Dreamweaver Alternative

Fresh install of Windows XP = pain. The part I hate the most comes right after the install — when you have to download, install and license all your applications. For development purposes one of the many apps I install is Adobe Dreamweaver.

Not that I’m especially fond of Dreamweaver, but I use it for its ColdFusion and CSS support. While it does some things right, there’s a lot not to like — it’s very expensive and much too bloated.

I recently went through the Windows post-installation experience only to find out Dreamweaver CS3 had been replaced by Dreamweaver CS4 and the CS3 download link was no longer available on the Adobe website. That pissed me off enough to search for a Dreamweaver alternative.

Dreamweaver Alternative Constraints

I seem to remember being pissed off enough to look for a Dreamweaver alternative before, but somehow ended up going back to Dreamweaver. The real problem with finding a Dreamwaver replacement is that I do ColdFusion development from time to time. While you can find some very nice IDE’s for everything else (CSS and JavaScript support), you’ll find a shortage of IDE’s with ColdFusion support. Yeah, I’ve tried CFEclipse and no I don’t like it. I hate using Eclipse for anything other than Java development — it’s just too slow.

This time around, I did some quick searching and found something promising: Aptana Studio. I noticed that the ColdFusion support Aptana Studio provides is through CFEclipse. Still, Aptana Studio was free (Community version) and listed some impressive features so I decided to take it for a spin.

Aptana Studio Review

Installing Aptana Studio is very straightforward but you’ll notice that it’s not the fastest application in the world when you fire it up the first time. Being that it’s 100+ MB I can see why. Still, it does start faster than Dreamweaver; if you’re looking for a Dreamweaver alternative you can’t complain too much about speed.

The CFEclipse install in Aptana is very easy. You download the plugin zip file, extract the contents and copy everything in the plugins folder into the Aptana plugins folder. You can find the Aptana plugins folder wherever you installed Aptana (it’s a subfolder right off the root). After that, you launch Aptana and you’ve got ColdFusion support! Pretty neat actually.

I spent some time working on a few ColdFusion applications as well as some CSS and Ajax stuff. This was my initial impression of Aptana Studio:

Neat Stuff

  • JavaScript and Ajax support is pretty damn awesome.
  • ColdFusion support is great, uses CFEclipse which I really like more than I thought I did.
  • The Community edition is free.
  • Support for lots of other goodies (Ruby, PHP and even supports iPhone development).
  • Can use Eclipse plugins — this is a big one.
  • Very nice CSS support.
  • Pro version is only $99.
  • Cross-Platform: OS X, Linux and Windows support.

Stuff That Sucks

  • No Design View like Dreamweaver has.
  • Not the fastest IDE in the world but neither is Dreamweaver.
  • Kind of flaky if you don’t set up a project.

Final Thoughts

I only spent a few days working in Aptana so this in no way can be considered a full review. What I can say is that I’m impressed enough with what I’ve seen to be able to finally drop Dreamweaver for good. I’ve used it in Windows XP and in OS X, it’s worked great on both operating systems. If you can live without Dreamweaver’s Design view then I highly recommend taking a look at Aptana

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