Adobe Dreamweaver CS6 features and reviews

If you design websites professionally using anything but a straight code editor, chances are it’s Dreamweaver. The app’s impressive breadth means it’s as happy with PHP as HTM L, providing all the appropriate hinting and code coloring. For the personal user, it’s not really made for purely visually out in the style of Freeway or Rapidweaver, but if you know a little CSS and you’re happy working with divs, there’s plenty of hand-holding.

Since shipping CS5.5, Adobe has acquired Nitobi, developer of the PhoneGap mobile framework that makes it relatively easy to create iPhone, BlackBerry, webOS, Symbian and Android apps using HTM L5. So it's not surprising to see that, as with CS5.5, this is well supported in CS6. You still need to have Apple's Xcode tools installed on your Mac before you can port your designs to the iPhone, but PhoneGap's inclusion cements Dreamweaver's position as a viable alternative to developing apps from scratch within Xcode, a prospect that will fill many web-focused designers with dread.

The inclusion of pre-built interactive elements, such as accordion layers and multi-level menus, means you already have ahead start on creating what feels like a native iOS app, even if you choose to publish it online as HTML rather than on the App Store. A new Swatches panel lets you quickly and easily change color themes without manually rewriting the underlying code. It's not only mobile apps that benefit from pre-built design elements: CS6 also sees the introduction of a responsive 'fluid grid' layout engine, which makes it easy to build sites a greater degree of browser awareness.

Responsive sites render more efficiently on a wide range of platforms, reformatting themselves to cater for different browser sizes and page widths so that the same site %i1l look just as good — although often entirely different — on a smartphone as in a desktop browser. Dreamweaver CS6 lets you design the different formats in a single document, then use the updated Multiscreen Preview display to show how they look side by side.

The fluid grid layout system sets up three layout and typography presets to handle mobile (480 pixels wide), tablet (768 pixels) and desktop displays, and you can specify how much of each screen your site should consume as a percentage of the whole - say 98% for mobile and tablet, where you'd want it to fill the display, and 80% for desktop, to allow the user some space to keep an eye on other work — while also specifying how many columns you want to design across.

This will naturally be a higher number on the desktop, allowing for finer-grained control over positioning and narrower sidebars, but a smaller number on tablet and, particularly mobile devices, where you need to assume a more traditional top-down approach.

Once they're defined, you can test the different views of your site using icons at the foot of the editing window to switch between virtual devices. The columns are used to stripe the page background, providing handy snap points so you can drag div layers until they align with the column margins.

The genius of the fluid grid layout feature lies in its simplicity, with the layout panel differentiating between regular and fluid grid layout div tags. This is important, as adding the fluid grid layout variant simultaneously drops the tag onto your page and adds the necessary styling, all three types to the attached style sheet. Should you later change the name of the div on the page, perhaps from 'content' to 'bodycontent', you'll break the connection, and the style sheet won't update in sync unless you manually edit the CSS class names in the style sheet to match.

With CSS transitions, you can now endow your sites with a greater feeling of life, making them more application-like in the browser, with elements not just appearing (rum nowhere but sliding into place, realigning and so on, with full control over timing, delay and easing in and out. The underlying code uses vendor-specific selectors for WebKit (Safari), Mozilla, Microsoft and Opera clients, which previously would have been time-consuming to wrangle by hand.

Contribute, a largely overlooked adjunct to Dreamweaver, has been retired. This £99 app was promoted as allowing web developers' downstream customers to update content on their own sites without assistance. In its place, Adobe is promoting Business Catalyst, its own hosted content management system, the use of which attracts an ongoing fee.

If you'd rather not pay for this, you can still, of course, work with third-party content management systems such as WordPress and Joomla, and use the Related Files feature to pull in each of the assets on which the CMS engine relies to render the site in preview. Combined with Dreamweaver's long-standing support for 'live' sites encompassing data pulled from a linked database, this offers one of the most flexible and representative suites in which to develop for the web.

Adobe claims Dreamweaver's integrated FTP tool is now faster, thanks to multithreading. However, if you deploy to a local testing server during development, you may not see a big productivity boost from this.

Is it worth upgrading from CS5.5? That largely depends on how serious you are about transitioning sites to HTML5 and CSS3, or building from scratch with those formats. There are two truly 'new' features — fluid grid layout and CSS3 transitions — and updates to the jQuery mobile framework and PhoneGap. You could get the latest build of PhoneGap from and use a standalone HTML5 coding platform such as Hype (£34.99), but you'd miss out cm the fluid and efficient workflow offered by Dreamweaver, which is worth the asking price. CS5 upgraders have more to gain, including PhoneGap integration, FTPS support and W3C validation. The last, in particular, will become increasingly important.

Price: £361.20 including VAT
Seller: Adobe
Requirements: Multi-core Intel processor, OS X10.6
Pros: Fluid Grid Layout tools, PhoneGap integration, CSS actions, offers built-in support for building browser-based apps for phones
Cons: Not a huge upgrade from C55.5, the interface is complex that sometimes requires editing in raw code.

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