Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004

"A Super Upgrade with Features for Both Coders and Novices!"
| Type of Product | User Level | Features |
| Product Analysis | Final Comments | System Requirements |
Type of Product



Macromedia Dreamweaver debuted in 1997 and quickly became an industry-standard solution for professional web development. And it's gotten better with each version. In May 2002 Macromedia released Dreamweaver MX, a version which supported the broadening roles of modern web professionals. It combined the best development features of UltraDev and key code-editing features of Macromedia HomeSite into the core Dreamweaver environment. This was the first step Macromedia made towards creating a single development environment for web professionals, one that would let them build a variety of sites and applications the way they wanted to--by hand-coding, visual design, or a combination of the two.

Dreamweaver MX 2004 builds on the foundation of Dreamweaver MX yet incorporates many new features that will help users of all levels to build static and dynamic sites that meet today's tough standards for accessibility, functionality, CSS development, efficient workflow, and fast-paced content management.

Dreamweaver MX 2004 is available for Macintosh and Windows. Price: $399 for Dreamweaver MX 2004 commercial full version, box or electronic download. Price: $199 for Dreamweaver MX 2004 commercial upgrade from any prior version of Dreamweaver 4, Dreamweaver UltraDev 4, Dreamweaver MX, ColdFusion Studio 5. Price: $99 for Dreamweaver MX 2004 educational version. Dreamweaver MX 2004 is also included in a bundled package, Studio MX 2004. See the Macromedia website for price.

Macromedia has an excellent site to visit, with all sorts of information, freebies, and tutorials:

User Level
Advanced Beginners, intermediate, and advanced computer users. Each new version of Dreamweaver has included tools and features that make it easier for beginning web designers to use it. Though the program is not difficult, it is powerful and has numerous features. I would suggest you have some experience with computers and Web design before you use it.


New and enhanced features includes the following:

I. Streamlined Design and Development Interface

  • Insert Bar Improvements--Get a larger work area with an updated Insert bar that takes up less space. Customize the new Favorites area according to your personal taste.
  • Microsoft Word and Excel Copy and Paste--Copy and paste from Microsoft Word and Excel documents directly into Dreamweaver while preserving fonts, colors, and CSS styles.
  • Table-Editing Visual Feedback--Instantly see how resizing columns effects code structure. Easily determine selections with improved visual feedback. Increase productivity with easier-to-use Context menus.
  • User Interface Overhaul--Find things faster with an improved, more logical user interface that maximizes the usable workspace, and shows context and focus more clearly.
  • Start Page--A new Start screen, which appears when no document is open, gives you quick access to recently used files, and help and tutorial resources.
  • Saved Desktop Option--This gives you the choice to have Dreamweaver reopen documents you were last working on when you restart Dreamweaver.
  • Full Unicode Support--Leverage full Unicode support to use, render, and save any font and encoding supported by your operating system, including double-byte character sets.
  • Secure FTP Support--Use Secure FTP to fully encrypt all file transfers and prevent unauthorized access to your data, files, usernames, and passwords.
  • Find and Replace Improvements--Enhanced find and replace features include full keyboard navigation, more search options, and the ability to save searches.
  • Enhanced Performance--Dreamweaver has been rearchitected to improve performance in key areas such as opening and saving files, switching context, and switching in and out of the application.

II. Modernized Page Layout and Design Environment

  • Dynamic Cross-Browser Validation--Automatically check the current document for cross-browser compatibility issues when saving.
  • CSS Rule Inspector--Use this new part of the Tag Inspector in Code or Design view to see which CSS rules apply to the current selection.
  • CSS Layout Visualization--Creating layouts entirely in CSS is easier. Select divs and other block-level elements in Design view and modify their properties with the CSS Rule Inspector to build unique layouts.
  • Improved CSS Rendering--The enhanced Design view lets you render complicated CSS-based layouts and designs more accurately and perform robust visual manipulations.
  • Improved CSS Panel--Use this enhanced panel to jump directly to style definitions within the code and see where and how styles are defined.
  • New CSS-based Text Property Inspector--Select CSS styles without switching modes. The Style drop-down box has a built-in preview that displays all available styles.
  • New CSS-based Page Properties--Get more sophisticated control over page-wide properties like headings and links with the Page Properties dialog box.
  • Integrated Image Editing Toolbar--Use built-in Fireworks technology to crop, resize, and make other minor edits without leaving Dreamweaver.
  • CSS Code Hints--Hand-code CSS styles faster by viewing the appropriate options in Code view, or bring up code hints.
  • HomeSite+ 5.5 included--A new version of HomeSite+ is included with Dreamweaver with a Macro-recorder, snippet integration, and other key improvements.

