What is Dreamweaver?
“So really, what is Dreamweaver?”
The common (mis)conception with Dreamweaver is that Dreamweaver is designed to or is even capable of completely removing the agency of HTML and CSS coding from web design. This is like saying that a nail-gun can completely replace a hammer. A nail-gun will nail the boards together, but it is an imprecise tool, and there is a certain amount of danger while using it. If you can’t occasionally fall back on the hammer for more detail-oriented work, then there’s a definite limit to what you can build. A skilled carpenter knows how to use the hammer and occasionally does so when the nail-gun just isn’t doing what is intended.
Dreamweaver, like the nail-gun, is designed to make your life easier. You may never learn HTML or CSS, but without knowing them, you are limited to Dreamweaver’s way of doing things. This is not altogether a bad thing: it is simply a slightly narrow perspective on a large field.
Extolling the Virtues
HTML can be cumbersome. Dreamweaver writes (for the most part) good, valid HTML using an easy point-and-click interface.
Unless you are using a scripting language like PHP, managing a large site with many pages and files can quickly become a mess. Dreamweaver has built-in dependency tracking that will automatically manage your files and will update your pages accordingly. Many people use Dreamweaver just for its built-in synchronization tool.
Preliminary Page Layout
Dreamweaver has good tools to assist you in laying out your site. There are also a lot of “pre-fab” layouts and templates available as starting points in Dreamweaver CS3.
Dreamweaver’s layout features are, however, somewhat limiting. Some designs are simply impossible to achieve using the buit-in layout tools. In these cases, you can go in and manually edit the HTML and CSS that Dreamweaver produces to tweak to exactly what you need.
What Isn’t Dreamweaver?
Dreamweaver is not designed to completely remove the agency of HTML and CSS: it is meant to assist you with your HTML and CSS and to make some of the more mundane aspects of Web Publishing less terrible.
That said, however, it is definitely possible to get a very decent-looking Web site up quickly and easily using Dreamweaver without ever learning a bit of HTML or CSS. Barring knowledge of HTML and CSS, however, you will be limited in your ability to make your site very customized or very easy to maintain.