Dreamweaver 2 / Fireworks 2 Studio

Reviewed by: Doug Reed, send e-mail
Published by: Macromedia, go to the web site
MSRP: US$399.00

(Ed Note: As of April 2003 Dreamweaver & Fireworks are available separately or in the Dreamweaver MX studio)

When designing a web site, the software that you use can make all the difference in the world. This is especially true for large sites, or sites requiring constant updating and maintenance. Macromedia has combined their premiere web site design software, Dreamweaver 2, with their web graphics software program Fireworks 2 into a comprehensive web design and creation tool. The combination of these two tools allows a webmaster to quickly and easily design graphics in Fireworks 2, then adds the graphics to a web site being designed in Dreamweaver 2. For those seeking to do professional web site development, this package is worthy of serious consideration.

The software comes on two CDs with a manual for each package; installation of both is done easily and quickly. In addition to Dreamweaver 2 and Fireworks 2, the enclosed CDs include a copy of Homesite 4.0 (in case you want to do your HTML coding by hand instead of WYSIWYG). For this review I did not test the functions of Homesite 4.0, mostly because I didn't see the point - Dreamweaver 2 also allows you to directly edit HTML code rather than forcing you into a WYSIWYG only mode. The manual for Dreamweaver 2 is quite large and comprehensive, while the manual for Fireworks 2 is a bit on the skimpy side in comparison.

Dreamweaver 2

Unlike Frontpage, Dreamweaver can work in an offline mode that does not require the installation of a web server on your computer. The tutorial in the manual is worth going through to give you a good idea of how to use the interface and where various commands lie. You are presented with a number of windows, one of which is the page you are currently working on and another is the directory containing the web site you are working on. A toolbar on the left provides access to most 'basic' web page elements for designing a page, while pull-down menus provide the remainder of the tools and utilities. Clicking on an element on the page brings up another small window just below the page window, listing attributes and properties of the element you selected. Here you can alter font properties, set hyperlinks, or (in the case of images) provide alternate text. Dreamweaver 2 has full support for Cascading Style Sheets, as well as for DHTML effects (like mouse rollovers).

Finally, Dreamweaver uses a proprietary "Roundtrip HTML" to allow you to drag and drop elements to place them on the page where you want them. What this means is that you can create effects not easy to do with HTML (like a title overlaying an image) and Dreamweaver 2 will generate the necessary code (via positioning elements, ala CSS-P) to create the look you want. A very powerful web page designer is coupled with an equally powerful web site manager. Dreamweaver 2 has a wide variety of tools that can perform a number of management chores, including a site map, linkage analysis, multi-file find and replace, and the use of 'templates' for web pages that share common elements. Dreamweaver 2 is extraordinarily powerful and - even better - easy to use. I am still discovering new things that I can do with the program; for example reading the manual for this review uncovered the ability to validate your HTML code. Wow!

Fireworks 2

It's a graphics design and editing program geared towards designing for the web. As such, it is primarily geared towards three file formats - jpeg, gif, and png (especially png). It is not as powerful as Photoshop, but for most web designers it is more than powerful enough. The interface is fairly typical - graphics toolbar on the left, file/program toolbar on the bottom, and various panels on the right side of the screen. All of your basic graphics design tools are here, as are most of the effects that you can perform on your design. The program loads quickly and easily, and the menus & tools allow you to quickly generate graphics for web pages. These can then be imported into Dreamweaver 2 for use on your web site.

The only fault I can find with the whole package comes with Fireworks 2. As is increasingly common these days with new graphics design packages, Fireworks 2 allows you to create web 'effects' (such as mouse rollovers) with a graphics file you are designing in Fireworks 2. Figuring out how to do it in Fireworks 2 is not easy; in fact, I'm still not sure that I entirely understand it. What I do understand, however, is that it is easy to do it in Dreamweaver 2. So I would recommend using Fireworks 2 to design your graphics and then Dreamweaver 2 to create your special effects. I don't want to fault the software too much here - I think part of the blame lies on the skimpy manual, which doesn't even begin to do the program justice. And a surprisingly skimpy manual at that, compared to the much bulkier manual for Dreamweaver 2! A trip to Amazon.com to find a good book on Fireworks 2 might be in order.

Macromedia's Dreamweaver 2 / Fireworks 2 Studio is a powerful software package for those who are interested in professional web design or who need a package that can easily be used for the management and development of a large web site. Dreamweaver 2 is very impressive and contains everything you can possibly imagine when it comes to designing web pages or maintaining a web site. For Dreamweaver 2 alone the price would be worth it. Fireworks 2 is a competent graphics design program, well geared towards designing web graphics. While it won't replace Photoshop on a graphics designer's computer, it is more than sufficient for the requirements of most webmasters. Don't believe me? Macromedia has full-featured demo versions that you can download and try out for thirty days. Thumbs up from me.

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