Unlike the two major Web browsers, Web authoring tools are abundant, making it difficult to choose one. Macromedia's Dreamweaver 2 will only make the choice harder. The beta version shows promise as an excellent tool for creating professional sites.
Dreamweaver 2 builds upon its predecessor, Version 1.2a, by incorporating new page design, site management, and extensibility enhancements.
Dreamweaver's Roundtrip HTML feature, which allows you to work with pure HTML code alongside a wysiwyg display of your page, now offers a way to remove empty tags, nested font tags, and other extraneous code from imported HTML.
Although Dreamweaver 2 now includes support for Extensible Markup Language (XML), this feature is not well documented in this beta version. As a result, I was unable to test it.
I quickly created pages from a mock-up graphic using the new Image Tracing feature. This let me use a bit-mapped graphic file as a guide to help place elements within my page.
Unfortunately, I discovered a bug that caused the tracing image to disappear when I closed and then reopened the page. However, readjusting the image's opacity makes it reappear.
I also liked the new template feature that let me specify elements common to multiple pages within a site, such as navigation bars, page banners, footers, and placeholders for dynamic content.
Moreover, template elements can be selectively locked, preventing others from editing them.
I appreciated the new Set Color Scheme feature, which lets you apply a colour scheme that ensures text and link colours show correctly. Still, this doesn't match the capabilities provided by FrontPage's Themes feature, which goes much further by offering patterns and bullets.
Single toolbox palette
Dreamweaver 1 would quickly clutter the desktop when multiple palettes were open. Version 2 lets you select multiple palettes and group them into a single toolbox palette with several tabs. I found this especially helpful in reducing screen clutter.
Other design improvements include the ability to select multiple page elements, such as layers, and adjust their locations as a group.
Dreamweaver now provides a graphical view of your site as expandable icons, much like its competitors.
After completing my site, I previewed embedded objects - such as Shockwave movies - within the document window. This version also supports third-party technologies such as Cold Fusion, HotMedia, and LivePix objects.
Unlike the prerelease version of Dreamweaver 1, I found no major problems in the beta of Dreamweaver 2. I highly recommend downloading the free trial version when it becomes available in the beginning of December.
The Bottom Line
Macromedia Dreamweaver 2, beta
This solid beta of Macromedia's Web authoring tool includes many improvements and new features for professional Web site development.
Pros: Page design and usability enhancements; template creation; improved table editing tools; enhanced site management.
Cons: Weak online documentation; lack of file import or drag-and-drop text and graphics import; some beta-related bugs.
Platforms: Windows 95,98; Windows NT 4.0 and Mac OS 7.5.5 and later.
Price: Available on application from the Web site.