Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 Beta Impressions

Adobe has released a beta of Dreamweaver CS4 for you to download at the Adobe Labs site. Be sure and do so if you make your living in web development. Although the beta is slower than molasses in January (not kidding) it has some wonderful new features. Here is a nice little bulleted list of what I found in my snooping around. I cannot wait until this ships!

  • You can now select Version Control in a site defenition, which uses Subversion. Very nice to have Subversions integrated. Very nice indeed.
  • The Mac version finally has "dockable" windows. This is a very Windows-type thing, and something very non-Mac. This is, however, the Adobe CS3/4 interface. It is about time Adobe gave Dreamweaver the "Adobefied" look. It should have been included in Dreamweaver CS3.
  • The Mac version now supports "hot swappable" global interface changes, from Coder to Designer, to Dual Screen. It also has Classic, which is how Dreamweaver has been for 10 years, so I think I am going to stick with that.
  • This is small, but comes along with the new CS4 interface. I can finally dock Properties with the Search/Reference/Validation/etc. group of panels. This means when I do a search and replace, I don't always have an odd window floating that I have to close. Nice.
  • You now see a visual representation of related files (such as js and css) and can even click and read them (although if they are on a remote server, you obviously cannot write to them). This is another great time saver to have.
  • The WYSIWYG rendering has vastly improved over CS3. CSS layouts that used to look mangeled in DW CS3 now display properly in CS4.
  • There is a new coding feature called Code Navigator which you can get to from the Tag Inspector at the bottom of the document window (or Command+Control+N). This basically shows you the CSS tree from the element you have selected all the way back up to the block level tag (say a DIV or TABLE tag). The Web Developer Firefox extention does this, and it is wonderful to have it in DW now. You can also Command+Option+click to go strait to that CSS rule.
  • One new feature with CSS is the ability to apply an inline style (using SPAN) to an element using the exact same CSS Rule Defenition interface as if you were creating a style for an external file. This is great if you are making a quick one-of change.
  • While the CSS Rule Defenition window has not changed, they have renamed a number of items to make consistant with their actual names outside of a WYSIWYG editor. "Weight" in CS3 becomes "Font-weight" in CS4, which is good, because it actually is font-weight.
  • DW code hinting is very solid. DW 4 adds code hints for Spry, Prototype, and jQuery. Also there is a new Ajax control, Spry Tooltip. CS3 had XML Spry data sets, but now you have HTML data sets, making it much easier to make snazzy looking tabular data. It detects TABLEs, DIVs, and even lists.
  • Photoshop Smart Objects have gotten better. No surprise there, you saw that one coming.
  • Live View is another new feature, allowing you to see the live site in WebKit, but still be able to edit the source code.
  • There is a new view, called Split Code, which is something BBEdit has had for ages. It allows you to have two code views of the same document. This is a huge time saver here.
  • The Page Properties window has expanded a bit. There is now a place to specify legacy HTML settings as well as a place to specify the CSS equivelents. They have also added a place to easily style the Heading tags. That is nice for the novice user, and a speady way of making six CSS defenitions to boot.
  • The moved Check Spelling, because they got rid of the Text menu all together (it now lives in the Format menu) Check Spelling is now under the Commands menu; took me a while to find it.
  • In the upper left of the DW CS4 interface there is very quick access to the Extention Manager, Sites, and the four different views. I love having such easy access to Sites and Extention Manager.
  • Extention Manager has entirely been rewritten and looks more in line with Bridge, but Chromeless (which is just weird on a Mac). It migrated all my previous extensions without a hitch. Nothing to complain about there.

So while the beta is slow as a dog (lets be clear, DW has never been that fast on the Mac) it is a wonderful glimpse of what the future brings post Macromedia. I am sure that Adobe has infused AIR into CS4 in any way it can, so we will have that look forward to as well. 

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