The latest version of Dreamweaver – Dreamweaver 8 – has been launched today. I was lucky enough to be involved with the Beta and so have been working with this new version for several months. So, is it worth the upgrade?
If you use Dreamweaver for visual design, and in particular for CSS based layouts, then I think it is. There are some superb new features which make working visually with CSS far easier. The new Unified CSS Panel means that all of your CSS tools are in one place and you can edit CSS in the existing way – via the CSS Rule Definition Dialog – or edit properties in the Panel, while seeing the changes in Design View. When working in Design View, new Visual Aids help you to see how the different page elements in your layout work together, by showing you padding and margins applied to elements for example, or setting each positioned element with a different background colour. These Visual Aids are really useful, especially for those just getting to grips with CSS, as confusing issues such as how the Box Model works are highlighted clearly.
All of the above wouldn’t be much help if the rendering of CSS within Design View was poor, however this new version of Dreamweaver comes with a greatly improved rendering engine, and for most CSS layouts what you see is actually what you will get in a decent, modern browser. There are also many other improvements – new functionality to work with XML and XSL for example – and the product seems faster and more stable than the previous version.
There is, as always, a free 30 day trial available for download. If you try it out or upgrade I’d be really interested to know how you get on with it. As part of my work with WaSP I’m a member of the Dreamweaver Task Force, and we are keen to feed back to the Dreamweaver team our thoughts – good and bad – about this new version, with regard to how it supports designers and developers who want to work to web standards.