Adobe Dreamweaver is a solid Web development tool that includes a code editor, a visual design mode, sophisticated Cascading Style Sheet tools for creating, editing, and managing CSS, and site management features such as a built-in FTP client for transferring files from your computer to your Web server. In Dreamweaver CS6, Adobe adds tools to work with new CSS properties, to build mobile-ready Websites, and to take advantage of Adobe’s related services-Business Catalyst, a commerical web hosting platform and PhoneGap Build, a cloud-based service for compiling apps for mobile platforms.
For most of the history of the Web, designers have been forced to resort to a handful of fonts-those already installed on the majority of computers worldwide. Because traditional Web typography relies on fonts already existing on a visitor’s computer, designers couldn’t simply select among the thousands of beautiful fonts available.
Now, however, all major browsers support Web fonts: These let designers place a font on their own Web server and allow visitors to download it while viewing that particular website. Unfortunately, different font formats are required to support certain common Web browsers, so obtaining those different formats and figuring out the CSS code for using them can be tricky. For example, TrueType format works on many, but not all browsers, while Firefox uses Web Open Font Format, Internet Explorer 8 requires Embedded OpenType format, and some iOS versions require Scalable Vector Graphics format.
Dreamweaver CS6 helps with the second part-adding the CSS to your site code. You can find Web-ready fonts from various type foundaries, or download free fonts from FontSquirrel. Once you’ve downloaded the fonts, you can use the program’s new Web Fonts Manager to add them to Dreamweaver. A straightforward interface makes it easy to select the fonts, and make them available when creating CSS styles. After you add a font to a CSS style, Dreamweaver copies the required font files into your site, and generates the CSS code to make the font available to your site’s pages and viewers.
Unfortunately, Dreamweaver doesn’t provide any tools for working with common Web type services such as Google’s free Web font service or even Adobe’s own TypeKit. In addition, the Web Fonts Manager doesn’t have a way of defining variants of a particular font (bold or italics, for example). This means you can’t simply make text bold or italic within Dreamweaver and expect that the proper versions of those fonts will be applied. You can work around this by specifying those font variants for assorted tags (for example, apply the bold version of a font to the “strong” tag, or the italics version to the “em” tag), but this is extra work that Dreamweaver could have done by generating the CSS in a slightly different way.
Nonetheless, the Web Fonts Manager is a boon for designers, as it simplifies the process of using Web fonts.
Mobile Web design
The incredible growth in smart phone ownership has forced Web designers to rethink how they build Web sites. With more sites being viewed on mobile devices like phones and tablets, designers are turning to various techniques to make sure their sites look good and perform well on smaller screens. Dreamweaver CS6 includes two new features to help build mobile sites.
The jQuery Mobile tools in Dreamweaver are easy to use, though the program doesn’t provide a straightforward way (besides writing the code yourself) for adding certain jQuery Mobile elements like navbars, dialog box links, or page transitions. In addition, even before Dreamweaver CS6 was released, jQuery Mobile issued a 1.1 update, offering several new and important features including improved Android support. Until Adobe adds a way to update jQuery Mobile from within Dreamweaver, users will either have to download and install new versions themselves or stick with the older version of jQuery Mobile that comes with the program.
Dreamweaver CS6 offers many smaller enhancements. There’s now a friendly interface for applying multiple classes to a single tag (a common technique among designers), an updated multi-channel FTP engine for faster, simultaneous uploads and downloads, and a revamped tool for inserting Photoshop files into a Web page. That last change may or may not be an improvement for you: while it simplifies how you insert a Photoshop file into a page, it also removes many of the tools provided in Dreamweaver CS5.5, such as the ability to resize, crop, and compare different optimization settings when importing the image.
If you use Adobe’s commercial Web hosting service, Business Catalyst, Dreamweaver CS6 includes built-in tools for adding features specific that service. In addition, built-in access to Adobe’s PhoneGap Build Service provides a simple way to take a jQuery Mobile based site and turn it into a mobile app for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and other mobile devices.
Other areas of the program are not aging gracefully. Dreamweaver’s visual Design view which lets you add content and edit a visual representation of your Web page is great for simple designs, but often fails to display complex CSS-based layouts correctly. Dreamweaver’s server-side tools also didn’t receive any love this version (as has been true for the last two versions of the program).
Channel buying advice
Dreamweaver CS6 is a powerful Web builder with great code-editing, CSS, and site management capabilities. It introduces great additions for working with a couple of CSS3 properties and for building mobile-friendly websites. However, this version seems to be slipping behind in some of the core technologies Web designers depend on. Lack of HTML 5 tools, disorganized CSS creation, and an ineffective design view make it difficult to build sites using current standards and techniques.