The Great Windows Code Editor Hunt: Dreamweaver

Dreamweaver CS4 icon

Dreamweaver CS4 icon

This is the second post in The Great Windows Code Editor Hunt series. Today we’ll look at Dreamweaver as a code editor.

The Good

Dreamweaver has come a long way for coders since CS3. When I used the CS3 version it was barely tolerable as a code editor. I don’t remember why at this point but I do remember having to switch back to CS3 when the CS4 beta ran out and my employer at the time decided not to upgrade. I remember ranting for a few days about how the UI was crappy in CS3 and CS4 was way better.

Dreamweaver is highly configurable. Working in a language that requires a certain amount of tabs or spaces to work properly? Not a problem. Hop into the Preferences pane and under ‘code format’ adjust as you need. It doesn’t stop there though. Like your code hinting in a fashion other than default? Dreamweaver provides you with a few options and at least one should suit.

Dreamweaver CS4 preferences

Dreamweaver CS4 preferences

Another wonderful feature of Dreamweaver is the ability to connect to different servers on one project. I’ve used this feature a number of times to work on a WordPress theme locally then, with a simple dropdown, connect to my development server and upload the required files. When we’re ready to push to the client’s server simply open the drop down again and connect to the live environment and upload the files. A great thing they introduced in CS4 with the Files panel is that it is now dockable or can sit free-floating on another monitor if you wish.

Dreamweaver CS4 file browser

Dreamweaver CS4 file browser

The Bad

So what are the things that make Dreamweaver not my code editor of choice? It starts with the WYSIWYG editor. While it’s possible to enter full code view and not see the code editor somehow it always seems to sneak into view. I’ve never been able to stop the ‘Design View’ to disappear entirely. For some reason I was never able to track down some files would randomly open in the ‘Design View’ of Dreamweaver forcing me to go back to the top and click on the ‘Code View.’ I’ve just dug through the preferences panel again and don’t see any option that leads me to believe I can just shut down the design view permanently.

So one of my requirements was load time. Dreamweaver is a pig. I run Windows 7 on an AMD Athlon 2.6 with 8GB of RAM and a 1GB video card. It’s not a slow system but Dreamweaver seems to be the morning coffee hounds best friend as it takes forever to start-up. Yeah go get a coffee. Even on the 24″ iMac I used at my last job Dreamweaver was a pig to get running. To my very unscientific observations, it didn’t seem to matter if it was a cold or warm start. The green dialogue that shows during startup might as well say “Go Get a Coffee there’s lots of time”.

Dreamweaver CS4 coffee load screen

Dreamweaver CS4 coffee load screen

Another beef with Dreamweaver is the amount of crap files it introduces into your projects. It seems that in every folder you end up with an extra folder called _notes and an extra file called dwsync.xml. Sure they’re not big but they also don’t matter to the client’s website and are thus bloat. I think these files have something to do with FTP syncing with the server but whatever they’re actuall purpose removing them from a project is yet another step to take before packaging files up to send to a client at the end of a project.

Themes in Dreamweaver are a pain. For all the configuration options available there is no real way to quickly switch away from the original eye searing white theme. I’ve got big thanks for That Web Guy since he has great instructions on how to change the white theme out on Dreamweaver. It requires a change to an actual application file in Dreamweaver which is stupid but I suppose it’s not all that hard. I’m still astonished that Dreamweaver doesn’t have an easy way to switch between multiple colour themes though. Seems like every other code editor out there, even those in alpha have it as a default feature.

While Dreamweaver has a great project browser it really doesn’t do a good job or any job of tracking your files since the last upload. I can’t tell Dreamweaver to only pushed changed files. Sure I can sync the files but then we’re waiting while it figures out what that sync it. I see no real reason why it can’t mark the file state at last file upload and then only upload the files that have changed. We’ve got lots of other application bloat why not something useful.

A final point I’d like to put against Dreamweaver is the file type support. I work with Github more and more which means I need to edit README files. Dreamweaver has no clue what to do with the file nor does it offer me a good way to tell it what to do.

Conclusion

Really the only reason that Dreamweaver was included in the review is that it comes with many version of the CS4 suite of software. I really don’t think it would be a contender if it wasn’t included with other software I need to do my job (Photoshop and Illustrator). I certainly wouldn’t be forking out $400 bucks for Dreamweaver after working with it during the trial.

We can also add as a point against Dreamweaver the general distaste seen for it by prospective employers. Sure I wrote a while back that Dreamweaver is a fine tool but that doesn’t change the fact that you see daily job ads that say don’t apply if you use Dreamweaver.

Ultimately I’m not using Dreamweaver because it’s slow to open, doesn’t recognize a number of common files I’m working with, doesn’t integrate with Git at all, and I just can’t get that stupid ‘Design View’ to go away. Maybe minor things all but it amounts up to a code editor that just doesn’t suit my daily coding habits.

2 Comments

  1. Andrew Vit March 4, 2010 at 9:30 am #

    I was wondering myself if I should have another look at Dreamweaver, since so many designers still say it’s great & so much improved, and I it’s installed anyway with CS4.

    Thanks for saving me the time. I think I’m in your camp, I could never see the use of the extra features beyond a good editor, which it apparently isn’t.

    • Curtis McHale March 4, 2010 at 9:32 am #

      @Andrew

      DW is an okay editor but like I said it keeps dropping into ‘design view’ and has a lot of bloat that just make it not the right one for me. I personally have no issue with developers that love it since it’s really just a tool

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