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Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 Unleashed **---

Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 Unleashed By Zak Ruvalcaba
Published December 2008
List Price: $54.99, Your Amazon.com Price: $54.99

Amazon.com Sales Rank: 2,908,707
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This book is the most comprehensive and independent resource for experienced web developers who want to plan, architect, develop, and deploy state-of-the-art websites, applications, and services.

Expert web developer and trainer Zak Ruvalcaba brings together real-world insights and advanced techniques for every facet of contemporary web development, from site management to data-driven applications and multimedia content to security. Ruvalcaba systematically illuminates the major features Adobe has brought to Dreamweaver CS4, including its

powerful Spry framework for Ajax development, its innovative CSS browser compatibility checking, and more.

You'll learn how to smoothly integrate Dreamweaver CS4 with other key web design and development tools, ranging from Photoshop to Flash to databases. You'll also discover how to use Dreamweaver CS4 to improve team collaboration, automate workflow, streamline content management, and reuse assets more efficiently.

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Now that Wiley's monstrous "[Insert Adobe Product Here] Bible" series has gone from covering each product of the suite to covering the entire suite as a whole, Sams Publishing's "[Insert Adobe Product Here] Unleashed" series seems to have the entire field to itself in the "Eight Hundred Page Manual For One Adobe Product" race.

And Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 Unleashed is an 800+ page monster of a book. Actually it's a 917 page monster, even though only 800 pages come in paper form. The remaining 117 pages are available as four downloadable PDF appendices contained at the obvious URL www.informit.com/title/9780672330391. It's apparently not a matter of the appendices not having been written, as the index of the paper version of the book indexes these extra pages. If a page is referenced outside of the book, it's prefaced with "Web". So if you want to read about extensions (page 842), you'll need to go to the aforementioned URL and grab the PDF for appendix A.

If I sound annoyed by this, I am. I don't know if it's a matter of the book being too big to fit in the printer or a weight-limit for shipping, but if I wanted to look up a Dreamweaver feature on the web, I'd go to Adobe or Google. Worse still, there are four PDF files (appendix A, B, C, and D), but no mention of what pages are contained in each. I had to download and click through three PDF files before I found page 857.

Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 Unleashed really tries to hard to be all things to all people, and it ends up covering everything, but not to very much depth. And some things are not covered at all. Just to see what the book had to say about my paragraph formatting issues mentioned in my recent Dreamweaver CS4 review, I checked the index for "Centering" to see if the book covered the "old" way to center paragraphs (align=center), the REALLY old way to center things (the center tag), or the friendly new way (CSS). The book didn't say anything. The only reference to centering was a mention in the third downloadable PDF of how to switch between "align=center" and "center" in the preferences dialog. Thinking I was looking in the wrong place in the index, I looked up paragraph styles, which sent me to the same place.

But there is a 24 page primer about SQL. And a subchapter about how to install MySQL and talk to it from MS Access. And a chapter on the difference between web servers and server-side scripting technologies.

When it comes to the scope of this book, I guess this really is an issue with Dreamweaver. Despite Dreamweaver's depth and breadth of features, it's ultimately a small cog in the grand scheme of getting web content to a browser. In order to get rich content to the user's browser, you need to know at least a little bit about each of these things:

  • Your web server (Apache, IIS, etc)
  • Your database (MySQL, SQL Server, etc)
  • Your database's query language (SQL)
  • Your server-side scripting language (PHP, Rails, etc)
  • Your client's markup language (HTML)
  • Your client's client-side scripting language (javascript)
  • Your client's RIA plugin technologies (Flash, Java, etc)

And probably a couple more things I'm forgetting. While Dreamweaver has its thumbs in almost all of those pies, there's simply too much there to cover in a single book (even a 800+100 page one) with the hope of covering it in any depth.

My opinion, if you're a rank amateur who's charged with building a simple database-driven website with Dreamweaver, and one of the requirements is that you have to purchase exactly one book to perform this task, then Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 Unleashed will probably suit your needs. You can start at page one and read all the way to page 917, and by then you'll have the tools to get the job done. But if you need to get any deeper, you'll still need to read more.