Simple Code
May 28, 2009 8:35 AM   Subscribe

Dreamweaver or Coda for web design & programming?

I don't do a lot of web design (I'm more of a print designer) but I'm doing more and more of it nowadays. I have always hand coded websites just using a free text editor and previewing it in a browser. I'm no programmer, but can get by in HTML/CSS. Back when I first was forced to take a web design course 10 years ago we had a choice between hand coding and an editor, I took the hand coding class. I've always thought that editors (like Dreamweaver) were bloated and produced messy code.

Now that I'm doing more web design and see that Coda is on sale I'm thinking I might as well pick it up. That is, unless Dreamweaver can do everything that Coda does and allow me to get into the code. I haven't looked at the program in years and don't know if its gotten better to work with. Since I create websites in Photoshop and Illustrator it might make sense to just go with the workflow and finish them in Dreamweaver. I haven't used Dreamweaver since it first came out but I don't think it should be too much trouble to become proficient at given my current skill set.

I am currently using CS3 standard but have a copy of CS4 Design Premium (Dreamweaver + Flash included, free upgrade) ready to install when I get my new computer in a few days. My current computer is too slow to run CS4.

Is Coda worth getting or should I stick with Dreamweaver since I already own it?
posted by Bunglegirl to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Coda is all about hand editing, with lots of handy features to make that easier.

The big feature for me with Coda (and I swear I'm not getting a commission, despite the fact that this is my second comment about the program in as many days) is the way the previewing can work on the server-side, so your PHP (or whatever) actually gets executed and rendered. That alone saved me $50 worth of billable time the very first time I used it. It just seems much more in tune with the way websites are actually developed these days. Do you still work on any sites that use only plain old static HTML?

Not to hate on Dreamweaver entirely: if you decide to use it, it's very easy to just use it in a manual mode so it doesn't generate any code for you at all, so you don't have to worry about code bloat. Then it's more like a text editor with built-in FTP/synchronization and a somewhat crummy previewing system.

I always found any integration between Dreamweaver and Photoshop to be limited at best but I don't use those features regularly.
posted by bcwinters at 9:18 AM on May 28, 2009

Forgot one thing: I should note that in practice I don't even use Coda regularly. I mostly use Panic's FTP program, Transmit, in conjunction with BBEdit, since I know BBEdit's keyboard shortcuts so well. I only dip into Coda when the live preview becomes useful, or when I want to use something visual like the CSS editor (I'm often forgetting the exact syntax I need). If I hadn't become proficient in BBEdit early on I might not feel that way. There's a lot to be said for picking one program and mastering the shortcuts.
posted by bcwinters at 9:23 AM on May 28, 2009

Unlike bcwinters, I love Coda because of the easy built-in FTP-interface. It makes dealing with multiple clients/domains so much easier and more efficient for me. Plus, the text editor is the bomb, especially compared to free programs. IMO the Preview function is great up to a point, but I've had trouble with inaccurate rendering of some complex CSS.

After using a text editor + FTP client, Coda felt like a major step up. Dreamweaver feels like a bloated, annoying step backwards. I say go for it. At least download Coda and play with it for a bit if you're curious. After about 2 hours, I was completely hooked.
posted by junkbox at 9:31 AM on May 28, 2009

Coda. I recently dipped my toe into Dreamweaver and was appalled. My wife, who really isn't an HTML coder but has had to become one, started using Dreamweaver because it came with CS4. I got exasperated looking over her shoulder at that mess, bought her Coda, and she's much happier. Plus, we can even collaborate on a document. Freakin' awesome.

I also like BBEdit + Transmit for some things, but Coda is pretty spiffy.
posted by adamrice at 9:43 AM on May 28, 2009

Honestly, a lot of the stuff I do for clients is static (because when its a bigger project I hand it off to people that are better at that stuff that me) but for my own personal sites I use WordPress a lot. I haven't updated them in ages but but its on my to-do list so I'll probably be creating WP templates from scratch or drastically editing a few soon.

I'm definitely picking up Transmit, as I've been meaning to pay for a FTP client for a while now. I remember liking Transmit when I used to use it. I'm using Cyberduck now, just because its free.

