Dreamweaver is sometimes seen as FrontPage's main competitor but, really, there's not even a comparison to be made. Dreamweaver might be expensive, sure, but there are serious web designers out there using it and getting work done I can guarantee you that no real designer has ever used a copy of FrontPage to design a website. Consequently, Dreamweaver is way out in the lead in terms of market share, with about 80% of the users.

So what do you sacrifice to get a better WYSIWYG editor? Well, apart from the higher price tag, you also sacrifice a certain amount of simplicity. Once you get used to it, though, Dreamweaver isn't as hard to use as you might think.

From the People Who Brought You…

Dreamweaver is part of the Macromedia Studio that's the company that produces the editor and player for Flash, as well as the well-liked Fireworks graphics editor and the Freehand drawing program. Their software is particularly popular with designers, and all it works on the Mac, but it has recently started to be quickly adopted by non-expert users as well.

Dreamweaver Doesn't Mess With Your Code.

If you've already done some of the coding for your site, or you're editing a template or a design that was done for you by someone else, then you don't need to worry about Dreamweaver re-writing all your code and breaking it. Dreamweaver will leave your code alone for the most part, unless you explicitly tell it to alter it. This might not sound like much, but it's really refreshing to see after using other HTML editors.

For this reason, Dreamweaver is often considered to be the very best software out there for working with HTML templates, and most templates that you can buy will be provided to you in Dreamweaver's format. Once you've got them, you can easily open them and insert your content.


The code Dreamweaver used to produce was quite bad at conforming to standards it worked fine on most browsers, but it didn't validate. In the most recent versions of Dreamweaver, though, not only does the code Dreamweaver produces validate, but it even has a validator built in. You can pick which standards you want Dreamweaver to code to, and it will stick to them for you, even if you choose the strictest ones out there.

Dreamweaver was one of the first programs to support visual XHTML editing, and has received a lot of credit for it all you need to do to turn this option on is tick the box marked ‘Make Document XHTML Compliant' when you create a new page. This newfound standards-compliance removed the last thing keeping a lot of designers away from Dreamweaver, which means that the program's market share has grown still further over the last year or so.

CSS, Javascript and PHP.

A large part of Dreamweaver's power comes in how easy it is to edit not only HTML, but also the things that go with it. Dreamweaver comes with a formidable Javascript library that does most of the useful things that can be done with Javascript, and makes it very easy to apply CSS styles to different parts of your page.

In the latest version of Dreamweaver, you can even make interfaces to a MySQL database using PHP without doing any programming at all. This is a very useful feature, and saves a lot of headaches for many people who just want to make a simple database-driven website without learning PHP.

Books About Dreamweaver.

Dreamweaver is a complex and useful enough program that whole books have been written about it and to get the most out of the program, you should really get a good one and read it through. Here are a few suggestions:

Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004: Training from the Source – Khristine Page. This is the official guide produced by Macromedia.

Beginning Dreamweaver MX – Imar Spaanjaars. Follows the development of three very different websites using Dreamweaver, a nice format for a tutorial book.

Visual QuickStart Guides: Macromedia Dreamweaver MX – J. Tarin Towers. A nice reference that's especially good to refer back to when you need to know how to do something specific.

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