An Event Apart Minneapolis: Greg Rewis, "Weaving the Modern Web"

The final speaker of the first day at An Event Apart Minneapolis was Greg Rewis from Adobe. Yes, Adobe was a sponsor of An Event Apart, so this was a promo for Adobe in general and Dreamweaver CS5 in specific, but Greg made clear that he not only promotes Dreamweaver, he uses it quite a bit, just like many of us do. I had the delight of chatting with Greg for a while after the first day finished: he’s quite a character and does a great job explaining the things Adobe has done to make the lives of working designers and developers easier. Much appreciated, Greg.

One important development with Dreamweaver is that rather than using its own custom rendering engine, it now uses Webkit for design view, which helps to mirror what a site will actually look like in browsers. As Adobe worked with users, however, they found that people were still pulling pages up in Firefox, primarily to use Firebug to inspect things.

Firebug is great, and if something is not quite right in your CSS or HTML, you can edit it right there within Firebug until it works right. The trouble is you need to then return to your HTML editor to make the same changes in the production files. It can be easy to miss a critical change you made in Firebug..

Now, however, with Dreamweaver CS5, users can do inspections right within Dreamweaver, in a similar manner to how they can do so in Firebug. The benefit is that when you tweak things in Dreamweaver, the changes are being made in your production files, so all you need to do is upload them, and the changes are live on your site. Sweet!

Another challenge that I have certainly run into is that Dreamweaver works great with static HTML files, but Design view has not traditionally worked so well with dynamic sites with a lot of includes. Well, Adobe has now tweaked Dreamweaver to not only bring in PHP includes, but also includes within includes, to display complete pages within Design view.

As somebody who uses ColdFusion, I hope this feature extends to ColdFusion files as well.

A lot more people are working with content management systems these days, particularly open source CMS’s like Drupal, Joomla, Wordpress, etc. Now, if somebody is working on such a site, Dreamweaver CS5 provides code hinting support for those CMS’s particular functions, which is pretty cool.

Another “feature” is that when you are working on a Drupal site, for example, you can go into Design view, and if you need to edit something, it can tell you which template and CSS files need to be edited to do so.

Personally, I find this highly dubious. In Drupal, certain CSS rules may be set in the core modules, some in contributed modules, some in themes. The trouble is that if you manually change these rules in core, for example, then the next time the core is updated, your CSS tweaks get overwritten. The best way to make tweaks is to have a duped version of your theme, based off your theme, in which you can put all your overrides. Then, even if core or a contributed module or even your theme gets updated, your tweaks are unaffected. I talked to Greg about my concern with this, and he pointed out that you can lock down certain parts of a site so they can’t have their files edited. True, but I’m still concerned that newer users will miss that and end up causing serious problems for their site. I’m hoping Adobe addresses this in Dreamweaver CS6.

To return to awesome Adobe things: Follow Link. Let’s say you’re working on a site’s home page, but realize you need to edit a sub-page. Turn on Follow Link, and in design view you can click on a link and go to that page: if that page’s content is in your site, you can then edit it right there. You can even turn on Follow Links Continously, and Design View essentially becomes a full web browser. Continue to follow links from one page to another and edit as necessary. This reminds me of Contribute and could be a great aid to allowing less developer-oriented users to easily edit sites.

Another neat feature is that you can pull up external sites in Dreamweaver CS5, turn on Live Code and Live View, and then you can easily see all of the site’s HTML and CSS, which may be easier than using View Source in a browser, if you need to copy some code to adapt it for your site.

Finally, when Dreamweaver CS5 was released, support for HTML5/CSS3 was not included. Now, Adobe has put out a pack to support that through Adobe Labs.

Every now and then, I gripe about something or other Adobe has done. No company is perfect. Yet it’s also true that no company makes my job easier than Adobe. In the last few versions, it’s not an exaggeration to say that changes in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign have shaved hours from my work each month. I primarily use Dreamweaver for its file management and code hinting, but I can definitely see how some of the new features in CS5 could be useful. A big thanks to Greg Rewis for clearly pointing those features out in as easy-to-understand and personable manner.