Kay lives here

working with the web

Setting Up Dreamweaver MX 2004

I’m a software tweaker, I admit it. I like digging in options dialogs – in many applications they’re chock full of extra functionality and cool time-saving techniques. Dreamweaver MX 2004’s Preferences dialog is no exception – it hides heaps of useful options, some of which I consider absolutely essential. However, many people never even look there.

So here’s what I do when setting up a new Dreamweaver installation. Maybe you’ll find some things here you’ve never looked at – or maybe you can point out some stuff that I’ve missed.

  1. Code Format
    This first one is a bit of a contentious issue. Tabs vs spaces for indents.
    Personally, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to use spaces rather than tabs (or why spaces is the default). Tabs cause less code bloat and different people can set their preferred tab size in their own editor. Seems simple to me. But I know some people like spaces, have their reasons, and insist on using them, so all I’ll say here is *I* change the default setting, to use tabs.
  2. Code Rewriting
    This one is really important. In a perfect world, Dreamweaver would have a checkbox here, most probably checked by default, which would say “Never, ever, ever, ever, under any circumstances, touch or change my code”. Unfortunately, there isn’t a checkbox like this, so we have to do the next best thing, which strangely enough, is to check at least one of the code rewriting options – lets say “Fix invalidly nested and unclosed tags”. Then, next to “Never rewrite code:” check the box and add every file extension you’re ever likely to deal with in the box of exceptions. ColdFusion, ASP, PHP and most other server-side languages are covered already, but you definitely want to add .htm and .html to the list. Deal with server-side includes? Don’t forget to add .shtml and .inc or whatever you use to the list. And add .dwt if you ever use Dreamweaver templates.
  3. File Types / Editors
    If you want to open other files in text view, you need to add them the list here. I use Dreamweaver for all sorts of odd jobs, including looking at cgi scripts, perl code, server logs and variously-named text files. Gotta add them all here. If you want to use an external CSS editor (I’m a big fan of TopStyle Pro) you’ll need to remove .css from the list too.
  4. Invisible Elements
    I’m still a Fusebox 3 coder, so I always turn off “show contents of included file”. It’s a cool feature for some applications, but when you open an fbx_switch file and DW tries to interpret the includes for seventeen fuseactions, even the gruntiest computers get a little tetchy.
  5. Preview in Browser
    As well as adding all my testing browsers, I always uncheck the “Preview using temporary file” option. Sometimes Dreamweaver leaves temporary files lying around from this feature, and that disagrees with my OC tendencies.

Well, that’s about it for the Preferences dialog. I’m not going to go into color coding because I doubt anyone takes that as seriously as I do. There’s also lots of cool stuff in the Keyboard Shortcuts and Tag Library Editor, but I’ll save them for another day.

So, what do you do that I haven’t mentioned?

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