When it came time to upgrade my beloved Macromedia Web development tools to the new “MX 2004” version, I took the plunge and paid $599 to get all of my upgrades along with a Macromedia DevNet subscription. My reasoning was, it wasn’t that much more expensive than the upgrade to the Studio suite (which includes Dreamweaver and Fireworks, which I use on a regular basis, as well as Flash, which I suspect I’ll be using more frequently in the future). And they throw in a bunch of extra goodies like components and add-ins, so I figured the extra $100 or so would be worth it.
I’ve got to say, I’m disappointed with my subscription. The promise of getting free product upgrades for a year isn’t very meaningful when everybody knows that Macromedia only upgrades its products every 18 months. Their year-end special offer (buy and register the product in November or December and get some extra extensions) was a slap in the face to early adopters like me who bought the DevNet subscription as soon as it was available.
The ability to download all your products, documentation and related goodies from a personalized DevNet page is handy, but the download system limits DevNet subscribers to just two downloads. This is a boneheaded move in a world in which all these products are licensed with product activation. Since product activation prevents you from installing the software on more than two machines, why do you care if I download a product twice or twelve times? It can’t be the bandwidth cost: I could just as well download a trial from macromedia.com then activate it with my legal key afterwards. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
And another thing: When you try to install extensions from the DevNet CD, the installer doesn’t work (at least on my Windows XP machine, anyway) unless Internet Explorer is your default browser. You can work around this by plumbing the depths of the resource kit, but good God, people. There is absolutely no excuse for Macromedia, of all companies, to not QA its products against browsers other than IE. And DevNet is indeed a product (although you wouldn’t know it from Macromedia’s Web site — DevNet isn’t listed as a product on their product support home page).
The new version of Flash is really amazing; I have been using it on an experimental basis (mainly to do proof-of-concepts to make calls to the eBay API, but also to experiment with providing developer information on demand using the excellent new slideshow features in the product — features which should be kicking Powerpoint’s ass up and down the boulevard if there’s any justice in the world).
Dreamweaver MX 2004, on the other hand, is buggy and slow (on Windows as well as the Mac, from what I understand). I’ve been struggling for the past four hours to get it to load a not-very-complicated Web site that I set up to teach myself CSS-P. The site is based on a very simple template. When I create a new file based on that template and save it, Dreamweaver freezes up again. When I open a file based on that template in Dreamweaver MX 2004, the program freezes up. When I open the file in a text editor and remove the reference to the underlying template or style sheet, it opens up okay. Lame.
I’ve been evangelizing the Macromedia tools for years. I wrote about Flash in one of my books in 1997, just before it was purchased by Macromedia; in 1999 I gave a full day seminar at Builder.com Live on Dreamweaver Ultradev for Active Server Pages developers. At that time, most Web developers who used the Microsoft tools had no idea they had an alternative that was 100 times better than the vile Visual Interdev. I’d love to be able to recommend Dreamweaver MX 2004, but there’s really not much there for ASP.NET developers in particular. If you’re using the previous version, Dreamweaver MX, you should stick with it, at least until Macromedia releases a patch for DWMX 2004 (they’ve suggested that a patch is on the way, but no word on when we can expect it).
It looks like the next version of Visual Studio .NET will include a lot of the features that make Dreamweaver useful to me, like templates, intelligent handling of HTML editing in visual or code mode, and simple deployment via FTP or straight copy (no more FrontPage extensions required to deploy your application). I really do love Dreamweaver, for all its warts, and turning away from it is going to be painful for me, but unless the quality of the software improves markedly, I’ll be moving to VS.NET for all my Web development when it’s released next year.
Until then, say a prayer for me and all users of Dreamweaver MX 2004. We need as much help as we can get.