Discover what the last boxed version of Dreamweaver has in store for web designers with our review. The web doesn't stay still, and new browsers and new technologies mean changes to your sites. With the explosion in mobile browsing, those changes are now bigger than ever before. Even so, Dreamweaver CS6 is still the familiar app with the same mix of design and code, and support for just about any web authoring technology you can think of.
The challenge for Dreamweaver CS6
UI and experience in Dreamweaver CS6
Improved layouts in Dreamweaver CS6
Developers keep their code-first view, while designers get improved layout tools that work with a range of modern web technologies. The result remains flexible, and it's easy for designers and developers to share a workspace. However there's still little or no support for code repositories and other team working features. Dreamweaver CS6 is still for the lone designer/developer, something that feels increasingly out of place in today's world of large teams of both designers and developers, all working together on the same site.
Fluid/Responsive Grids in Adobe Dreamweaver CS6
One of the biggest changes in Dreamweaver CS6, and one that has implications that go beyond the web, is the introduction of tools to build and manage fluid grid layouts. Fluid grids are an important combination of CSS3 features that allow you to use media queries to deliver flexible layouts that automatically adjust to deliver content appropriate to different classes of device.
Adobe is currently supporting common smartphone, tablet and desktop resolutions with Dreamweaver's fluid grids, which give you templates to layout pages for each of the three screen resolutions. There's also the option of cutting and pasting code and creating your own additional grids for different screen resolutions - perhaps adding views for TV screens or home media consoles, or for pages that handle tablet screen rotations.
Dreamweaver handles the media queries
Working with fluid grids is much like working with Dreamweaver CS6's template tools. Once you've opened a grid layout, all you need to do is define the appropriate page regions, using DIV tags. Regions are then aligned them using Dreamweaver's column grids, and you can choose which regions display where, depending on the resolution of a user's screen. If an element isn't needed at a particular resolution it can be hidden, and won't be displayed. It's a surprisingly simple solution to a relatively complex problem - Dreamweaver handles the media queries, and all you need to do is create the appropriate page layouts and designs. Another benefit to using Dreamweaver's fluid grid tools is that they can also be used to create HTML 5 user interfaces for Windows 8 Metro applications.
With fluid layouts, you need to be able to preview your work without publishing it to the appropriate devices. Dreamweaver CS6's WebKit-based Live View tools now include a resolution switcher, to quickly change from smartphone, to table, and to desktop browsers. Pages can also be tested in a standard desktop browser, just resizing to get the appropriate views.
One set of shortcuts comes from the CSS Transitions panel, which simplifies adding animated effects to a page. CSS transitions can be added to any CSS element, and can be tied to any event. You can use transitions to display pop-ups, or to accentuate actions, or just to draw attention to a link or a menu. There's no code needed, as it's all handled by CSS. You can test your transition effects in Dreamweaver's Live View, using the built-in WebKit browser to display the CSS effects without leaving your design, and Transitions make it easy to add effects to a page.
Mobile development and site hosting
The mobile web isn't just about browsers, and Adobe Dreamweaver CS6 adds tools for working with PhoneGap, Adobe's tool for packaging web applications into apps that run on the major phone platforms. Instead of publishing to a web server, mobile applications can be delivered to Adobe's PhoneGap Build cloud service. You can control which platforms you're building for using the PhoneGap Build panel in Dreamweaver, which reports on build status for each platform you're targeting. Once a build is complete, all you need to do is download your app from the PhoneGap site for testing, and eventual publishing on an app store. There's even the option to use a QR code to load an app straight to a device from the PhoneGap Build site, and you can use one to send clients to a public page for their app approval.
jQuery Mobile elements
Mobile developers also get access to a set of jQuery Mobile elements, so they can quickly build interactive sites without having to spend time getting a code framework in place. Components can be dragged and dropped to pages, and themes can be applied on the fly. You can apply these elements to a whole site, or to an individual element. There's also the option of creating your own themes in Fireworks CS6, and delivering them as theme swatches of CSS and sprite sheets.
Business Catalyst and Dreamweaver CS6
If you need to show your clients live site designs, Adobe has added support for its Business Catalyst site hosting service. You can use it to host sites with their own domains, using the built-in CMS and ecommerce tools. Dreamweaver supports Business Catalyst's modules, dropping the appropriate tags into your pages. A free trial site is available for Dreamweaver users, and gives you somewhere to test sites, as well as quickly sharing prototypes or completed sites with clients. We're still not sure about Business Catalyst as a tool for most developers, who are likely to have their own staging servers or hosting relationships - especially as it uses custom code that's not particularly portable.
Full £302 (ex VAT), Upgrade Â£95 (ex VAT), Â£38.11/month as part of annual Creative Cloud subscription and Â£57.17/month as part of month-by-month Creative Cloud subscription. For details on where to buy, please visit the Adobe Store.
For system specifications for Adobe Dreamweaver CS6, and other apps in Adobe CS6, please visit our Adobe system specs page.
Quick links to our other CS6 reviews: