Am I stuck paying $300 for Dreamweaver if I want to edit a Dreamweaver-created site?
November 18, 2008 4:34 PM   Subscribe

Am I stuck paying $300 for Dreamweaver?

Howdy mefites.

I need to tweak an existing website that was created in Dreamweaver. I'm on a Mac. I opened the website in Seamonkey and it doesn't look so good (the Flash -ugh- ain't right, and neither are the -ugh- drop down menus). All I want to do is pop in there and do some SEO work without screwing up the flash/dropdown masterpiece. My question is three-fold.

1) Can I make the necessary changes (Title, Tags, Keywords, a little bit o' content) in Seamonkey or some other free program without jacking up the site?

If not,

2) Do I have to get Dreamweaver and am I stuck paying $300 for it? Any particular version I should get? I'm really not getting paid enough for this gig to justify a $300 expense. $100, though, maybe.

If so,

3) I opened up the site via ftp and see that what appears to be HTML pages are on the server as .asp pages. A total blind spot for me. Does that mean I can't just open up the HTML page in a text editor and make the changes I want without jacking up the aforementioned masterpiece?

Any and all advice would be GREATLY appreciated, even and especially refs to helpful old posts (I couldn't find any exactly on point).

Thanks, all!
posted by letahl to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Umm...other avenues are available but you probably shouldn't go that route because it's illegal.
posted by InsanePenguin at 4:46 PM on November 18, 2008

Oh, I didn't even think of it, but there totally are free and legal opportunities. I'm sure you could make changes to the site in another program with "jacking it up." There's nothing particular to Dreamweaver that other programs can't do.
posted by InsanePenguin at 4:49 PM on November 18, 2008

1. probably, depending on how jacked up the site is in the first place. give it a try (but save a backup, of course).

2. no.

3. ASP is just HTML with some scripting (executed on the server, probably written in VBScript) embedded into it. the pages may not actually have any scripting in them. if you're familiar with HTML, the scripts should be pretty easy to pick out. just don't touch them and you'll probably be fine.
posted by neckro23 at 4:51 PM on November 18, 2008

Kompozer is a free, open source html editor for win, mac and several flavors of linux. Their website ( says, "Those who are familiar with the DreamWeaver interface will feel right at home with KompoZer." I've been using it for several years and it's fine for my (modest) needs. It occasionally crashes, but nowhere near as often as NVU, it's predecessor. Don't know about its .asp chops, tho. You might take it for a test drive and see how it goes. Can't beat the price...
posted by wordwhiz at 4:54 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you're just tweaking text here and there, you can probably do that fine in a text editor. Just make sure to KEEP A COPY OF THE ORIGINAL PAGE in case you screw up! Get the page with ftp, MAKE A COPY, edit it, put it back with ftp, see what it looks like.

(If you use DW or a similar tool then it's easy to see what your edits will look like, but if you just use a text editor then you'll probably have to upload the changed page to see it in a browser. )

Open any changed pages in several different browsers -- they all have individually-different failings.
posted by anadem at 4:58 PM on November 18, 2008

You do not have to get Dreamweaver. The only thing I can think of that Dreamweaver can do that other WYSIWYG tools don't, is to honor the HTML comments that might be embedded into the page which are specific to Dreamweaver (Dreamweaver uses HTML comments to mark the beginnings and ends of uneditable areas in templates, whereas other WYSIWYG editors happily ignore the comments, leaving the entire document editable).

You *may* break the page out of its templating system if you go in making certain changes, but if you know what you're doing in HTML you are unlikely to break the page entirely--just to make DW balk at working with it as a templated file without some more work done to it.

If you have no plans to use DW on the site again, you can strip any of the templating comments that you find and go about making whatever changes you want in whichever program you want.
posted by johnofjack at 5:03 PM on November 18, 2008

They still have a 30-day trial as best as I can tell, though I'm not a Mac user so I haven't tried it on the Mac... Install, do your work, and then uninstall. (Assuming you do need Dreamweaver at all, as others have commented.)
posted by fogster at 5:33 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm on a Mac and just downloaded the 30-day trial to use while I take a class--I'd definitely recommend that.
posted by jdl at 7:14 PM on November 18, 2008

You can buy an older copy of Dreamweaver on ebay. On different computers at work I use both Dreamweaver CS3 and Dreamweaver MX (2004). Dreamweaver MX works just fine.

