Tapping Timesaving Dreamweaver Tips

Even the best programs get better when you know how to make the most of them. Take a moment to check out these tips and save tons of time in developing your Web site. Most of these tips apply to both Macintosh and Windows users. When they apply to only one or the other, the text will tell you whether the tip applies to the Windows or to the Mac version.

Clearing the clutter

Dreamweaver's many panels (called palettes in previous versions) provide quick access to its most popular features, but they can clutter up the design area. To get them out of your way when you want to stand back and admire your work (or tear someone else's apart), use the F4 key, a shortcut that hides all visible panels at once. To get them back, just hit the F4 key again.

To turn panels on and off individually, use the keyboard shortcut assigned to each panel. Select Window from the Menu to find a keyboard short cut listed next to each panel name. You can use these shortcuts to toggle the panels on and off individually. You can also use the Launcher bar in the bottom right hand corner of the design window to gain access to the Site panel, Assets panel, HTML Styles panel, CSS Styles panel, Behaviors panel, and History panel.

Splitting the view: Working in the code

If you like to switch back and forth between the HTML source code and the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) design view in Dreamweaver, you'll appreciate the new option in version 4 that enables you to split the window so you can view the HTML source and the WYSIWYG design area at the same time. To split the window, choose View --> Code and Design.

You may also appreciate the enhanced features in the Dreamweaver built-in text editor, including auto-indenting and the ability to select multiple lines and indent them. You'll also discover live syntax coloring that appears as you type — you can even distinguish the colors for HTML and JavaScript. Choose Edit --> Preferences --> Code Colors tab to assign colors.

Tabling your designs

HTML Tables still offer the best way to create complex Web designs (because older browsers still don't support layers), and Dreamweaver 4 has made it easier than ever to create tables in its visual design area. In the new Layout View, you can "draw" tables on a page, drag them into place, and even group cells in a nested table — without ever worrying about how many rows and cells you've created. You can even use this feature to create tables that change with the window size, a great technique for ensuring your designs work on all monitors.

Choose View --> Table View --> Layout View to access Dreamweaver's new table-creation environment, and then just drag and drop to create any kind of table. You can find cell and table layout options in the Objects panel.

Converting text

If you're used to using the Paste as Text feature in Dreamweaver 3, don't be disappointed when you find that it's missing in Dreamweaver 4. Macromedia streamlined the process in its latest version. Now you simply choose File --> Paste, and formatted text from a Word processing document maintains its formatting — well, okay, it at least maintains the line spacing. Truth is, Dreamweaver is still pretty weak when it comes to converting text.

You can save yourself from having to reformat the text in Dreamweaver if you use a word-processing or spreadsheet program that includes a Save As HTML feature (Microsoft Word and many others offer this feature). Instead of copying and pasting the text into Dreamweaver, use the word-processing program's File --> Save As HTML feature, rename the file, and then open the new file in Dreamweaver. Microsoft Word and Excel even preserve table formatting, a real time-saver if you're dealing with large tables of text or numbers.

Finding functional fonts

Designers get so excited when they find out that they can use any font. In reality, your viewers must have the font on their computers for it to display. The more common the font, the more likely it is to display the way you intend. If you want to use a more unusual font, go for it -- just be sure that you also include alternatives. The Dreamweaver Font List already includes collections of common fonts, and you can always create your own Font List by choosing Text --> Font --> Edit Font List.

Windows is by far the most common operating system on the Net. To ensure the best — and fastest — results for the majority of your users, list a Windows font first.

Directing your viewers

Creating multiple sites is the most fail-safe solution for making sure that all your viewers are happy when you use cutting-edge page designs filled with DHTML and CSS. That means you create two or more sets of pages: one that uses the latest features and one that uses older, more universally supported HTML tags. But how do you ensure that viewers get to the right pages? Use the Check Browser behavior.

The Check Browser behavior is written in JavaScript and determines the browser type used by each viewer who lands on your site. The behavior then directs users to the page design best suited to their browser version. To use this feature, choose Window --> Behaviors to open the Behaviors panel. Then click the plus sign (+) to open the drop-down list of options. Choose Check Browser and a dialog box opens in which you can specify what browser versions should be directed to what pages on your site. When users arrive at your site, they are automatically directed to the page of your choice, based on the browser type and version that you specify.

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