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Time to Learn PHP? Dreamweaver CS5 Is Here to Help You

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David Powers, author of Adobe Dreamweaver CS5 with PHP: Training from the Source, discusses the dramatic improvements to PHP support in Dreamweaver CS5 that should appeal to designers and serious coders alike.
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Dreamweaver CS5 includes some major improvements to support for PHP:

  • Real-time syntax checking
  • Intelligent code hinting that includes detailed examples of how to use core PHP functions and classes
  • Code introspection to generate code hints for the developer's own functions and classes, as well as for third-party code libraries such as the Zend Framework

These changes mark a significant departure from previous reliance on automatic code-generation. Non-programmers can take advantage of dedicated support for content-management systems (CMS), making it possible to restyle their favorite CMS from inside the Dreamweaver workspace. And for designer/developers who are willing to get their hands dirty with code, Dreamweaver CS5 puts a much richer toolset at their disposal.

Dreamweaver CS5 has a new best friend—PHP, the popular server-side language for developing dynamic and interactive web pages. It's not a new relationship, since PHP has been supported since Dreamweaver MX came out in 2002, but the CS5 release takes PHP support to a whole new level. It also signals a significant shift in how Adobe envisages the use of PHP in Dreamweaver.

Dreamweaver's Previous Approach to PHP

In versions prior to CS5, Dreamweaver's emphasis had been on the automatic generation of standard PHP code to perform simple tasks such as getting results from a database query, inserting new records into a database, and updating existing records. When they were first introduced, these server behaviors (as Dreamweaver calls them) opened exciting new possibilities for web designers with little or no experience of server-side technology.

A couple of years later, Dreamweaver MX 2004 added PHP server behaviors for password-protected pages, and Dreamweaver 8 boasted a server behavior capable of consuming and displaying the content of XML. Shortly afterward came Adobe Dreamweaver Developer Toolbox (ADDT), a sophisticated suite of server behaviors that had been acquired from a Romanian company, InterAKT. This advancement led many people to believe that Dreamweaver's PHP server behaviors would continue to evolve.

It didn't happen. InterAKT became Adobe Systems Romania, and its talented programmers were reassigned to work on different projects. After a couple of updates to make it compatible with new versions of Dreamweaver, sale of ADDT was discontinued in April 2009. No enhancements have been made to the original server behaviors since then, apart from a few security fixes. Instead, Dreamweaver CS5 takes support for PHP in a radically new direction that brings both opportunities and challenges to web designers and developers. Let's look at a few examples.

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