Dreamweaver CS5: Adobe’s Gamble

Sometime last year, I after using Dreamweaver CS4, I made several wishes as to what I would have loved to see in CS5. Others read that post and also added their own wishes to the list. However, Adobe have taken a gamble with this release with respect to new features,  so with a trail copy of CS5 in hand, let’s see which of the wishes made it in, and which one’s Adobe chose to gamble with.

PHP Support

Dreamweaver has traditionally been designer-oriented software and as such has had trouble providing a fluid work flow for code hungry web developers. However, with DWCS5 several improvements have been made in the code editor as with CS4 to help improve server side code development in the browser.

  1. OOP Support: With this release, PHP OOP Support has been taken up a notch, with addition of better code completion support for objects. Now typing “$” or “$object->” should pop up the code completion dialog if the variable refers to an object, and it will list the various public functions and fields in the object. Support for PHP class definitions has been included, hence, typing “class MyClass extends “ will also pop up the code completion dialog and show the list of possible classes to extend. This is quite intuitive and will list classes in your current site, as well as other libraries and PHP libraries.

    Down sides
    :  code completion is not perfect and hence you cannot get code completion for common PHP object function definitions, e.g. “__construct ()”.  Also, code completion does not work with returned functions, e.g. “$object->getSomeObject()->” will throw an error with the internal code verification system. Hence, you cannot easily chain method calls. Even if you type the full thing yourself somehow (e.g. “$object->getSomeObject()->getSomeProperty()”), DW only recognizes the first method call and returns the object for that instead.
  2. Code Completion:  this has been improved greatly for PHP but see previous point for problems identified.
  3. Framework Support: Good news in this department, as Dreamweaver now comes with Site-Specific Code Hints for PHP frameworks and by default Joomla, Drupal and WordPress. It is easy to add your own, like I did for KANCMS and will probably make that configuration file available for users to download from the project site.

    Down Sides
    : none so far from me, since I do not use any of the popular PHP Frameworks. I only see pluses with this one for now.
  4. Updated Data Objects: shear disappointment in this department. Nothing new, not even the slightest of updates that I can tell from the surface level. Perhaps there were some internal code tweaks but nothing to write home about.

That said, overall, PHP support has improved, but meeting only %50 if the wish list is not a big improvement to me personally.

Javascript Support

At first glance, this looks like a huge disappoint to me – nothing much has changed in this department. Almost all the items I hinted in the last post as usability draw backs still persist. My biggest beef is the lack of cross script code completion, i.e. you cannot get code completion for your Javascript objects when the code is in two different files. My suggestion in the last post about a site wide scripts folder has been implemented, but only partially since it supports only PHP files. Terrible!

Discussing this with colleagues, it immediately became apparent why Adobe might neglect JS improvements. Simple: the Flash vs HTML 5 war. If Adobe improves JS coding support in DW, it will give developers less incentive to use the all new Flash to DW features that enable HTML5 canvas animations. I personally pray this was not the decision taken by Adobe else that would really suck, and give me once again more than enough reason to switch to Netbeans 100% for all my PHP and JS coding needs.

Another thing I wish CS5 would have improved is javascript function listing or navigation. Currently, the only was to see all the functions in your JS document is if you right click in the editor for the popup menu and choose functions. But this feature is useless when it comes to functions in JS Objects, because the JS parser used to build this feature does not know how to parse them to retrieve the functions defined in there. There even isn’t a general code navigator window for any language, even as at CS5. Terrible!

From The Community

When the last post was made, several members of the development community also posted their own wishes in the comments section. Here are a few that did or did not make into CS5. (Please note that if you were not mentioned, then perhaps your issue was addressed above, or it was an oversight).

  • SimonIntegration with other JS libraries aside Spry: Nope, no show. Adobe however have improved the Spry integration and cleaned up things a bit, but I still have no use for that JS framework. Some of my colleagues who have used it complained of slowness in site loading. Perhaps that is why it is not hugely popular, or perhaps the framework appears limited even though it may be much more powerful than what we see incorporated into DW.
  • Cairon – Better Rendering Engine: seems this has improved a bit with the improved Webkit rendering engine added. Also Adobe Browser Labs integration has been added to help with browser testing.
  • Chris Dawes – OOP Support for ColdFusion/PHP/Ruby/J2EE/etc: Unfortunately, the only dynamic language receiving much OOP Support in CS5 is PHP. Most of the other dynamic languages (aside ColdFusion) have stella OOP support in other development environments such as Netbeans, Eclipse and Visual Studio 2010.
  • Eric Wilson – Subversion Support: This has been greatly improved in this release and is even a featured update on the Adobe site. I have not tried this myself, but the UI updates to the Subversion feature alone is enough proof that some amount of work has gone on under the hood.
  • Eric Wilson – PHP Manual Support: Yipeeee! This has been included. The manual appears under the code completion popup for any pre-defined PHP function.  I however, have not gotten this to work for my own class definitions yet.
  • Eric Wilson – Hotkeys (Shortcuts): Some of Eric’s requested shortcuts and editor functions such as Balancing Braces have been added. The code editor in general has seen much improvement, unfortunately, I have not been able to test some of Eric’s other hotkey requests since they are not something I do on a daily basis. However, HTML formatting has not been improved much, same old stuff that existed before.
  • Olivier – real XSL support: I don’t think this made it in. Perhaps, I might be wrong here.
  • Gruppiz.com – Support for jQuery: Big NO NO! See above for even poor JS cross script code completion problems
  • Gruppiz.com -Support for CSS3 and HTML5:  This is more than scanty. Most common CSS3 features such as Opacity and Border-Radius were not even added to the CSS editor dialog. The only thing added for HTML5 was the DOCTYPE definition. No new tags or canvas support.
  • Gruppiz.com – faster FTP support: Haven’t tested this, but I have not seen much improvement here personally. Please correct me if I’m wrong.
  • Karl Johnson – Better handling of templates too with the ability to publish a copy of the site with all the template statements stripped out: This has been around since CS4 I believe.

Conclusion

All in all I think Dreamweaver CS5 is a bit of a disappointment, and with all the hype leading up to the launch of the product, I was hoping for a lot more than what I am seeing now. As some have mentioned, as an upgrade, it is worth it, but as a whole new product, I would not recommend you switch to this if you are already comfortable with another environment with better coding support. After teasing with the Flash to DW videos at MAX I was seriously hoping for a lot more.

I believe Adobe have done what Microsoft did with Vista and just released a slightly polished version of a previous product, and gave themselves the lee way to prepare to launch their biggest selling product ever. I only pray Adobe would not lose out on this gamble because by the time (another 18 months from now) DW CS6 is released, the amount of development and innovation in the HTML5 and CSS3 departments would make it tough for them to compete if they do not deliver a kick ass product like Microsoft did with Window 7.

That’s all for now folks!!

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7 thoughts on “Dreamweaver CS5: Adobe’s Gamble

  1. What I meant about publishing the site with template tags stripped out was for Dreamwaever to automatically remove the tags when pages are uploaded to the server but keep them in the local site. I know you can use the Export without markup function but that creates a copy of the site which you have to upload separately using FTP or reconfigure the site settings in DW.

    1. That is a big feature request, and I personally even thinking about the general code that would need to be written find it tough to imagine how such as feature would be accomplished easily. Anyway, that is for Adobe to figure out, but you will need to make that request available to them some how and see if they will choose to implement it.

    1. The answer is yes, else Adobe would not go to all this trouble to amp up the PHP support.

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