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Interview With Janine Warner
Host of Total Training For Macromedia Dreamweaver 8
The following is an interview we conducted with Janine Warner, author of the best-selling Dreamweaver For Dummies books, and host of the new HD video series Total Training For Macromedia Dreamweaver 8.
How would you describe the Dreamweaver learning curve for a total beginner?
The challenge with that question is how you define total beginner. When my friend's mother first tried using his computer, she picked up his mouse, pointed it at the monitor and quickly got frustrated that it didn't change channels. If that's how you define a total beginner, Dreamweaver has a steep learning curve.
If you've been using programs like Photoshop or InDesign for years, then it's hard for me to call you a total beginner, and I think you'll find you can pick up the basics and start using Dreamweaver in a weekend (if you have the right training video or books).
Is it easy to transition from GoLive to Dreamweaver - or is it a completely different way of working?
The essentials of Web design are the same in any Web design program. Once you've learned how to create a table to control page layout or how to insert an image, those skills should transfer from one program to another fairly well, even if the tools are in a slightly different place in the interface. That said, switching from GoLive to Dreamweaver is similar to switching from Quark to InDesign. You're going to run into interface and feature differences that may trip you up here and there.
One of the biggest differences is the way the two programs manage the organization of files and folders within a Web site. This is important because when you create links or insert images in a Web site you have to set them with the files and folders in the same relative location on your hard drive as they will be in when you publish them to your server. This may seem a little complicated if you're new to Web design. Fortunately, Dreamweaver manages all this for you but it does it differently from GoLive.
If you've been using GoLive and are switching to Dreamweaver, one of the first things you should get a handle on is the Site Setup process, which is all about identifying your main site folder so Dreamweaver can manage all your links. I cover the site set up feature at the beginning of Lesson 2, and refer to it many times throughout the video because it's the first thing you should do whenever you start working on a new site in Dreamweaver.
Is the Total Training video a complete program that starts you from zero, or does one need some knowledge of Dreamweaver or HTML?
I don't assume anything in this training. Okay, I assume you know better than to use your mouse as a remote control, but I start with a basic introduction to the interface and build from there. I call myself a "techy translator" and throughout the training I try to explain every new term and feature, point out any differences between the Mac and PC versions, and even tell you when I'm using features that aren't specific to Dreamweaver, like Alt+TAB (Cmd+TAB on the Mac). I'm still amazed how many people don't know that fabulous universal key command for switching between open programs on a computer.
There's an entire lesson on HTML, beginning with an intro to HTML tags and structure, but I consider it kind of an optional lesson. You don't need to know HTML to use Dreamweaver (which should be a relief to those of you who prefer not to study hieroglyphics). I teach an introduction to HTML because having a basic understanding is helpful for troubleshooting and understanding why some things work (or don't work) the way you might expect in Dreamweaver. I also include more advanced HTML features in that lesson because some alpha geeks prefer to work in the code and Dreamweaver has great code-editing tools.
Do you suggest using a training book as well, or is video training enough?
Since I'm the author of many books about Dreamweaver, as well as the host of the Total Training video, you might expect me to recommend a book as well as a video, and I certainly wouldn't want to disappoint you.
If you want the best of both worlds, think of it this way the video is like getting a teacher in a box, your own private classroom. My Dreamweaver 8 For Dummies book is like having a good reference. Watch the video to learn Dreamweaver, and then use the book to look things up when you need a reminder or want to have instructions in front of you while you work.
What are your favorite new features in DW8?
This may seem trivial, but I really like the new copy and paste features. Web designers often have to insert formatted content from programs like Word or Excel, and Dreamweaver 8 now provides four different paste options, which enable you to choose whether to keep some or all the original formatting. It's a handy improvement.
Most designers I've been talking with seem excited about the enhancements to Dreamweaver's CSS features. Macromedia has improved these features, but what's really making them popular is that CSS is finally being supported better by Web browsers. That's not just a reflection of the evolution of Dreamweaver, it's a reflection of the fact that HTML itself has matured in the last couple of years, and it's taken a while for browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox and Netscape to catch up. Now that these browsers are more consistent, it's become more feasible to use these features, especially if you know your audience is using the latest browser versions.
These days it seems all the cool sites are being designed with CSS thus these Dreamweaver features are more important and the improvements Macromedia has made are even more valuable. (They're not perfect yet, and the browser support still leaves much to be desired, but I'm sure we'll continue to see improvements in the future.)
Please tell us about any books you have planned for the near future.
You know I love this question. My Dreamweaver 8 For Dummies book just hit stores in late October and I have a new book series coming out next year, starting with Digital Family Album Basics in January and followed by Digital Family Album Holidays in the fall. I've been having a lot of fun helping families create Web sites they're so inspiring and people say the darndest things about their kin folk.
If you're a professional Web designer and you're tired of your friends and family asking you to help with their personal Web sites, give them a copy of Digital Family Album Basics, or my Creating Family Web Sites For Dummies book, which was published earlier this year.
If that last paragraph is too much of a shameless plug for my books, feel free to cut it, but you can't blame a Web Goddess for trying. ;-)
No, your books are great, so we'll keep that in! Thanks for the interview Janine.
You can see some free video clips on our Total Training For Dreamweaver Page. Also see Janine's site, www.JCWarner.com. which includes a Dreamweaver Tips page.
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