Why Ajax doesn’t need Dreamweaver

There have been several discussions recently on if Ajax developers need Dreamweaver or not. Dreamweaver is a good tool, but it is just a tool not a solution.

The more I use Dreamweaver, the more I can see both its strengths and weaknesses. Let’s look from both points of view to determine if Ajax really needs Dreamweaver. As someone who doesn’t work for Adobe, but has used Dreamweaver for over six (6) years, I am a little bit more objective than some of the voices that have spoken.

Why using Dreamweaver makes sense:

  • Dreamweaver is sold (basically) as a WYSIWYG editor. And it does more or less a good job at approximating what you see on the screen.
  • The ability to synchronize files is probably the number one reason for me to use Dreamweaver, especially on websites with several hundred pages.
  • Dreamweaver makes it easy to import/export site settings so you can move between machines/users.
  • HTML code completion and attribute assistance in code and split view.
  • Server side code completion – if you hold CTRL + Space button in code and split view. (Why do I have to have a key code combination for this?)

Why using Dreamweaver doesn’t make sense(in respect to Ajax):

  • No code completion for JavaScript, even when working with an external JavaScript file.
  • Not all attributes can be edited in Design view through the property inspector.
  • No support for external (non-Adobe) established frameworks. Many established and effective frameworks (jQuery, prototype, yui, etc.) exist; yet Dreamweaver does not directly support them.
  • As CSS gets more complex, the rendering of it becomes slower and less accurate for the screen display, causing pages to take sometimes in excess of 20-30 seconds to load and render in design/split mode.
  • Code collapse requires that you highlight the code section to collapse. Other editors recognize function and tag blocks and allow you to quickly collapse/expand your code block.
  • No built-in Debugger

When I started at my current employer I wondered how I was going to work because they didn’t have Dreamweaver. However, I didn’t really have a problem. I’ve recently started using Visual Studio Web Developer Express for the server side ASP programming and Aptana for HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and for the Server Side programming. These free tools have allowed me to do almost everything that I can do with Dreamweaver. (I miss syncing files.) I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Aptana in many areas, including code completion of external JavaScript files, reading JavaDoc comments for external files, and having an excellent preview pane. I wish it could perform rich text copy/paste and (mostly) WYSIWYG editing like Dreamweaver, but it is not a complete version yet, and it is free.

The fact of the matter is, for a designer, who doesn’t want to write any code; Dreamweaver will do almost everything they need. However, if you need to use something that doesn’t come out of the box, or perform “real” programming for the web, you will find that Dreamweaver may not be the best tool for you.

About Walter Wimberly

Walter is a strong believer in using technology to improve oneself and one's business.


  1. Terrell Dando says:

    This particular blog post is really true.