Had my first play with Dreamweaver for about five years today. I must confess that I’m not a great fan of "design mode" HTML editors and much prefer to hand code it, but it does a good job at auto-completing the tags so that’s all very good. No better than the free Visual Studio Express for Web Developers but there we go. The interested bit was using Dreamweaver with Adobe Contribute. The basic premise is you design a site with Dreaweaver, and allow authors to change the site via Contribute. The clever bit is that you can create templates in Dreamweaver with specific editable regions and specific sets of CSS styles. The in Contribute you can different rules to different roles thereby restricting users to what they can create and edit. It seems to work very well, the check-in system is a bit clumsy in comparison to modern source control servers but is effective. From the authors point of view they can an editor where they can clearly see the bits of the page that are available to them to change. In the drop down list of styles they (if configured correctly) only see the styles the web designer constructed for them to use. Although I couldn’t prevent the use of the horrible justification buttons in Contribute, very annoying. The templates themselves behave in a sort of "master page" principal. If you make a change to the template then it "automatically" (but it does require some help) updates any pages based upon that template. However, I did find the nested concept a little confusing and wasn’t nearly as flexible as ASP.NET Master Pages. Although to be fair the basic templates are much easier to use and I find ASP.NET Master a little nasty to use, certainly for a users stuck in design mode.

Overall I do like Dreamweaver, I think it’s horribly overpriced for what it delivers, at least for the bits I want to use. Contribute on the other hand is a fairly priced product and is a decent no thrills editor for the non-HTML savvy authors.

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