III. Powerful and Open Coding Environment

  • Improved Tag Inspector--Make comprehensive edits with this inspector, which lists every available tag attribute that applies to a current selection, as well as CSS Rules and behaviors.
  • Siteless File Editing--Edit files, manipulate databases, and change code directly on remote FTP and network servers without first setting up a Dreamweaver site.
  • New PHP Server Behaviors--New behaviors include Master-Detail Page Set and User Authentication.
  • ASP.NET Form Control Objects--Use new ASP.NET objects and property inspectors to build and manipulate ASP.NET web forms.
  • Right-Click Coder Tools--Right-clicking on selected code in Code view displays a new Context menu for converting code to comments, indent, outdent, uppercase tags, and other tasks.
  • XML Namespace Support--Code view supports XML namespaces. Code hints and XML validation work for imported XML schemas that specify a target namespace.
  • Enhanced Macromedia Studio MX Integration--Work smarter with an evolved, customizable workspace.
  • Macromedia Flash Elements Support--Add interactivity to pages with built-in Macromedia Flash elements from with Dreamweaver.
  • MX HTML Elements--MX Elements are a series of prebuilt components with a new generation of interactive design patterns embedded, making it fast for designers and developers to build the most effective UI for the task.
  • New Reference Content--The Dreamweaver MX 2004 reference panel includes updated O'Reilly content on SQL, ASP.NET, and PHP.
Product Analysis
  Selected Features

Below is a more indepth look at some of the new features and enhancements. I've also included a list of the variety of resources for Dreamweaver for those novices who are thinking about trying the program but don't know where to go for additional help.

Installation, User Guide, and Help

Installation is easy. Dreamweaver includes a variety of resources to help you quickly learn the program: (1) Dreamweaver Help systems; (2) Macromedia website resources; and (3) additional books and training.

(1) The Dreamweaver Help systems are accessible through the Help menu and include the following:

  • Getting Started Help--designed to guide you through the process of creating a simple but functional website using Dreamweaver.
  • Using Dreamweaver Help--provides comprehensive information about all Dreamweaver features, optimized for online reading.
  • Extending Dreamweaver Help--provides information on the Dreamweaver Document Object Model.
  • Dreamweaver API Reference Help--provides information on the APIs (application programming interfaces) that enable JavaScript and C developers to create extensions for Dreamweaver.

(2) The Macromedia website resources are as follows:

(3) Additional books and training can be found online:

  • Macromedia Press--the books enable you to improve your Dreamweaver skills. Check out the latest books written by the experts on the Macromedia website at
  • Macromedia Dreamweaver Training and Certification--provides hands-on tasks and real-world scenarios. Choose between instructor-led and online training, or combine them to create a learning path that is most effective for you. Learn more on the Macromedia website at
  • Dreamweaver PDFs--available on your product CD for the complete set of Dreamweaver documentation.
  • Dreamweaver manuals--manuals not provided with product are available for purchase online at

Updated User Interface

Windows Interface


Dreamweaver MX 2004 has a new streamlined interface with an overall look and feel that is cleaner and clearer. Also, the refined elements like tabs and shadowed buttons present the user with a cleaner and clearer workspace that is more intuitive and easier to understand. Another plus for Windows users only is that the MX 2004 interface is contained within an integrated workspace which means the document window and all of the panels are positioned within a larger window. This makes working with multiple documents and panels easier because the panels and document windows don't float all over the screen as separate objects. See the image to the left for a view of the Windows interface.

  Start Page

start page

A new feature you will see when you first open Dreamweaver MX 2004 is the Start page, which provides quick links to frequently used features. This Start page is broken up into separate columns so you can quickly select and open a recently used file, open a new document, or open a sample starter document. This is an excellent feature for novices but advanced users might want to hide it. You just check the Don't Show box at the bottom of the screen.

Insert Bar Improvements

insert bar

The new Insert bar frees up more space in your workspace. You access the various categories via a drop-down menu. Each category has icons representing the objects in that category. Each object (images, tables, and layers) is a piece of HTML code that allows you to set various attributes as you insert it. When you select an object from one of the menus, the visible icon changes to the last used object. The best thing about the new Insert bar is that there is a Favorites category. You can add all your own most-used items into one category for quick access.
  Table-Editing Visual Feedback


expanded table view

Dreamweaver MX 2004 has some new table features that make it easier to design and edit with tables. When you insert a table, by default you'll see a transparent ruler at the top or bottom that contains easy-to-use context menus so you can easily select columns, change column widths, insert or delete columns, or make the column widths the same. You can also select to hide this ruler if it gets in your way or if you prefer not to use it. For a view of the transparent ruler and the options, see the top image to the left.

Also new to Dreamweaver MX 2004 is the Expanded Table view which adds padding to the cells to make it easier to see the structure. Normally you might find this a difficult way to work, since the expanded view will throw off how the design looks. But in an instance like in the image to the left which shows nested tables, it makes editing and cleaning up the table easier. For a view of nested tables in normal and expanded view, see the image to the left.

  Find and Replace Improvements
find and replace
With Dreamweaver MX 2004, you can now save your searches, plus there are more search options. One of the new capabilities I like is the ability to search a specific selection. You just highlight the text you want to search and in the Find and Replace dialog box, choose the Selected Text option from the Find In drop-down list. You can also search just selected code, too. See the image to the left for a view of the Find and Replace dialog box.
  Dynamic Cross-Browser Validation

target browsers

It's always been a problem trying to determine exactly which tags, attributes, and CSS constructs work in the browser combination you're developing for. Dreamweaver MX 2004 now checks your page against whichever browsers you specify in the Target Browsers dialog box. You have the option of choosing any or all of six different browsers and specifying the minimum acceptable browser version. Dreamweaver designates errors it finds by placing a highly visible icon in the Document toolbar. See the image to the left for a view of the Target Browsers dialog box.

  Integrated Tag Inspector
tag inspector
With the integrated Tag inspector, you can make comprehensive edits. It lists every available tag attribute that applies to a current selection, as well as CSS Rules and behaviors. The inspector has three panels: Attributes, Behaviors, and Relevant CSS. You can edit using the Attributes panel and the Relevant CSS panels. You can select any of the style or tag names and see the properties for that style. You can view all the properties in List view or use Category view. See the image to the left for a view of the Tag inspector.
  CSS Rule Inspector
css inspector

The CSS Rule inspector is actually part of the Tag inspector panel's multifaceted nature. It allows you to see which CSS rules apply to the current selection. By clicking a rule, you'll be able to see the attributes of that rule. A red strikethrough indicates an attribute that has been overridden by another rule. You can edit the rule and see the changes in Design view. See the image to the left which shows overridden rules with a red strikethrough in the CSS Rule Inspector.

  Improved CSS Styles Panel
styles panel

The improved CSS panel provides more options for editing and working with styles. It displays all the current styles--both internal and external--with detailed characteristics. Presented in a collapsible outline, Dreamweaver shows the styles in the order in which they are defined in the code. The style list is more than just a pretty display--it's direct pipeline to editing each style. You can select any style and click the Edit Style Sheet button, and Dreamweaver displays the CSS Style Definition dialog box with the current style's settings. See image to the left for a view of the Styles panel.

  New CSS-based Text Property Inspector

text property inspector

In addition to automatically creating CSS styles, Dreamweaver MX 2004 now enables you to apply any defined style directly through the Property inspector. And the styles added via the Property inspector will be embedded into the head of your document. The new Style drop-down box in the Property inspector allows you to preview and select all available styles from a given CSS file, which saves a lot of time. Plus, the Style menu displays the attributes of the style which lets you find styles by appearance instead of by name only. For example if a style is supposed to display red text, then the style name will appear in the Style menu as red text. In the image to the left, I created a font style which included the color of red.
  New CSS-based Page Properties
page properties
This new version of Dreamweaver MX 2004 sports an overhauled Page Properties dialog box with various categories from which to select, making it easier to locate what you need to set such as link behaviors, headings, etc. The biggest change is that the code written is CSS, not HTM, and the choices you make are written as styles into the head of the document. See the image to the left for a view of the Page Properties dialog box.
  CSS Code Hints
code hints
You can now hand-code CSS styles faster by viewing the appropriate options in Code view, or bringing up code hints. With code hints, a list appears when you type the first letters of a tag, attribute, or CSS property. The list has options you can choose to complete what you were inserting. You can also use it to simply see the available attribute. This feature is really useful to individuals starting out who are not sure of their coding techniques.
  Integrated Image Editing Toolbar
image editing
With previous versions of Dreamweaver, you had the ability to change the size of an image in the Property inspector, but all it did was change the physical size not the file size. And, if you wanted to edit the image directly, you had to have an image editor. Fireworks is still the best choice for image editing, but for a quick crop, resize, or minor edit, you can now use Dreamweaver. In Dreamweaver MX 2004, when you crop an image, you can now resample it. And if you change the dimensions rather than use the Crop tool, you can also choose to resample it. Plus, you can add brightness/contrast and sharpen, but you have no control over these tools as far as settings are concerned. You can still use Fireworks roundtripping for editing or the Fireworks Optimization option, but for easy quick fixes, this new feature is great. See the image to the left for a view of the Brightness/Contrast and Sharpen dialog boxes that appear in Dreamweaver when you edit an image.
Final Comments

Dreamweaver MX 2004 attempts to satisfy the needs of hand-coders and beginning designers and succeeds quite well. The design environment upgrade is not only attractive but it's highly functional and offers one-click access to many of Dreamweaver's starting points which is an advantage for novice users. The re-engineering of Dreamweaver to be CSS-centric from top to bottom is a welcome addition to those hand-coders who rely on Cascading Style Sheets in web design. And advanced users will like the numerous improvements to the various supported server models. While this upgrade might not seem as dramatic or flashy as the first MX release, the improvements are solid and make the program a lighter, leaner, meaner package!

System Requirements


  • 300 MHz Intel Pentium III processor or equivalent;
  • Windows 98 SE, Windows 2000, Windows XP, or Windows Server 2003 ;
  • 128 MB of available RAM (256 MB Recommended);
  • 275 MB available disk space;
  • 1024 x 768 16-bit (thousands of colors) or better.


  • 500 MHz PowerPC G3 processor;
  • Mac OS X 10.2.6 or later;
  • 128 MB of RAM (256 MB Recommended);
  • 275 MB available disk space;
  • 1024 x 768 16-bit (thousands of colors) or better.
Graphics: Adobe Photoshop 7.0
Web Page Design: Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004
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