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New Developer Tools

Dreamweaver has a long history of delivering tools that are essential for Web programmers. The features in Dreamweaver 8 continue this relationship.

Arguably, one of the most dramatic new features for developers in Dreamweaver 8 is the inclusion of binding XML through XSLT to any Web page. What this means is that you can take an XML feed, such as a Weblog RSS feed, and drag elements of the feed onto your page. XSLT is the XML equivalent of CSS. Through XSLT, you can format the design and presentation of your embedded XML.

Using XML in your application is accomplished with tools similar to those you're already using for creating applications, such as JSP and ASP.NET in Dreamweaver. The XML panel allows you to link the page you are on to an XML file. The parameters of the XML file are received by Dreamweaver; you can then drag-and-drop the parameters you want onto the page. The process is very similar to binding Dreamweaver to a database and dragging fields from a table into a page.

Visually, one of the most important changes is within the Code view for Dreamweaver 8. The left side of the window displays a gutter menu that lists additional scripting tools you can use. One of my favorite tools is a new code collapse-and-expand tool. I do a lot of my work in Visual Studio, where I've been able to use code collapse for some time. Collapsing code makes it much easier to see what you're working with.

In addition to the new gutter menu, you'll find increased support for code hinting and completion. You can use the Code view as a way to rapidly learn how Dreamweaver creates different types of pages. Again, you're learning by doing.

ColdFusion MX 7 support has been improved. Now you can add databases to and remove databases from your ColdFusion environment—from within Dreamweaver 8. Support for CFCs is restricted to the site with which you're working, which simplifies navigating to the CFC you need.

In addition to ColdFusion, Dreamweaver supports other server-side technologies, such as ASP.NET and JSP. An area that has had weak support is PHP. Dreamweaver 8 changes this situation through strong support for PHP 5. You'll also find more server behaviors and increased code hinting support.

Finally, Macromedia has updated the reference materials to include content on XML, XSLT, and XPath. Together with the enhanced support for CSS and the new XML support, Macromedia is positioning Dreamweaver as the AJAX development environment of choice.

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