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Review: Dreamweaver and Flash Updates Deliver Mobile Dev Tools

Adobe has released updates for several of its Creative Suite applications, including Dreamweaver and Flash. The new Creative Suite 5.5 adds some new tools designed to target tablets and mobile devices, as well as improved HTML5 and CSS3 support in Dreamweaver 5.5, Adobe’s flagship web development app.

Creative Suite 5.5 Web Premium is $1,800. For those already using CS 5 Web Premium, upgrades are $400. Adobe has kicked off a new subscription-based pricing model, with Web Premium going for $130 per month, or $90 per month if you commit to a one year contract.

What’s New

Dreamweaver 5.5 adds several new HTML5 and CSS3 tools to the mix, including a newer version of the WebKit rendering engine, which Dreamweaver uses for live previews. Dreamweaver’s WebKit renderer is now up to par with what you’ll find in the latest release of Chrome, Safari and most mobile web browsers. That means the Dreamweaver Live Preview and Multiscreen Preview features will mirror what you’ll see later in the browser.

Dreamweaver added the Multiscreen Preview panel in an earlier update, but the latest release is considerably more polished. The Multiscreen Preview panel shows your site design in desktop, phone, and tablet screen sizes, and makes it easy to tweak your CSS so that your site looks nice on any screen.

Combining the Multiscreen Preview with Dreamweaver’s new @media support means the app is considerably more adept at responsive design — that is, making sure that your site looks good regardless of what device it happens to be viewed on.

Multiscreen Preview in Dreamweaver 5.5 (click for larger image)

This release improves Dreamweaver’s ability to work with content management systems like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. The Dynamically Related Files feature provides direct access to any page’s related files, for example, any php files used to render the current URL. While it’s a nice feature, it won’t help those of you working with lower level frameworks like Rails or Django.

The updated Dreamweaver 5.5 even turns to some outside tools to offer even more options for those targeting the small-screen world of mobile devices: Both jQuery Mobile and PhoneGap have been integrated into this release. JQuery Mobile makes it easy to add touch-based events and other mobile tricks to your site, while PhoneGap can convert your HTML, CSS and JavaScript into native mobile apps for Android and iOS. Keep in mind that both of these outside frameworks are pre-1.0 releases, and jQuery Mobile in particular is still an alpha release, so use with caution.

Among the smaller, but nice to see, additions to Dreamweaver 5.5 are support for HTML5 tags in the code hinting. You’ll also find new options to use the HTML5 doctype and more code hinting for CSS3 selectors and attributes.

Flash CS 5.5 also hops on the multi-screen bandwagon with new features to scale objects in the timeline, shared asset libraries and new publishing options for a variety of platforms — Android and iOS as well as traditional Flash movies.

The new content resizing options are especially nice and work a bit more like what you’ll find in other Adobe apps, such as Photoshop. Simply select the content you’d like to resize and either drag, or enter specific dimensions in the dialog box.

Improved resizing tools in Flash 5.5 (click for larger image)

The emphasis on mobile carries over to the new code snippet options as well. Snippets are little chunks of Actionscript designed to handle common events without forcing you to write everything out by hand. Previous versions of Flash include options like button events or data handlers. Flash CS 5.5 adds about 20 new snippets that target mobile devices — gestures, finger events, swiping and so on. Applying snippets is also easier thanks to a new floating panel display that previews code snippets and then allows you to drag and drop the code onto an object on your stage.

Verdict

There are some great new features in both Dreamweaver and Flash, but whether or not either is worth the upgrade depends on what you do with the apps. For designers this is a less compelling upgrade. There are few new tools, but the emphasis in both apps’ new features is clearly on developers working with code, particularly those coding for mobile devices.

At $400 just for the upgrade from CS 5, CS 5.5 is a lot of money for what you get. It’s a much better deal if you’re still using CS 4 or older versions, but it almost seems as if Adobe is using this upgrade mainly to push its new subscription-based sales model.

Scott Fegette, Senior Product Manager at Adobe, says that the company is moving to “a 24 month major release cycle, with interim updates.” Since this is one of those interim updates and will still set you back $400, the subscription model begins to look more appealing. Especially given that with subscriptions updates are automatic — new features are added as the are developed — there’s no waiting for a big release date.

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