Why not Dreamweaver?

To Dreamweaver or not to Dreamweaver, that is the question

To Dreamweaver or not to Dreamweaver, that is the question

Having attended several conferences this past summer, I wanted to write a post to answer one of the questions I hear not only from students, but also from web development teachers as well. So often when I am giving a presentation on teaching web development, I get asked “Why shouldn’t we use Dreamweaver?”

It is a very legitimate question, especially as more and more schools are getting Creative Cloud licensing for their faculty and students. So, if all your students already have Dreamweaver installed and they are used to how Adobe lays out their workspace, why wouldn’t I recommend Dreamweaver as the best way to teach coding? Let’s start with the simplest and in my opinion most important answer:

I can’t name a single developer using Dreamweaver to code!

I fully agree that I don’t know every front end developer and I probably don’t know nearly everything that they do day-in and day-out in their workflow, but it seems like it would have come up at least once in all the times I have pried into their processes and preferred editors, don’t you think?

This summer, I attended #frontendconf for the second time. There are over 350 active front end developers at this conference with dozens of speakers who are at the top of their game in the industry. Many workflow tools are mentioned: Github, Command line, Alfred, Dash, Atom, Sublime, Grunt, etc. But not one single mention of Dreamweaver.

A second conference I attended this summer was not web focused, although web was talked about quite a bit. Adobe sent a few representatives to give what I thought was a very good presentation on the Creative Cloud workflow. There are some interesting web development tools integrated in the newest versions of Dreamweaver and the Edge tools, but it is still not enough to convert me from using a plain text editor (yet).

So the long and short is, I choose not to use Dreamweaver as a tool to teach students coding because it is not currently an industry standard in the front end development community and I want my students to be able to converse with professionals when that sort of opportunity arrives.

My second reason is that I think we should all learn to crawl before we walk. I tend to start students on a VERY basic text editor like Smultron or Textwrangler for exactly that reason. They don’t need auto-complete or colored highlighting yet. I want them to experience the process of remembering to write with proper syntax and close their own HTML tags. Why is that important? Because it helps you find mistakes in your code when they happen and builds a strong foundation of writing clean and correct code. Once that lesson is learned, I am all for students moving on to a more advanced text editor.

The third reason is the visual editor in Dreamweaver. We all know that as humans, we are likely to take the path of least resistance. The visual editor makes for opportunities to allow Dreamweaver to create your code for you. This is a dangerous game to play for several reasons, but namely because you can’t possibly learn code without writing it.

Yes, writing it… from scratch. It just simply must be done, there is no shortcut!

Well, that is my reasoning for not using Dreamweaver with my beginning web classes. I am always willing to re-evaluate as the programs (and the web) continue to evolve and offer us new and different opportunities for different workflows.

Postscript: I came across this article which might be a good secondary resource as it shows several great tips and tricks for Sublime from his workflow- http://www.webdevdoor.com/sublime-text/advantages-sublime-dreamweaver/