Adobe Dreamweaver CS5 review

by Reads (31,618)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Design
      • 9
      • Performance
      • 9
      • Total Score:
      • 9.00
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

  • Great workflow interface
  • Improved CSS support
  • Wordpress integration
  • Cons

  • Expensive
  • Few improvements over CS4
  • No 64-bit option

By Dustin Sklavos

Adobe Dreamweaver is the Microsoft Word of web design applications: universally acknowledged as the market standard, but so expensive almost no one want to upgrade to the latest version. Does Dreamweaver CS5 have a feature set worthy of its price tag? We break it down in this review.

WHAT’S NEW?

And the answer to that question is…not a lot. Barely anything actually. While other applications in Adobe’s Creative Suite 5 have seen some substantial improvements (Photoshop, I’m looking at you), or even modest ones (Premiere, After Effects), Dreamweaver is curiously stagnant. The 64-bit upgrades the other applications have seen don’t apply to Dreamweaver, which is still 32-bit (or at least reads as a 32-bit executable in Task Manager). That’s not a huge problem; while working with massive images and high-definition video will task a memory subsystem to the hilt, 64-bit computing just doesn’t offer quite as much for HTML coders.

So what’s left? Mostly just some refinements and integrations. Adobe’s own site is curiously spare about new features in Dreamweaver CS5, and in regular use I honestly haven’t noticed the difference moving from CS4 to CS5. Dreamweaver CS5 is supposed to make CSS and PHP coding easier and it integrates with many popular Content Management Systems (WordPress, for example). None of that was wildly apparent.

IN PRACTICE

The practice of using Dreamweaver CS5 is as underwhelming as its page on Adobe’s site. I haven’t professionally developed websites in nearly a decade and they’ve become vastly more complex beasts since then. What I use Dreamweaver for is the production and maintenance of my own personal and business sites, and for those it has been immeasurably helpful. Since the changes to CS5 from CS4 are minimal, I can instead at least present a convincing case for why you should consider using it if you aren’t already.

Code view in Adobe Dreamweaver CS5Design view in Adobe Dreamweaver CS5

Dreamweaver CS5 splits its workspace up into three principal modes (although it does offer additional workspace configurations the same way other Adobe applications do); these modes are “Code,” “Split,” and “Design.” If you’ve ever coded before, what you’re looking at here should be fairly familiar. This is the front page of my personal site, consisting almost entirely of an image map. Truthfully, for this simple a design, I’ve never actually had to spend any amount of time with the code. Why?

Because in the “Design” mode I was able to do the entirety of the grunt work very easily to produce this simple page. Dreamweaver’s automation handled the difficult parts; I simply had to define which zones on the image were going to be links and then specify where those links went.

Split view in Adobe Dreamweaver CS5If you’re a more seasoned coder you probably already have some grasp on Dreamweaver, but presented for the sake of completeness here is the “Split” mode which shows you both the code and the site as you edit and design it, reflecting changes made between the two in real time.

Of course, Dreamweaver CS5 is far more robust in actual use, able to handle complex code and maintain a website through just the application instead of using a separate FTP application. This is something I wish I could’ve shown you, but my own web host is oddly flaky; while Adobe automation has never had a problem uploading to my friends’ and coworkers’ servers, it has never worked with my personal site’s server. Strange, but there you go.

Naturally since Dreamweaver is an Adobe product it handles integration with the other Adobe applications very easily, and even offers basic automated FLV (Flash Video) integration if you’re completely paranoid like I am and hate the idea of having a license agreement with YouTube for your own material.

CONCLUSION

If this review seems shorter than the reviews of the other Adobe CS5 applications, there’s a good reason: Dreamweaver CS5 doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table over its predecessors. It’s a fantastic program and I can’t evangelize it enough to even basic users who just want to put up a small site for their own business or for family and friends, but Adobe’s $199 asking price for the CS5 upgrade is mighty difficult to justify. If you’re running a version older than CS4, the new one might be worth upgrading to just to stay current and enjoy some of the improvements that CS4 brought along with it, but if you’re already on CS4, Dreamweaver CS5 is going to be a very tough sell.

Adobe already had a pretty robust program in Dreamweaver to begin with. Heck, it was a pretty robust program back when it was Macromedia Dreamweaver, before Adobe bought out Macromedia. Given how solid it’s been and how relatively unchanged it’s been in the intervening period, it’s tough to tell where Adobe really could have re-architected it; certainly it hasn’t seen the kinds of overhauls that Adobe’s bread-and-butter Photoshop has, or even Premiere (which threatens Final Cut Pro just a little more with each new version.) If the version you have works for you, I have a hard time recommending making the jump. But if you’ve never used Dreamweaver, it may be worth downloading the trial from Adobe’s site and giving it a shot. The $400 price tag is onerous, but you get a heck of a useful and surprisingly user-friendly program for it.

PROS

  • Great workflow interface
  • Improved CSS support
  • WordPress integration

CONS

  • Expensive
  • Few improvements over CS4
  • No 64-bit option


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