I would think that the main advantage to Dreamweaver would be preview and integration with CS. If that's not true than I'm not sure what its good for. It would be good to get a designer's perspective on this (someone who is more design than program-based).
posted by Bunglegirl at 9:44 AM on May 28, 2009

Coda + CSSedit is the holy grail of website creation assuming you have the basics down. Dreamweaver is okay for a WYSIWYG editor, however it creates cluttered code and doesn't really help you learn much. Right now, Coda is half off which makes it a steal. It's elegant and easy. You'll also want Transmit which is hands-down the best FTP client on OS X. Cyberduck is fine, but really, I loves me some Transmit. You'd also to have just a good standard text editor like TextMate on your computer for everything (even for non-design).

Really, I just think that Dreamweaver doesn't cut it anymore and has become a modern-day FrontPage of sorts (except not as awful). If you use it in the design mode, it create ridiculous CSS styles for you and usually does the opposite of what you want.

Also, Coda has snippets which are amazing. Really.
posted by cgomez at 10:43 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

The main advantage for Dreamweaver is WYSIWYG editing as well as wizard like tools for javascript widgets and database connections/queries.
posted by wongcorgi at 10:44 AM on May 28, 2009

DreamWeaver CS4 certainly has some nice round-trip features in its integration with other Adobe products, particularly PhotoShop (i.e. bring a PSD directly into DreamWeaver, optimise it there, generate the JPEG to use in the page, go back to PhotoShop, shift a layer in the original PSD and throw on a filter, and see the result in the generated JPEG, without having to re-export).

If that's the kind of work process you're used to: making a mockup in PhotoShop, exporting its slices and bringing those into a web page, and then circling around between PhotoShop and the web development environment as changes and improvements are made - then DreamWeaver is probably your best choice. Yes, you will still need to hand code, but DreamWeaver's code view isn't bad.

To me (not to start any platform flame wars) DreamWeaver and Coda can be compared to Windows vs Mac OS X. (For the record, I use both, plus Linux.) For simply getting the job done - to have something work, in a streamlined way - my preference is to use Coda / OS X. If I need something with all the bells and whistles, sixteen different ways of accomplishing the same task, and broad industry support, I'll use DreamWeaver / Windows.

This analogy is also appropriate since Coda is only available for OS X - if cross-platform support is important to you, or may be in the future, DreamWeaver would be a better option.

Reading back, it appears I'm throwing my weight behind DreamWeaver, so let me equalise things a little more. Coda is lightweight, extremely well integrated with OS X (the workflow is "Mac-like"), and doesn't get in your way. Broadly speaking, with DreamWeaver you have to kowtow to workflow processes sometimes (setting up sites is a bit of a chore) and show it who's boss the rest of the time: hitting it over the nose when it does things wrong, and anticipating the errors it will make. It's a smart, wilful, Australian blue heeler that plays well with its brothers and sisters and is a tad mangy. Coda is a greyhound - slick, streamlined, specialised, very fast.

I hope this helps!
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 11:02 AM on May 28, 2009

I would think that the main advantage to Dreamweaver would be preview and integration with CS.

Eh, not really. In our office, I get the site layouts from our graphic designer (made in Photoshop or Illustrator) as a PDF. I open the layout in Photoshop, slice it up, save the pieces, and then put it back together with code in Dreamweaver. At no point do the CS3 application really interact in my work flow.

In my opinion, the best Dreamweaver feature for hand coders is templates. (Not sure if Coda offers those or not.) With the DW templates, I can make one change that will automatically propagate to all the other pages that use the template. Sorta like SSI, but on the client side. With the 100s of sites we manage, it's a real time saver.

(FWIW, I don't use the FTP, script, design view or preview tools in DW. For preview, I hit F12 which loads the page in my chosen browser.)
posted by geeky at 11:12 AM on May 28, 2009

I like Notepad++ for editing--open source and free. I simply create a directory on my web server dedicated solely to project development and edit the pages directly over our network, refreshing the page to see the changes as the server renders them. Seems a lot more simple than the methods described above.
posted by Gainesvillain at 12:43 PM on May 28, 2009

And now that I've posted that I think you are all talking aboot Macs. Not sure if Notepad++ has an OS X port.
posted by Gainesvillain at 12:44 PM on May 28, 2009

Can I piggyback and ask if anyone has experience with Homesite back in the day? That was my favorite thing back when I did website coding but now I'm on a Mac and my skills are way rusty but I'd like to putter with a few business websites. I love Transmit so....?
posted by amanda at 2:15 PM on May 28, 2009

Eh, not really. In our office, I get the site layouts from our graphic designer (made in Photoshop or Illustrator) as a PDF. I open the layout in Photoshop, slice it up, save the pieces, and then put it back together with code in Dreamweaver.

