Making Your Own Objects
Did the previous information seem awfully theoretical? Here, you'll get some hands-on experience making your own objects.
Before Getting Started...
Writing your own objects involves hand coding, for which you'll need a text editor. If you're an experienced scripter, you probably already have a favorite text editor (NotePad, SimpleText, BBEdit, HomeSite, and so on). You can use any text editor to code your Dreamweaver objects. You are also free to use Dreamweaver itself to code your objects; both Layout view and Code view come in handy. Although it might seem like a dangerous way to proceed, Dreamweaver has no problem editing its own extensions. This is because Dreamweaver accesses only the extension files when it's loading extensions, which happens only when the program launches or when you force it to reload extensions.
When you're coding and testing extensions, it's easy for file management to get out of hand. A good strategy is to create a special working folder, stored outside the Dreamweaver application folder. Keep the following items in this folder:
A backup copy of the Configuration folder. Whether you're adding new extensions or changing existing files, it's courting disaster to work on your only copy of this folder. If things get hopelessly messed up, you can replace your customized Configuration folder with this clean one; it's quicker and easier than reinstalling the whole program.
A shortcut (PC) or alias (Mac) to Dreamweaver's Configuration folder and any of its subfolders you'll be accessing frequently.
Test files (you'll be generating several of those in this chapter's exercises).
Files for packaging extensions.
Any extensions that you want to keep inactive during your development work.
While you're working on the exercises in this chapter, keep your working folder open, or leave a shortcut or alias to it on your desktop; otherwise, you'll be doing a lot of navigating through your hard drive.
Exercise 1Setting Up Shop
In this exercise, you'll get your working space in order and learn some of the basic extension-developing features available in Dreamweaver. You'll create a custom objects folder where you can store your exercise objects, and you'll get some practice loading and reloading extensions.
Make sure Dreamweaver isn't running. If Dreamweaver is open and running on your computer, quit the program. You do this to experiment with how and when Dreamweaver loads extensions.
Find and open the Configuration/Objects folder on your hard drive. As you saw previously, every object file must be stored in a folder within the Configuration/Objects folder; every one of those folders correlates to a set of objects in the Objects panel. You can also add new object sets to the panel by adding your own new folders to the Configuration/Objects folder.
Create a new folder inside the Configuration/Objects folder. Name it Custom. When you're developing new objects, it's a good strategy to put them in a special folder called Custom or Development, at least until you're sure they're running properly.
Launch Dreamweaver. Every time you launch Dreamweaver, the program checks the Configuration folder and loads all of the extensions inside of this folder.
Check the Objects panel for a new category called Custom. In the Objects panel, click the triangle that accesses the pop-up Objects menu. There should now be a category called Custom (see Figure 3). Of course, if you choose that category, it'll be empty; that's because, so far, the Custom folder that you created is still empty.
Without quitting Dreamweaver, rename the Custom folder as Development. If you're on a PC, minimize Dreamweaver; if you're on a Mac, hide Dreamweaver or send it to the background. On your hard drive, go back to the Configuration/Objects folder and find your Custom folder. Rename it Development.
In Dreamweaver, check the Objects panel categories again. Go back to Dreamweaver. Repeat step 5, checking the Objects panel to see what categories of objects you have to choose from. Your new category should still appear as Custom, not Development. This is because Dreamweaver hasn't yet noticed the name change.
Force Dreamweaver to reload extensions without quitting and relaunching. Hold down the Ctrl/Opt key and click the pop-up triangle in the Objects panel. The Reload Extensions command should now appear at the bottom of the pop-up menu. Choose that command. Although some extension-related tasks require the program to be relaunched, most updating can be done more quickly this way.
Check the Objects panel categories again. Now release the Ctrl/Opt key and click the pop-up triangle to access the object categories. Your custom category should now show up as Development.
Figure 3 New Custom folder in the Configuration/Objects folder, and the resulting Custom category in the Objects panel.
What does this mean? Dreamweaver doesn't constantly access the object files; rather, it accesses them once as it launches. Any time you change an object file, you must make Dreamweaver notice your changes by either quitting and relaunching the program or by Ctrl/Opt-clicking the Objects panel pop-up and choosing Reload Extensions.
Exercise 2Making a Simple Object
The simplest objects are those that don't call up a dialog box for user input and, therefore, always return the same code. The simple object that we'll create in this exercise is a contact information line that links to an email addressjust the sort of thing you might want to put at the bottom of all your Web pages.
To create this object, use the text editor of your choice. Save all exercise files in the Development folder that you created in the last exercise.
Decide on the exact line of code that you want the object to insert. In this case, the object will be a one-line piece of text, formatted however you like, with an email address embedded in it. The result should look like Figure 4.
Create the basic object file, with all structural elements in place. Open your text editoror, if you prefer to work in Dreamweaver, open the Code Inspectorand enter the basic required code as described previously. You can leave out the details specific to this object, for now. Your code framework should look like this (elements that you'll be replacing later with custom text appear in bold):
Enter a page title into the code. This will become the ToolTip that shows in the Objects panel.
Insert the desired line of code as the return statement of the objectTag() function. If you have the line of code already typed into your computer, you can just copy and paste it in; otherwise, type it in manually now.
Save your file in the Development folder. Call it Contact John Smith.html.
Test your object!
Figure 4 The inserted code for the Insert John Smith Contact Info object (shown in Layout and Code view).
If you don't want to type in this code by hand, remember that you can use Dreamweaver's visual editor to create the final result; then go to the Code Inspector or Code view, and the code will be there, written for you.
If you write a lot of objects, you might get tired of writing this code framework over and over. You can save yourself the typing by saving this empty framework as a text file and storing it in your working folder or in some other easily accessible spot.
Most Dreamweaver ToolTips start with Insert (this is convention only, not a requirement). A logical title for the current file, therefore, might be Insert John Smith Contact Info. The top portion of your code should now look like this:
<html> <head> <title>Insert John Smith Contact Info</title>
Note that the entire return statement must be in quotes. They can be single or double quotes; just make sure that they're in balanced pairs.
Your code should now look like this:
Remember, object files must be in the proper folder, or they won't be recognized as objects. Make sure that you're saving the file into your Development folder. The extension can be .htm or .htmlDreamweaver accepts either.
The filename will become the menu command that appears in the Insert menu, so it's good practice to name it something descriptive. Unlike browsers and Web servers, Dreamweaver allows spaces in filenames and respects case changes. A filename such as Contact John Smith.html will work fine and will look good in the Insert menu. A filename such as jsmith_contact_info_1.html will also work, but it won't look as nice (or be as understandable) in the menu. Capitalization will also carry through to the menu entry.
If you already have Dreamweaver running, Ctrl/Opt-click the pop-up triangle in the Objects panel to access the Reload Extensions command.
If you don't have Dreamweaver running, launch itthe extension will be loaded automatically.
Create a new document, if there isn't one already open.
Check the Development category of the Objects panel. The new object should be there, represented by a generic object icon. Position the cursor over the icon, and the ToolTip should appear (see Figure 5).
Figure 5 The new custom object with a generic icon and ToolTip.
Click on the object. Your desired code should be inserted into thedocument.
Congratulations! You've made your very first object.
If your object doesn't show up in the Objects panel, then either you saved it in the wrong place, you didn't append the HTML extension to the filename, or you need to reload Dreamweaver's extensions. Even an invalid object file will show up in the Objects panel if it has a valid name and is stored in a valid location.
If your object shows up but there's something wrong with the code, you'll probably get an error message when Dreamweaver tries to execute the objectTag() function. Dreamweaver's error messages are fairly specific in what went wrong and what needs to be fixed.