I'd suggest picking up a copy for less than $50 to add to your toolbox even if you don't get it in time to help out with your current gig.

Heed anadem's advice about making copies - though I'd take it a step further. NEVER edit anyone's page in any way without making a backup copy of the page first, regardless of whether you think you have the right tools or not.
posted by terpia at 7:45 PM on November 18, 2008

If the project is for work, you might ask your employer to buy Dreamweaver for you. If you can't complete a job assigned to you because you do not have the proper software, they should feel compelled to buy you the tools that you need. I make that argument quite frequently at work, and the results have been quite positive.

But, if it is not for work, do you know anyone who is currently enrolled at or employed by a college? If so, you may want to ask them if their school has a contract with If can you find someone, they should be able to get the software at an extremely hefty discount. Of course, abiding by the license agreements of JourneyEd is up to you.
posted by waywardgirl at 9:32 PM on November 18, 2008

Open the file in a good text editor like BBEdit. Make your changes there. Save the file under a new name. Do a diff between the old and new files to make sure only your intended changes are there. Overwrite the old file with your updated version. Done!

If you said "can I open a non-Dreamweaver site with Dreamweaver", I'd say no, because Dreamweaver will attempt to rewrite things; same thing if you wanted to open a Dreamweaver site in another IDE like FrontPage. Opening it in TextPad (PC) or BBEdit (Mac), however, won't change a thing except those things you elect to change, so it's harmless.
posted by davejay at 10:11 PM on November 18, 2008

Oh, and even editing a Dreamweaver-generated file with another version of Dreamweaver can break things; Dreamweaver tries to rewrite stuff to match what it thinks things should look like, and that varies between versions. It's a horrible program, really, all WYSIWYG HTML editors are.
posted by davejay at 10:12 PM on November 18, 2008

If you're doing SEO work you should be using a text editor not a WYSIWYG package, as a big part of SEO is ensuring the markup is well-structured.

The use of ASP means you won't be able to properly preview your changes without either setting up an ASP-friendly test server of your own, or preferably get the client to set up a test site you can FTP to (e.g., password-protected to prevent anyone stumbling upon it).
You'll need to roughly work out how the pages are being generated (e.g. common includes for things like navigation, the page head, etc.), but unless it's super-complicated that shouldn't be too challenging or require ASP experience. Just poke about in the files and see what markup you find.

It sounds like you're new to web work, so having a test site is particular important to ensure you don't screw up the live site and make the client suffer as you learn the basics.
posted by malevolent at 11:39 PM on November 18, 2008

You could try going to a library and seeing if they have dreamweaver installed on their machines. Some libraries do!
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 11:40 PM on November 18, 2008

Can I make the necessary changes (Title, Tags, Keywords, a little bit o' content) in Seamonkey or some other free program without jacking up the site?

If that's all you're doing, yes. But don't use Seamonkey, use TextWrangler, BBEdit's free little brother. Use any WYSIWYG editor and you are asking for trouble. Use a text editor and you are in complete control. As others have said, just stay out of the javascript and/or vbscript (ASP script), and you'll be fine. And of course, always back up.

If you are working on the production server, make a copy of the file, and make your changes on that until you're satisfied. Then make another copy of the original for backup. Then rename your changed file to overwrite the original.
posted by bricoleur at 3:34 AM on November 19, 2008

Nthing to use a text editor and have a backup. Things like the title and meta keywords are almost certainly handled just like plain HTML in the ASP files.

Worst case scenario is the asp has something like <!--#include file=""--> where you'd think the title would be and you have to go hunt down the header file.
posted by soma lkzx at 6:43 AM on November 19, 2008

nthing just use a text editor for the changes you want to make. seriously easy stuff that you want to do, and not worth the effort of even opening dreamweaver.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 9:24 AM on November 19, 2008

If you know HTML and CSS, you can just edit the files in Windows Notepad (I do this - it is easy to search for text and replace it).
If you don't know HTML and CSS, try Kompozer. This is an updated and renamed version of NVU, a free web authoring utility that has a WISWYG presentation. I used to use NVU and it worked for most Dreamweaver-generated pages (with a few bugs, that hopefully are fixed in Kompozer).
posted by Susurration at 12:44 PM on November 19, 2008

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