Dreamweaver has long been a staple for web designers. The trailblazing tool was first released back in 1997 by Macromedia.
I have been a user since 1999. I had a contracting gig. The client insisted that I use Dreamweaver. I wasn’t too happy about this because I had come to envy WYSIWYG editors. The apps I tried wrote sloppy code. They were not for me.
But this software left a positive impression. Dreamweaver produced clean code and made my job easier. I found it to be miles ahead of my text editor. And I remained a fan until Adobe acquired the app in 2005.
Now, I’m a little worried about the future. As of this writing, Dreamweaver hasn’t released an update since June 2022. And even that was a security fix.
The competition is not standing still. Dreamweaver has long been overtaken by other code editors. They do a better job of integrating with modern frameworks. And they tend to be more flexible.
With that, it’s worth asking where Dreamweaver is located. Does it still have a place in web design? Or has it become irrelevant?
Dreamweaver was Ahead of Its Time and Built for Longevity
The late 1990s saw an explosion of web design tools. Independent developers rushed to release WYSIWYG editors. And some big players like Microsoft (FrontPage) and Adobe (PageMill) jumped on the bandwagon as well.
As you might expect, many of these tools were rudimentary. Some were a little too ambitious. The result was often a design that didn’t hold up in the browser.
Dreamweaver was like a breath of fresh air in this landscape. He was steady and didn’t try to do too much. It didn’t force us into proprietary or non-compliant code. It was an app that HTML purists could embrace.
The app was an established choice by the time Adobe acquired it. And the company kept adding bells and whistles to keep users happy.
And we can’t forget about the community. Dreamweaver had a successful plugin directory. These extensions helped developers work more efficiently. And they were involved with emerging content management systems (CMS) like WordPress.
But Dreamweaver’s evolution has been slow lately. Why is that?
An early version of Dreamweaver. Image courtesy of the Web Design Museum.
The Way We Design Websites Has Changed
Dreamweaver was originally a layout tool. Writing code was also part of the deal. However the software’s calling card was designing websites with a point-and-click UI.
That’s how I used to do things. I cobbled together layouts and then styled them using CSS. But this happened during a time when websites were static. This is generally no longer the case.
My workflow has changed. I use Figma to create a design mockup. From there, I build custom WordPress themes.
I still use Dreamweaver. But it’s primarily a code editor these days. I test my work in a web browser. That leaves the app’s WYSIWYG out of the picture – most of the time.
The feature is still handy for one-off HTML projects like this article. I use Dreamweaver to convert my word processing documents to code. It once had little taste.
Yes, the app can be linked to a WordPress website. But I found the process to be clunky – and perhaps unnecessary.
Therefore, the core feature of Dreamweaver is less relevant. I suspect that is the case for many web designers.
Websites have become dynamic. Designers have found more efficient ways to build them.
Where Things Could Be Improved
The software still works as a portable code editor. You’ll find expected features like syntax highlighting and code hinting.
Things could be better, though. There is no built-in code hint for WordPress, for example. There are a few outdated plugins available. But native support could attract more users.
By then, the plugin library has also become obsolete. It is similar to the sunset Adobe XD. The options are usually left over from many years ago.
Public participation is slow. Therefore, adding features related to modern web development should be prioritized. Modernizing Dreamweaver may attract more developers to extend the software.
And there is great potential to add artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. Adobe is already doing it with Photoshop. Generating code seems like a natural fit.
Dreamweaver Hang On, but How Long?
I still open my copy of Dreamweaver daily. I use it to write CSS and PHP. It does the job. But I am also stubborn when it comes to change.
I have a few other code editors installed. But I didn’t take the time to explore them. Maybe I’m afraid of falling in love?
Regardless, I’d like to see Dreamweaver evolve. The app is iconic and a link to the early web. And it could be part of the future, too.
Here’s hoping it doesn’t go the way of web rings and MySpace.