Review: Dreamweaver MX 2004 Accelerated

Dreamweaver MX 2004 AcceleratedDreamweaver MX 2004 Accelerated is a full color guide from Sybex’s new Accelerated series. The book does not have a single author but is by a Korean team called Youngjin.

There is a lot to like in this book. There is also quite a bit not to like, and I have some unfavorable comments about what should be considered standard teaching practice.

Let’s start with the good, which does predominate the book. Each chapter contains an introductory section related to Dreamweaver MX 2004 use, and then goes on to provide exercises with accompanying files on a CD. Some of the exercises are excellent, especially the ones in the Forms, Behaviors, Templates and Multimedia chapters. The Forms chapter shows the user how to install an Apache server, MySQL and PHP and walks the user through setting up a small database and creating some forms to use it. The clip layer exercise and the pop-up labels exercise (using show-hide layers) were well done. The Behaviors chapter had several excellent exercises and is the shining star in the book’s contents. The exercises in the Multimedia chapter were also nicely done and very useful. The things that this book did well were, in fact, done better than I have seen them done in similar texts. If you are looking for teaching help in any of the areas I mentioned as excellent above, the book is worth having.

So, what’s not to like? The screen shots are too small for some of the details being shown. It would have been most helpful if the screen shots zoomed in on the relevant detail more often, instead of showing the full document window and expecting you to find a small detail on, for example, the insert bar. The book is completely Windows-centric. No mention of Mac is to be found. Most of the exercises use tables-based layouts with many using nested tables. Some Dreamweaver layers are used to position elements in a few of the exercises, but the book definitely teaches that the only way to lay out a page is with tables. The book teaches frames, which is not in itself a bad thing, but one of the exercises in the frames chapter shows the user how to add a sound file in a hidden frame with no way to turn the sound off. Additionally, the frames chapter never mentions any concerns about the accessibility of frames. The word accessibility does not appear in any chapter of this book. I guess they didn’t want to cast any shadows on their array of nested tables and hidden frames with accessibility information.

Finally, what about my issues with standard practices? You can tell from the previous paragraph that I think accessibility information should be a standard part of what is taught. But there is more. The book declares 10 points (yes, points) to be the standard Windows font size. Pixels, ems, or percentages are not explained as font size choices. CSS is right there at the beginning of the book in Chapter 3, which gladdened my heart when I read the Table of Contents. But when I read the chapter, all the user learned to do was apply a class in an inappropriate manner to some text. By inappropriate, I mean a class was created to define text in what should have been a redefinition of a <p> or <td> tag. In the Tables chapter, more CSS classes are used on a table, while simultaneously ignoring CSS for table cell backgrounds and teaching the deprecated <bgcolor> for table cells instead. The Dreamweaver MX 2004 Insert Div Tag with appropriate CSS was not explained for page layout. In my opinion the Insert Div Tag and the improved CSS panels (including the Relevant CSS panel) are the biggest improvements in Dreamweaver MX 2004 over the previous versions of Dreamweaver because they help the user move to standards-based layouts and away from tables-based layouts. This book does nothing to advance a Dreamweaver user’s knowledge about these design topics.

To sum up, there is some material here you might find extremely helpful in the classroom, but I would not recommend using this as your only text.

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