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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
If you’ve been using Dreamweaver for a while, you don’t need to be told how to insert text and create hyperlinks. But if you’re upgrading to Dreamweaver MX, you can almost certainly use some help with the program’s sophisticated new features for building more dynamic, more creative, more standards-compliant sites. In Dynamic Dreamweaver MX, a team of longtime Dreamweaver developers dive headfirst into those features and come up with the practical techniques and solutions you’re looking for.
The authors begin with a quick, high-level run-through of the new features that make Dreamweaver MX so exciting to so many designers and developers. With that out of the way, they immediately take on Dreamweaver MX’s impressive XHTML support.
XHTML unquestionably creates headaches. Fortunately, Dreamweaver mitigates many of those. And, as the authors stress, it offers powerful advantages: cleaner markup, greater platform independence, improved accessibility, forwards compatibility, faster page loading, and better interoperability with XML (for example, you can incorporate tags from XML languages such as SMIL and SVG).
You’ll learn how to write valid XHTML; use DOCTYPE sniffing to instruct recent browsers to support standards more rigorously; cope with deprecated tags; and get into some important “best practices” habits for XHTML coding (for example, don’t use BLOCKQUOTE for indentation; if you must indent purely for visual reasons, create a CSS style).
Speaking of CSS, Dynamic Dreamweaver MX delves next into Dreamweaver’s extensive CSS support. You’ll walk through setting your CSS preferences; creating style sheets and custom classes; working with Dreamweaver’s pre-made “Design Files” CSS stylesheets; converting HTML sites to CSS; and coping with browser and device issues (notably the misbegotten Netscape 4).
There’s a full chapter on creating accessible web pages with Dreamweaver MX, which makes it easier than just about any other tool. Dreamweaver MX can not only prompt you to enter accessibility information for images, forms, media, tables, and frames; it also contains templates, code snippets, a built-in accessibility validation tool, and even a complete accessibility reference guide. It’s all you need, and Dynamic Dreamweaver MX teaches you how to use it all, as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Next, you move to the heart of the book: Dreamweaver MX’s support for server-side dynamic web site development. The authors choose to focus on Microsoft’s Active Server Pages technology and VBScript scripting language (so you won’t find any coverage of PHP, JSP, or ColdFusion here).
You’ll first walk through the basic VBScript syntax you need to write effective dynamic web applications -- variables, data types, functions, operators, conditional logic, and program flow using Response.End and Response.Redirect. With just a few pages, you’ll be building interactive web forms, placing cookies, and using session variables to maintain state across pages.
Then, it’s on to database-driven web sites -- and, consistent with the authors’ Microsoft orientation, you’ll learn how to work with both Access and SQL Server. There are quick mini-guides to database design and SQL -- just enough to get you rolling with the kinds of web database applications you’re most likely to need.
Once you know all that, you’ll master Dreamweaver MX’s core functionality for connecting with databases via Data Source Names or custom connection strings; binding data via recordsets and variables; and the basics of Server Behaviors -- Dreamweaver’s incredibly useful pre-written server-side code.
You’ll then walk through building a fully operational dynamic web site, complete with home page, user registration and login pages, “edit my account” page, and password-protected site administrator’s page. Then, building on this skeleton, you’ll add dynamic email interaction, user wish lists, and custom user messaging applications. By the time you’re done, you’ll have a complete dynamic site and the skills you need to extend it in virtually any direction.
By the way, you might not familiar with this book’s publisher, Glasshaus. This is a new publishing company focused entirely on publishing books “by web professionals for web professionals.” The folks at Glasshaus say their books will be “ruthlessly practical [forums] for craftspeople to share real experiences and blueprints.” Judging from Dynamic Dreamweaver MX, they’re on the right track. Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.