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Review of Adobe Dreamweaver CS4

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

By Tom Nelson and Mary F. O'Connor

Review of Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 - Updated Interface, New and Improved Coding and Site Organization T

Adobe Dreamweaver CS4

Adobe product box shot reprinted with permission from Adobe Systems Incorporated

The Bottom Line

Dreamweaver CS4 offers a handful of intriguing and useful new features. It also has an updated interface that many users may hate at first, not because it's terrible, but because it's such a change from CS3. On the plus side, like the other CS4 apps, Dreamweaver CS4 has been updated to share a common interface with the rest of the CS4 suite.

Some of the new features will appeal most to professional web designers. In fact, if you use Dreamweaver CS3 and you're not a professional web designer, you may find that Dreamweaver CS4 isn't a must-have upgrade.

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  • Shares a common interface with other CS4 apps.
  • New Live View feature provides a real-time preview of your web site.
  • Easier for inexperienced web designers to use than previous versions.
  • Customizable workspace.
  • Better support for Photoshop.


  • Takes over your screen.
  • Expensive for beginner or casual web designers.
  • Significant changes to user interface may be off-putting at first.
  • Not a must-have upgrade for many users.
  • No longer runs on G4 Macs.


  • Available in Mac and Windows versions.
  • Available in several Creative Suite configurations as well as standalone products.
  • Well integrated with other CS4 applications.
  • Provides live preview of web sites.
  • InContext Editing online service lets multiple individuals edit pages without using Dreamweaver.
  • Supports Photoshop Smart Objects to keep images in sync.
  • Supports advanced JavaScript frameworks.
  • Improved support for creating and editing CSS rules and formatting.
  • New Related Files feature keeps files associated with the current page in a clickable bar across the top of the page.
  • New Code Navigator makes it easier to access and edit source code.

Guide Review - Review of Adobe Dreamweaver CS4

Let's get the biggest con out of the way first. We hate the way Dreamweaver CS4 takes over the screen, effectively blocking out the desktop. As avid multitaskers, we're always doing at least three or four things at once, and we consider unfettered access to the desktop a downright necessity.

On the plus side, Dreamweaver CS4 offers a number of impressive new features and many enhancements that make it easier for beginners to use than CS3. One major change from CS3 is the user interface, which has been redesigned to provide a common experience across all of the CS4 apps. There's no question that this is an improvement, but if you're upgrading from CS3, you may not be pleased about having to relearn the interface. Once you get over the shock, though, you're bound to love the ease and familiarity of moving between the various apps.

One of Dreamweaver CS4's best new features may be Live View, which lets you preview a page in a browser without leaving Dreamweaver. You can check interactive elements, such as dropdown menus, edit code where necessary, and immediately preview the results.

Another new feature we really liked is Related Files, which displays links to files associated with the current page in a clickable bar across the top of the page. You can click a file, edit it in Code View, and immediately see the changes in Design View.

A related new feature is Code Navigator, which displays editable source code for style sheets and rules that apply to a selected element.

Also new are Live Code view, which lets you check the effects of JavaScripts on a page's HTML codes, and Code Navigator, which displays links to all code sources related to the currently selected page element.

The new InContext Editing feature, part of an online service available from within Dreamweaver, is handy when multiple individuals provide content for, or need to edit, a web site. You can designate certain page sections as editable and lock the rest. Your colleagues will then be able to edit the appropriate available sections using a browser.

Improved integration with Photoshop includes support for Photoshop Smart Objects. You can drag and drop a PSD file into a Dreamweaver CS4 site. If any changes are made to the original file, a small indicator on the Smart Object in Dreamweaver will indicate that it's out of sync. You can click the indicator to update the file, or ignore the changes, as appropriate.

Over all, Dreamweaver CS4 is a powerful, multifaceted program, and a very satisfying upgrade. Most of the new and improved features are most useful for web designers who work with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript at the hand coding level. If you're a beginner or a casual web designer who currently uses CS3, and you're not that interested in tinkering under the hood, you could easily pass on this upgrade. If you're going to use any other CS4 applications, though, the change to a common user interface might be well worth the price of the upgrade.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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