Wow. That seems like such a waste. I thought it would be more integrated than that. Why do you use Dreamweaver to put the code together? Is there a benefit over using a programming tool?

I think what I'd like is to have a text editing tool with some programming shortcuts than will also show a preview. The FTP thing is a bonus, I guess. Sounds like I might prefer using Coda than messing with Dreameaver. So maybe spending $50 to get it even though I have Dreamweaver might be worth it. I think that's the consensus, yes?

And, yes, I'm a long time Mac user and don't see myself needing to cross platforms.
posted by Bunglegirl at 2:35 PM on May 28, 2009

OH - MY - GOD. Transmit for $14.50? That's a steal. I use Transmit daily and I absolutely love it. Coda is worth the full price just for the books alone. For half price, it's a no-brainer.

Oh, and for the record, I don't have any affiliation with Panic whatsoever. I started using Transmit years ago when I made the switch from OS 9 to OS X. I wish they'd design a PC version just so I'd have something to recommend.
posted by 2oh1 at 3:44 PM on May 28, 2009

I always say this, but while Dreamweaver goes from fairly solid to infuriating as an HTML/CSS editing application, it has terrific site management features, with integrated FTP, templates and clever implementations of linking shortcuts and paths, even handling server-side includes in local browser previews -- it's just that nobody ever mentions those features to you.

I teach Dreamweaver and I make a point of these features and the students are always very impressed.

Say you suddenly have to change your "images" folder to "img" or move your "About" page from /about.html to /about/index.html -- if you're a Coda/BBEdit user like me, you can use the multi-file search and replace, regular expressions and so on. But for most website designers that's a daunting task. Do that in Dreamweaver and it Just Works. Up pops a list of all the files which need to change and you hit "go".

I would say that for someone who regularly does sites which are mostly static and mostly under 100 pages, Dreamweaver can be very useful.

And those same templating features can be used to offload small day-to-day site management to clients via Dreamweaver or Contribute, just in case that's a consideration.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:42 PM on May 28, 2009

Why do you use Dreamweaver to put the code together?

Because it's what my job provides, and also for the site management features that AmbroseChapel mentioned. Like I said earlier, we manage 100s of sites so those features can be real time savers.

Also, I don't have a Mac at work :)
posted by geeky at 7:00 PM on May 28, 2009

Dreamweaver plus the ADDT extension is very useful if you do a lot of work with MySQL databases. Allows for rapid development.
posted by elle.jeezy at 7:29 PM on May 28, 2009

OH - MY - GOD. Transmit for $14.50? That's a steal. I use Transmit daily and I absolutely love it. Coda is worth the full price just for the books alone. For half price, it's a no-brainer.
Just came in to say this exact same thing. Awesome company, awesome software - $50 is a FREAKING CRIME WAVE of value.

By the way, you don't *need* Transmit if you get Coda; the Coda app does all the ftp stuff for you. But Transmit is very cool, especially if you do a lot of online file management not associated with a website.
posted by Aquaman at 10:03 PM on May 28, 2009

I use Dreamweaver's templates often, for stuff that's the same on every page but might need to be edited a lot before I'm done. I don't find setting up sites a chore, and really appreciate that once you've done that, you can rename folders/move pages/etc without having to do a search & replace afterwards. I never use the WYSIWIG "design view", because yeah, it's arse; I hand code everything. I like all the little extra tools that it's got too - right now I'm getting a lot of use out of the CSS-style list, which shows all the styles which apply to the element you've selected (and only those styles). It's a godsend when you're working on a large site written by someone else.

I've never used Coda, which for all I know has these features too plus more awesome stuff. But Dreamweaver has a lot more going for it than just the WYSIWIG. It's damn expensive though.
posted by harriet vane at 12:52 AM on May 29, 2009

« Older Smoky...   |   Please help me find some linguistics posters! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.