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Dreamweaver CS4: The Missing Manual Paperback – Dec 5 2008
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The book leads you through the functionality of the software with clear descriptions, step by step tutorials,and in-depth discussions of some of the more complicated topics. It even tells you which options in Dreamweaver NOT to use, if you want to follow best practices and make your life easier.
Although the book is massive, it has an excellent index. The virtual CD has all the files necessary for the tutorials, and you download it from the web site (hey, if you want to build web sites, you've gotta have internet access, right!)
I am a volunteer webmaster for several web sites including my own, a band from Winnipeg, and a non-profit organization. I recently totally revised the look and feel of one of them, and was delighted to receive unsolicited positive feedback. The book also helped me figure out how to fix some browser problems in older versions of Internet Explorer.
I spent a lot of time browsing the bookstores and trying to find a really good tool for learning the software. This is the best of the lot.
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For the newbie or existing user of Dreamweaver, there is lots to learn in this new version and the book Dreamweaver CS4: The Missing Manual is a great way to get started on learning Dreamweaver or get quick updates on the new things CS4 has to offer.
Of course this book is big (over 1000 pages) but it is going to be a complete learning reference for newbie's and well as good reference for existing users of the tool.
Compared to other Dreamweaver books I have, it makes it really easy to find exactly what you want with the clear and concise headings and subheading at the top of each page. I hate books that make you hunt around for pages trying to find what area of the book you are in.
The book is divided into 6 main sections:
1. A Guided Tour: This is for the newbie who want to learn the basics of the new CS4 interface and how to use some of the basic tools for creating web pages.
2. Building a Better Web Page: This takes in depth of advanced CSS layout and design (liquid layouts, fixed layouts, elastic layouts, positioning of elements, navigation, etc.) This section alone is more information than any Dreamweaver book I've read before on layout design.
4. Building a Web Site: This section deals with the file and site management of Dreamweaver. Not only do you have to design and code your web pages, but you need a site management tool to keep track of all you files (.html, gif, .css, etc) and track all the updates other people may make to them as well if your working in a group. Even if you working alone on a web site, it really is important to manage your files efficiently.
5. Dreamweaver CS4 Power: This section explains the unique tools that it has to offer like libraries and templates. Dreamweaver (with most previous versions) allows you to create snipets of code and store them as a code library to be used later. These pieces of code can be used anywhere on your website and are controlled and organized by Dreamweaver automatically. Templates are just what they sound like...You can create templates in Dreamweaver and reuse them for any website you create. It eliminates you having to re-write or re-copy-and-paste your code each time you have the same section on multiple pages. It have be HTML or CSS or both that can be re-used. A great feature and improved in CS4.
6. Dynamic Dreamweaver: This section is very important and explained very well from a coding/programming standpoint. Websites today are usually using some sort of database for retrieving lots of the website's content. With Dreamweaver you can link to a database (MySQL, MS Access, Cold Fusion --- not SQL Server) and use Dreamweaver's wizards to help you create dynamic web sites. It makes it easier than having you to know lots code/programming concepts. Dreamweaver can help you create sessions (tracking visitors from multiple pages) cookies (remember visitors from each visit) and much more. The author explains these more advanced techniques very nicely and without too much "techno jargon".
The last chapter is focused on another advanced topic with XSLT and XML. This is how you can style and design your web pages from data transferred from any kind of datasource and format with XML and XSLT. Many websites today are using XML/XSLT no matter what back-end they are using. A very unique and helpful addition to a Dreamweaver book.
This book should be in everybody's library no matter what the skill level. It covers all the basics for the beginner and many advanced topics for the seasoned veteran of Dreamweaver.
A great book.
Dreamsweaver CS4 for Dummies
Dreamweaver CS4: The Missing Manual (this book)
The Essential Guide to Dreamweaver CS4 with CSS, Ajax and PHP
I started with Dreamweaver CS4 for Dummies, which I found to be a pretty good book. I was able to read it cover to cover (though it's not necessary to do so to get started). In addition to a good basic overview, it had a couple of very helpful tips in a chapter called "10 Resources You Might Need."
As my design became more detailed, I felt the need for a book that went into more depth and bought the other two books listed above. I like both books, but find I rely on The Missing Manual the most. Its writing is clear and easy to follow. The numerous tutorials give step-by-step instructions for a beginner on how to accomplish various tasks, with more advanced details included in the text.
I like The Essential Guide as well, but since I'm not using PHP, I find that there are areas where the advice they give simply doesn't work for me. For example, when I wanted to learn more about using templates, The Essential Guide gave only a very basic explanation, then went into far more detail about using PHP "includes" instead. While I agree that the PHP "includes" are probably the better choice, it's not one that is available to me since I don't have a PHP testing server (and don't want to go through the complexity of setting one up on my home computer). If you are using PHP, then this is definitely the book to get.
All in all, if I had to recommend one book to get started, it would be For Dummies, particularly if your needs are very simple and/or you're completely new to web site design. For those who want to move beyond the basics, I like The Missing Manual the best. This book could also be used by beginners as long as you're not put off by its length -- with over 1,000 pages, it's not one you'll be able to read cover to cover. I think The Essential Guide is best suited for those who want to create very complex designs, especially those that use PHP. It, too, is very clearly written, but more intimidating to a beginner.
This book is well written and clearly explains not only what the program can do but the underlying concepts that make web pages do what they do. You learn about how websites function, not just how to use this product- which is very helpful when you're creating a site not from the tutorials.
The two downsides to this book: all of the supplemental tutorial pieces (websites, graphics, etc.) that are used in the book are online and not on a CD. Yes, this helps cut the costs, but when you're just starting out, it seems like a bit of a chore (first rule of web design: Don't make me think!).
The other downside: this book is indeed heavy. Its very readable and packed with information, but the size will wear you down when you're just getting started and reading for more than just a few minutes. On the plus side, you are getting your money's worth and people will think you are very smart reading this massive tome.
In a couple of hours reading the book and following along on Dreamweaver, I had a functioning multi-page personal test page. A great place to get started. If I could, I would give this 4.5 stars.
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