Web Design Tool Packs Simplicity and Power

If you are looking for a quick and easy route to building a robust Web site, Macromedia Inc.’s Dreamweaver 4 is a top choice, delivering a powerful set of tools for both emerging and expert Web developers.

I have taught technology classes to faculty, colleagues, and students at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. We found that Dreamweaver’s intuitive WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interface allows newcomers to quickly get started with Web design while challenging intermediate and advanced users with new tricks and a functionality that scales to meet a developer’s growing needs. Dreamweaver 4 also offers features that specifically benefit educators, such as extensive support for accessibility, a wealth of online learning templates, and support for learning management systems.

It seems that all departments at U.W. Madison have sent staff to my classes to learn elementary Web design. Dreamweaver allows users unfamiliar with Web design to create a Web page without knowing HTML. Anyone who is familiar with word processing tools will find that the Dreamweaver interface offers a familiar, intuitive environment. As users enter text on the page, it appears in the document window as it would in a Web browser, and Dreamweaver automatically generates the HTML code in the background.
Novices can develop Web content easily because Dreamweaver places the most useful formatting features on a single palette called the property inspector. As users select different elements of a page to work on, the property inspector changes to reflect the available options. With this single palette, users are able to format text, create links to other pages, insert images, and quickly edit the underlying HTML code.

One of the features that sets Dreamweaver apart from competitors is the site files window. This window helps users understand where to save files and how to publish them to their campus Web server by dragging and dropping them from one side of the window to another.

Dreamweaver provides incomparable help and reference tools, such as well-written tutorials, directly in the application. In addition, Macromedia’s free TrainingCafe.com Web site offers novices a step-by-step template to build a course Web site in Dreamweaver. In a couple of hours, faculty can have a fully functioning course Web site including syllabus, materials, and chat room.
A unique feature of Dreamweaver is a full electronic version of the reference section of O’Reilly and Associates Inc.’s Dynamic HTML: The Definitive Reference on HTML, JavaScript and Cascading Style Sheets. These popular reference manuals can be accessed within Dreamweaver for explanations, examples, and specifications. These tools help novice designers quickly understand and employ the more powerful features Dreamweaver has to offer.

The majority of professional Web designers choose Dreamweaver 4. It offers unparalleled support for editing HTML, cascading style sheets (CSS), and JavaScript. Changes to HTML may be done by hand from either the document window or the property inspector. When working with CSS, users can quickly attach external style sheets or add individual styles. Users can then preview the results in a Web browser by pressing a single button, making editing CSS much more reliable.

Dreamweaver also provides stable tools for sites created and maintained by more than one person. These tools are especially useful in groups that include users with a variety of skill levels and experience. Templates and library objects allow advanced users to create a common look and feel for a site and limit the areas to which other users may make changes. Templates and library objects also allow advanced users to revise a single template and make changes to every page on a site that uses that template. This can dramatically simplify maintenance of a Web site.

Dreamweaver 4 brings the benefits of vector graphics and text to the HTML editing environment by adding modified Macromedia Flash tools. These additions let you create Flash Text and Flash Buttons directly within Dreamweaver.

Dreamweaver 4 also offers a range of specialized features and tools, including support for accessibility. Policies ensuring access to Web content for people with disabilities have become increasingly common for Web sites in educational settings. Dreamweaver significantly simplifies the process of creating accessible sites. The software not only writes clean, simple, and standard HTML code, but also makes it easy to add markups commonly used by assistive technologies. These include alternative text for images and image maps, headers for data tables, and CSS information.

Dreamweaver also offers designers a number of solutions for accessibility through its extensions. These are free, downloadable add-ons to Dreamweaver that are available from the Macromedia Web site (www.macromedia.com/ exchange/dreamweaver). Perhaps the most notable of those tools is the 508 Accessibility Suite from UsableNet Inc. This extension automatically checks pages or entire sites for accessibility problems, making it much easier for novices and experienced designers alike to understand accessibility issues with their sites.

Faculty who develop distance learning courses find that Dreamweaver is an excellent tool for creating online learning content. With its integration with other Macromedia products such as Macromedia Flash and Fireworks, Dreamweaver makes it easy for educators to create engaging and effective multimedia lessons. Dreamweaver also offers a powerful extension for creating online learning objects. CourseBuilder is one of the many free extensions for Dreamweaver. It allows designers to create assessment forms and integrate them into a learning management system.

Whether you are new to Web design or a professional designer, Macromedia Dreamweaver 4 is a good choice. Dreamweaver offers a simple, easy-to-use interface with a powerful set of tools and features to help faculty and students create engaging Web sites. Dreamweaver 4 delivers productivity enhancements for high-end developers and lowers the barrier to entry for novices.

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