EW3 - Editor Wars v.3 EDITOR WARS

Comparative HTML Editor Reviews, v.3


[ Main Page ]  [ about ]   Version 3.00.02, last updated on 2000/01/02


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  Dreamweaver 3.0    

Category: WYSIWYG Editors
Manufacturer: Macromedia , www.macromedia.com
Download: 12 MB, 30-day trial version

  What it does.    



In its second year now, Dreamweaver wants to be the one WYSIWYG editor which shows the competition how it's done. Dreamweaver 1 (January 1998) had some issues left to work out, some which were fixed with Dreamweaver 2 (January 1999). Following the "third time's a charm" rule, Dreamweaver now seems poised to achieve the greatness which it almost accomplished on its previous two outings.

Dreamweaver's main point is to do WYSIWYG without brutally reformatting the user's hand-tweaked code while doing this.



  The Light Side.    



Dreamweaver (DW) no longer solely relies on its unique selling point -- Macromedia has understood that faithful WYSIWYG rendering and handling of user-written code is nice, but customers want it all. And they get it: advanced Table Editing, an Image Map editor, HTML 4.0 layers, pre-built JavaScript "behaviors", search and replace across files, XML support and Macro functionality.

DW 3.0 includes FTP and site management functionality, site-wide link-checking, CSS style sheet editing and basically everything you need to edit HTML pages.

The developers have also complemented their CSS style sheets with HTML styles: <font face> and <font color> definitions instead of CSS definitions. Style Sheets, at this point, are not quite ready for prime time yet since the browsers have different ways of interpreting CSS commands.

Before version 3, Dreamweaver users had to edit tags either accessing their properties through a floating window called "Property Inspector" or using the HTML source view. The new "Quick Tag Editor" opens a little window in WYSIWYG view to insert a new tag or edit an existing tag. The user can access different tag levels using keyboard shortcuts. Look Ma, no more mousing about!

The synchronized HTML source view has been improved, now including line numbering and a docking option. Also, there is a new command to "clean up Word HTML" -- removing unneccessary tags from HTML documents created by Microsoft Word.

Nice: Previously, DW forgot everything which happened before the last save; now it offers unlimited Undo functionality, powered by a history list which can also be used to create macros. It also features a complete, customizable DOM with which to adapt Dreamweaver to one's needs.



  The Dark Side.    



Dreamweaver's multi-window interface is very dated and seems rather uncommon to Windows users. DW 3 continues to clutter the screen with numerous "inspectors", "palettes" and "views", all of them independent windows. For each document, it opens a separate and tiled main window.

Buggy templates: Version 2 introduced "templates", which work by inserting comment tags into the HTML code. This feature still doesn't quite work: When you select several lines of text on an ordinary HTML document and define it as a list, the lines become list items. Inside a template, an empty list item is inserted instead. If one happens to create two editable regions with the same name, the application refuses to save the document (without giving a reason), starts behaving erratically and eventually crashes. Oops.

The HTML Inspector (i.e. the HTML code view) still doesn't update its tag coloring until you either switch back to WYSIWYG view or save the document. It's nice that the window can be docked, but unfortunately it can't be attached either to the main window or the site management window.

And then there is the problem that sometimes, the Quick Tag editor will refuse to let you enter perfectly legal markup. After displaying the this message, the Quick Tag editor will close and the tag will disappear. So much for respecting your handwritten-code:

Quick Tag Editor Bug, 3k
A bug: Sometimes, valid markup is not recognized.






All things considered, Dreamweaver continues to be the only WYSIWYG HTML editor which will respect your HTML in the morning, to twist a phrase. While it is not good enough to enable users to create advanced layouts in WYSIWYG view, it can't be beat when you want to maintain existing pages or fill page templates with new content.

The main drawback, though, is Dreamweaver's price. Online, Macromedia sells the editor for a whopping 299 US Dollars. Users who can't afford this price tag will have to settle for a lesser HTML editor.

Available for MacOS and Windows 95/98/NT; Cost: 299 US-Dollars (online)






At a considerably lower price point (130 USD), HotMetal Pro 6.0 offers most of the comfort functions to be found in Dreamweaver. HotMetal also has a MDI interface, which is easier to handle than Dreamweaver's sprawling little windows everywhere. However, HotMetal is a bit buggy and depends heavily on MSIE 5.0 for some of its advanced functionality. Click here for a review.

Microsoft FrontPage 2000 can also be your friend, if you are willing to accept that it uses proprietary extensions and creates very Internet-Explorer-friendly code which in Netscape Navigator may not work quite as intended.



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