powerful features and integration with Dreamweaver make it an indispensable companion tool. This books cover a few Fireworks techniques to get you started, and you'll be hooked once you get your feet wet. For developers who use Photoshop, I recommend the PhotoWebber utility available at http://www.medialab.com. PhotoWebber lets you use Photoshop to create many of the effects described in this book using Fireworks.

Integration of Server-Side Languages

Dreamweaver recognizes tags associated with server-side languages, such as Active Server Pages (ASP) and ColdFusion Markup Language (CFML). It won't change their contents even if you modify the other HTML code on the page. For more details on Dreamweaver's support for server-side languages, see Chapter 21.

Dreamweaver Customization

Dreamweaver is highly configurable. See Chapter 18, Chapter 19, and Chapter 20 for details on making Dreamweaver work the way you want it to.

Dreamweaver Extensions

Extensibility is one of Dreamweaver's key features. With a little knowledge of JavaScript, HTML, and XML, you can add your own functionality to Dreamweaver. For those without such knowledge, Dreamweaver 4's built-in Extension Manager and the Dreamweaver Exchange web site (http://www.macromedia.com/exchange/dreamweaver/) provide easy access to many existing extensions from Macromedia and third parties. For more details, see Chapter 22.

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