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The Best Single Learning Resource for Dreamweaver
on December 22, 2012
We're not big fans of Dreamweaver (Dw), even though we use it 365 days a year.
We've been designing websites for seventeen years. Our first client was NBC News. That means we have seen many web design tools come and go. We did not feel as if we had really arrived in the web design world until Adobe acquired GoLive (GL) and incorporated it into its first Creative Suite offering in September 2003. The only way we managed to master GoLive was by carefully studying Classroom in a Book. It was not only educational but the lessons were inspirational. We hung onto GoLive for as long as possible after Adobe discontinued it in favor of the Dreamweaver they acquired from Macromedia. With time GL could no longer create the pages a modern-day web designer needs. We struggled through making the jump to Dreamweaver CS4 by watching many videos but the intricacies of the app were not sinking in. We studied Dw CS4 Classroom in a Book (CIB). It all started to fall in place. We have a long history with CIB and though we were grateful the Dw CS4 volume kick-started our daily reliance on that app, but the book lacked the inspirational lessons that we've come to expect from the CIB series. If you've been around website creation, maintenance, and management for as long as we have, Dw is not that tough to get started on, for simple tasks. If you are new to the world of website development Dw, can be a daunting, steep mountain to climb because you are tossed, head first, into the foreign land of internet technology.
We go back to Adobe's PageMill. It was very designer friendly. PageMill was something of a PageMaker, the publishing app of the day, but for the web. Adobe has yet to make Dw into an app for designers. Some will argue that Adobe has Muse for that, but the code, which Muse generates, is lousy. On the other side of the world from Muse is Adobe's Brackets, a strictly code-base app. This leaves Dw in the middle of the two offering clunky tools for Design View and great ones for Code View.
For CS5 the team at Adobe Press recruited Jim Maivald to completely rewrite their CIB on Dreamweaver. It was the most inspiring book about Dw we've ever seen. So, Jim set the bar pretty high for the Dw CS6 edition.
In comparing the two editions, side-by-side, it's clear in just the first two chapters that the latest edition has nice improvements in both content and layout. The first chapter gets the reader comfortable with the workspace. This is important. If you have been working in apps like Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop, you need to rethink how much of the Dw workspace operates.
In the second chapter, there's no effort to hide the reader from the HTML coding. If anything, the chapter is a primer on HTML5 which has been expanded in this edition to include some of the other technologies the reader may encounter.
Through much of Dw's history it has been oriented to CSS, cascading style sheets. The third chapter has been dramatically expanded to help the reader gain a great understanding of CSS3. Both chapters two and three are extremely easy to follow if someone is completely new to this. If all of this is foreign, we suggest the reader allocates as much as 2.5 hours for them and maybe take a break to be sure it's all sinking in. Let us also caution that these chapters are attempting to help you understand the technology behind what Dw does when it generates code from what you do in Design View. You may work with Dw and rarely, if ever, use Code View. So, don't complete chapter three and think, "This isn't for me."
This edition has been admirably reorganized as to next introduce you to the elements of designed and planning web pages and sites. Don't let this concern you if you feel you are not inclined toward creating freehand layouts with pencil and paper or creating comps at a drafting table. The focus is all in the planning. By the time you complete this chapter, you will have created a page in Dw. This is an empowering experience. At this point in your CIB lessons, you may have only invested three to three and a half hours. If a book and it's lessons can take you from knowing next to nothing about Dw to creating your first page, in such a short period of time, for only $32, we think that's impressive. Even if the concepts are a little difficult to grasp and it takes you more like four hours, you should feel very good about your progress.
Though chapter 3 introduces the CSS concepts, it's not until the fifth chapter that you get to be hands on. This chapter has also been expanded since the previous edition and the additional learning experiences make it all well worth it.
Some web professionals scoff at templates and all the related child pages. We disagree. The sixth chapter in itself proves how valuable and time efficient they can be to a complete website. Additionally, templates make a great deal of sense to anyone coming into Dw from InDesign (ID) which creates a similar hierarchy of master pages. If anyone discourages you from templates, explore the sixth chapter for a little over an hour and decide for yourself.
Another aspect of ID which is available in Dw is table creation. This is often done poorly on many websites which tends to mar the overall look of a page. This CIB not only takes the reader through how to technically achieve tables but does so in a visually pleasing manner.
A hallmark of the CIB series is to offer projects which are visually inspiring. When it comes to Dw, most authors stumble with that point. This edition of Dw CIB easily clears the high bar other CIB manuscripts have set. This chapter is all about working with images. It incorporates working with Bridge (Br), Fireworks (Fw), and Photoshop (Ps). There are a variety of excellent tools for web graphics in Illustrator (Ai). In the next edition of Dw CIB we hope the author looks to Ai for inclusion in this otherwise well done chapter which makes no assumptions about the reader's knowledge of graphics for the web.
Creating cool navigation for websites is no small task. Figuring it out in Dw isn't easy. The ninth chapter uses plenty of graphics and much needed callouts to make it a smooth task.
The tenth chapter on adding interactivity to a website using Spry causes some web professionals to doubt if these are best practices. Nevertheless, it's an existing feature set of Dw so we understand the need to teach it in CIB
The previous edition's chapter on Flash has been completely replaced with one on working with web animation and video. The chapter is short but the content is excellent and the lessons easy to understand.
Creating forms for the web is not very exciting and the process can be complex. Chapter twelve can be no more exciting than the tasks at hand. At times, the lesson becomes a bit tedious, but we do not fault the book. The author is simply trying to be sure the reader fully understands all aspects of web forms.
Working with online data is another chapter which takes a not very exciting project and does its best to make it as visually appealing as possible. This is something which can confuse some readers since it isn't all that easy to work with a non-existent server. Yet, the lessons provide all the instruction needed to understand the concepts.
Most of us build static web pages. They have their content and not much changes unless we add new text, graphics, or animation. Working with PHP for dynamic pages is no small task. We have a dynamic data project in house and going through this updated chapter was personally quite helpful for us.
Managing a website in Dw is a daunting task. The screens and tools need a complete revisiting from Adobe. This final chapter manages to not only teach the reader how to do it but also allows the reader to make this a desktop reference until they master publishing to the web with Dw.
Overall, this book is a solid 5 stars. We congratulate Jim and the whole CIB team, which made it possible. This is the best single learning resource for Dw that we know. It takes some very complex concepts and makes them extremely easy to understand and execute.