Dreamweaver CS5.5: The Missing Manual – #bookreview

Dreamweaver CS5.5: The Missing Manual
By David Sawyer McFarland
(O’Reilly, $49.99, paperback)

Huge. That’s the first impression of this 1,179-page guidebook focusing on how to use Dreamweaver CS5.5 to develop websites.

Indeed, the paperback weighs almost four pounds and is two and a quarter inches thick.

But after all, Dreamweaver has been around a long time, almost 14 years, evolving, improving and adding features and capabilities with each new release.

The book’s author, David Sawyer McFarland, has been using Dreamweaver since 1998 to develop websites. He also has written every Dreamweaver book in O’Reilly’s “The Missing Manual” series. And he is president of a web development and training company, Sawyer McFarland Media, Inc.

Thus, he knows a lot about Dreamweaver, and there is a lot to be said about using this powerful and popular program. Hence, the big, heavy book.

“Get used to the acronym CSS, which you’ll encounter frequently in this book,” McFarland states in the Introduction. “It stands for Cascading Style Sheets, a set of rules you write that dictate the look of your pages. Dreamweaver includes advanced CSS creation, testing, and editing tools.”

Dreamweaver has long been well-regarded for its visual approach to web page design. And in CS5.5, its JavaScript-based technology known as Spry Framework allows you “easily create interactive, drop-down menus, add advanced layout elements liked tabbed panels, and add sophisticated form validation to prevent site visitors from submitting forms without the proper information,” he points out.

He also praises Adobe for realizing that many web developers do a lot of work in which they must directly type in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code. “In Dreamweaver,” he notes, “you can edit its raw HTML to your heart’s content. Switching back and forth between the visual view — called Design view – and Code view is seamless, and best of all, nondestructive.”

Dreamweaver likewise has well-regarded site management tools and tools for building and managing database-driven websites.

The new features in Dreamweaver CS5.5 include:

  • Basic support for HTML5, which is still evolving.
  • Support for CSS3, which is still evolving but will bring “many new formatting controls to make HTML look beautiful….”
  • Tools that support web design for mobile browsers.
  • Built-in support for jQuery Mobile and Phonegap—“two programming technologies that let you build mobile phone applications using just HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.”
  • W3C Validator for validating HTML code.
  •  jQuery code hinting, which simplifies writing JavaScript programs.

McFarland’s new book in “The Missing Manual” series follows a gradual learning-curve approach as it illustrates how to use Dreamweaver CS5.5’s many features and tools. The reader first is shown the very basics of creating a web page. Then features are introduced, explained and demonstrated in a logical order that helps the reader gain experience and confidence.

Dreamweaver CS5.5: The Missing Manual is organized as follows:

  • Introduction
  • Part One: Building a Web Page
  • Chapter 1: Dreamweaver CS5.5 Guided Tour
  • Chapter 2: Adding Text to Your Web Pages
  • Chapter 3: Text Formatting
  • Chapter 4: Introducing Cascading Style Sheets
  • Chapter 5: Links
  • Chapter 6: Images
  • Chapter 7: Tables
  • Part Two: Building a Better Web Page
  • Chapter 8: Advanced CSS
  • Chapter 9: Page Layout
  • Chapter 10: Troubleshooting CSS
  • Chapter 11: Under the Hood: HTML
  • Chapter 12: Designing Websites for Mobile Devices
  • Part Three: Bringing Your Pages to Life
  • Chapter 13: Forms
  • Chapter 14: Spry: Creating Interactive Web Pages
  • Chapter 15: Dreamweaver Behaviors
  • Chapter 16: Add Flash and Other Multimedia
  • Part Four: Building a Website
  • Chapter 17: Introducing Site Management
  • Chapter 18: Testing Your Site
  • Chapter 19: Moving Your Site to the Internet
  • Part Five: Dreamweaver CS5.5 Power
  • Chapter 20: Snippets and Libraries
  • Chapter 21: Templates
  • Chapter 22: Find and Replace
  • Chapter 23: Customizing Dreamweaver
  • Part Six: Dynamic Dreamweaver
  • Chapter 24: Getting Started with Dynamic Websites
  • Chapter 25: Adding Dynamic Data to Your Pages
  • Chapter 26: Web Pages that Manipulate Database Records
  • Chapter 27: Advanced Dynamic Site Features
  • Chapter 28: Server-Side XML and XSLT
  • Appendix A: Getting Help
  • Appendix B: Dreamweaver CS5.5, Menu by Menu
  • Index (26 pages

The author assures readers that “Dreamweaver CS5.5 works almost precisely the same way on the Macintosh as it does in Windows,” yet the book does not make clear the minimum system requirements for running Dreamweaver CS5.5 on a PC or a Mac. However, they can be found here on Adobe’s support site for Dreamweaver CS5.5. This is, of course, only a minor ding against an otherwise very good, very thorough and nicely illustrated how-to manual.

A CD is not included with this book. But “every single Web address, practice file, and piece of downloadable software mention in this book is available at www.missingmanual.com (click the Missing CD icon.)”

Dreamweaver is a bit old by software standards, yet it is well-supported and stable, and it keeps improving and growing to stay up with changes and new needs. For these reasons and many more, it remains one of the most popular and widely used packages for designing and managing high-quality websites.

Whether you are an absolute newcomer or an old hand at using Dreamweaver, you definitely can benefit from having and using this huge and hefty book.

Si Dunn


  • Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, photojournalist, and book reviewer. His published books include: DARK SIGNALS, a Vietnam War memoir; ERWIN'S LAW, a private-detective novel; and JUMP, a novella about a combat veteran suffering from PTSD and alienation while trying to work for newspapers as a journalist. Several of his feature screenplays recently were under option to movie producers. He spent nearly 15 years working as a technical writer and software tester in the telecommunications industry. His current programming interests include Go, JavaScript, Python, R, Angular, and other languages and frameworks. He is a U.S. Navy veteran and a graduate of the University of North Texas.

1 thought on “Dreamweaver CS5.5: The Missing Manual – #bookreview

  1. […] This book’s author, David Sawyer McFarland, knows pretty much everything about Dreamweaver. He has been using it since 1998. And, with this new edition, he keeps alive his string of writing every Dreamweaver book in “The Missing Manual” series. (His previous edition, covering Dreamweaver CS5.5, is reviewed here.) […]

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