Ah, yes, code. Whether coding is your favorite thing about working on
the Web or the poisonous nemesis of your fragile sanity, I'm sure you've
encountered certain situations that you can't WYSIWYG your way out of.
Therefore, as any serious developer knows, it is important to keep a solid
text editor in your arsenal of development tools.
Much to the disappointment of developers, Dreamweaver's
text editing functions have consistently been a low point of the
application. Sure, Dreamweaver has been lauded for effectively eliminating
ugly code-bloat, but when you want to get down and dirty with your code,
you find yourself Alt-tabbing over to your trusty copy of TextPad more often than you'd like.
Well the architects of Dreamweaver 4 have answered our cries and thrown
together some substantially improved code-handling functions in this
version. First of all, the code window looks great deal better. The flow of
the code on the screen is still fully dynamic -- you can make a change in
the design view and it is reflected instantly in the code window.
Furthermore, there's an auto-indenting feature, and you can select and
indent multiple lines of code at once (a nice addition if you're one of
color-coded for quick identification. (These are optional features that can
be turned off if you're more comfortable working without the bells and
whistles.) Lastly, Dreamweaver 4 has placed more importance on the XML
standard than with previous versions. The application uses XML files for
many of its collaborative features, and it allows you to edit XML files in
the code view window.
Another substantial improvement is the "split view" option, which allows
you to merge the code view and design view windows into one active window
with two frames. You can work with your code above or to the side of your
page layout without having to manipulate multiple floating windows. I set
my copy of Dreamweaver 4 in split-view and haven't changed it since.
There are several other aspects of Dreamweaver 4's code handling
functions that are quite unique. The most useful, especially for beginners,
is the built-in O'Reilly code reference. O'Reilly and Associates, the leading publishing house
for Web technology reference books, has provided an integrated reference
file based largely on their book, DHTML: The
Definitive Reference, that can be accessed by clicking on the Reference
icon in the code view window. When you choose a tag from the reference
file's drop-down menu, detailed information about the tag is displayed. You
can also call up the O'Reilly reference file as you work with your HTML,
For example, if I'm working in tables and my knowledge of <td> tags
is a little rusty, I can highlight the nearest <td> tag, click the code
reference icon (or press Shift+F10) and I get a short but detailed
description of what the <td> tag is all about, its common attributes,
related elements that I can use, and a neat little example of how the
<td> tags are used in a table. Also, I can dig deeper by selecting from
a list of tag attributes. I now know everything I've ever wanted to know
about <td valign = "bottom"> but was afraid to ask.
debugging tool. Let's take a look.