Logo Rob Buckley – Freelance Journalist and Editor

Review: Adobe GoLive CS2

Review: Adobe GoLive CS2

Fans say Adobe GoLive is better than Dreamweaver, yet few web designers use it. What does the CS2 version have that can challenge this hegemony?

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Mac web designers have had a love-hate relationship with GoLive for a long time. Many have chosen to hate it from afar, never having tried it: Dreamweaver, despite its Windows-eque interface and inferior feature set, has somehow managed to grab all the thunder in the market. Others have chosen to hate it gradually, watching as Adobe has slowly stamped its own interface and ideas on the once promising, beautiful, innovative and Mac-esque GoLive CyberStudio. But there’s been a happy few, a loyal band of GoLive users who have stuck with it and loved it since those heady OS 9 days when it was easily the best package available on any platform. Now the latest – and definitely the greatest – GoLive is out and it looks set to take the market by, erm, mild breeze. Which is unfortunate, really, because it really is very good.

GoLive CS2, available both separately and as part of Adobe’s Creative Suite version 2, is still probably the best web design package available on the market. While GoLive CS lacked a number of the more modern features of Dreamweaver, CS2 has plugged those gaps and added a set of excellent tools that easily surpass Dreamweaver’s.

First up are the new drag-and-drop cascading stylesheets (CSS) layouts. One of the big pushes for Adobe in this version of GoLive is towards XHTML, a standards-based system for writing web pages that the powers that be have dictated is the near-future of the web. XHTML’s virtues include complete separation of content and formatting: by providing different stylesheets for different media, a single web page can be viewed in any modern browser on any platform or any device without the developer having to do any rewriting (theoretically, anyway). Even better, the web pages load faster and are usable with little effort by the assisted browsers and screenreaders disabled web surfers use.

For anyone frustrated by GoLive CS’s and Dreamweaver’s anorexic CSS positioning tools and microscopic range of templates, GoLive CS 2 is a godsend. In typical Mac fashion, you can just drag sets of CSS layouts straight into your web page and GoLive will configure stylesheets and coding appropriately. Better than templates, this allows you to combine CSS layouts to create your own custom layout without having to know coding.

But does GoLive actually display the page correctly in it traditional editing mode, a deficiency that made GoLive CS hard to use with true CSS layouts? No. However, although it doesn’t quite render CSS layouts exactly the way a true browser would, making it hard to rely on as a true WYSIWYG editor (a problem it has in common with Dreamweaver), its new live rendering window compensates. This gets Opera to display your web page and update it automatically whenever you make any changes. So this is now a minor deficiency at best.

The other major push in CS2 is towards mobile content. GoLive now has an MMS editor and batch converter for creating graphics for particular mobile displays; a “mobile view” and live rendering window for mobile screen sizes; a conversion tool for migrating standard tables-based sites to mobile CSS sites; and a complete range of multimedia authoring tools for mobile content.

Other improvements are smaller, although long-time GoLive users will be relieved to know they can upgrade without losing any functionality, as happened with the move from GoLive 6 to GoLive CS.

Performance is a lot better, with CS2 pretty usable, certainly in comparison with the relatively glacial Dreamweaver. Integration with the rest of the CS2 suite is not much better than it was in CS, with the ability to export InDesign projects to XHTML files using drag and drop being the major improvement. A new Smart Favicon object takes the hassle out of creating and embedding favicons in web pages. Site management tools have had a slight upgrade, with Adobe finally embracing modern security and file transfer systems by providing support for SFTP, SSH tunnelling, and SSL-enabled FTP. Lastly, Adobe has joined the blogging generation by providing a set of objects for TypePad and Movable Type servers.

While most of our praise for CS2 is glowing, there are a few problems worth mentioning. The first is minor but odd, given Adobe’s big XHTML push. The provided templates, while more extensive than Dreamweaver’s, are noticeably not XHTML best practice. Bad Adobe.

The next is a sin of omission: GoLive’s dynamic content support is negligible; it has a couple of feeble scripts in its library, but otherwise the most it promises to do is to leave your code alone. Compared with Dreamweaver’s extensive dictionaries, routines and code highlighting, this is pretty pitiful, particularly when the vast majority of pro sites include some kind of dynamic content these days.

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