Review: Dreamweaver MX: Design and Technique

Another good new book from Sybex, Dreamweaver MX: Design and Technique, written by Ethan Watrall, is aimed at beginning to intermediate Dreamweaver users.

Dreamweaver MX: Design and Technique book coverThe book explains Macromedia Dreamweaver MX using text and illustrations. The accompanying CD contains hands-on files for use with a couple of chapters dealing with connecting to a database and adding dynamic content from a database to a Web page. Otherwise the learner is strictly studying the text and illustrations to master the software. This approach is perfect for someone who has a project already in mind and wants to look up various techniques as they apply to their own needs. With or without a hands-on activity, the chapters and explanations are clearly (and rather too chattily) written.

My chief gripe about the new Dreamweaver MX is that it retained the font tag options right there on the top of the properties panel. Macromedia did put a toggle on the properties panel so the user could select CSS classes instead of font tags in MX, but I was hoping to see the priority given to font tags on the properties panel go away completely.

My chief gripe about Dreamweaver books is that they teach the font tags and the Page Properties including bgcolor and other deprecated tags in the first chapters of the book. I assume they do this because they are hesitant about using CSS or because the font tags are right there on the properties panel and look like the expected way to manipulate text. This book is no different in that respect. Other than explaining how to set up a site and save a page, the first instruction the reader gets is in the use of deprecated tags. This book finally gets to style sheets in Part III: Working with Dynamic HTML, which the author takes on after a thorough discussion of Intermediate Dreamweaver techniques in Part II.

There is a nod to the art of Web design with an overview of the topic at the beginning of the book and Design Reminders and Design Inspiration features in every chapter. The book includes a full color Gallery of inspirational Web sites near the beginning of the book.

Because the Windows version of Dreamweaver MX has capabilities not available on the Macintosh version, Watrall chose to use mostly Windows screen shots in the book. This should not hamper a Mac user in getting the good from the book in any way, however.

Features new to MX are clearly marked with an MX icon, a nice touch for the more experienced Dreamweaver users navigating the book. I, for example, was attracted by the new to MX icon to the terrific new Insert Hyperlink popup panel accessibility options. These are new options in Dreamweaver MX, available only under the Insert drop down menu. Using Browse for File or Point to File, as in Dreamweaver 4, does not reveal this panel with accessibility options for hyperlinks.

Watrall has written two other books for Sybex: Dreamweaver 4 / Fireworks 4 Visual JumpStart and Flash MX Savvy. He is an instructor at Ivy Tech State College in Indiana.

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