The Creative Toolbox: GoLive CS Goes for Broke
Adobe appears to be trying to reverse this trend with GoLive CS by adding innovative features, improving on existing ones, and offering tighter integration with other Adobe products than ever before. Packaging GoLive CS along with the Premium version of Adobe Creative Suite makes the application available to a new set of Adobe customers who might have shied away from Web site design before but may consider it now (after all, it's cheap when purchased with the other programs).
So let's see what new and improved features Adobe has been working up with GoLive CS and whether it all adds up for you to opt for the new version.
Smarter Objects, Guides, and Rollovers
Introduced in GoLive 5, Smart Objects allows you to create a dynamic link between other Adobe application's native formats with which GoLive generates a Web-friendly file. Whenever you perform a change such as sizing of the Smart Object or edits to the source file itself, GoLive goes back to the original source file and regenerates the Web optimized file. GoLive CS improves upon this already remarkable feature in variety of ways.
It's now possible to resize a Smart Object image while maintaining its original proportions (see Figure 1). You can also crop a Smart Object, which works very much as it does in Photoshop, except only the optimized file is cropped, thereby leaving the source file intact. The new cropping feature also lends itself to the Tracing Image tool that allows you to use a ghosted background image as a design template. When cropping out a section of a Tracing Image, a new Smart Object is created. And to keep things manageable, all the Smart Objects used in your site now show up in their own folder in the Extras tab of the Site window and in the Library palette for easy access.
Figure 1: Smart Objects now include better controls for proportional scaling and cropping.
Although you can't drag guides out from the rulers as you can in every other Adobe application, GoLive CS includes Smart Guides that assist in lining up elements within a layout. Relevant guides appear when you drag an element near to another element and the element snaps into place when you release it (see Figure 2). This feature behaves similarly to Smart Guides found in Illustrator.
Figure 2: Smart Guides appear whenever you drag an element close to another element's shared axis.
Rollovers get a nice shot in the arm in GoLive CS. Not only do Photoshop CS, ImageReady CS, and GoLive CS generate the same reasonably lean, human-decipherable rollover code, it's interchangeable as you jump back and forth between these applications. The newly combined Rollovers & Actions palette makes it possible to produce self- and remote-rollovers that aren't limited to trigger events on images. GoLive can now even detect rollovers by looking for common suffixes to filenames such as "-out, -over, -down" as you add the main graphic (see Figure 3). It then automatically builds a tidy, working rollover for you, allowing you to concentrate on more pressing matters than fussing over rollover code and preloader scripts. All these features add up to a tremendous amount of flexibility and power to be creative as you design and build your Web sites.
Figure 3: No more fussing with simple rollovers. GoLive can now detect a rollover setup and hook up all the code for you.
Figure 4: The newly revamped CSS editor is now one window for creating, editing, managing, and previewing your styles.
Whether you feel right at home completely coding your pages or like to switch between layout and source code mode, code completion will certainly help you along the way. As you begin to type a tag, property, or any other valid bit of code, GoLive CS searches for appropriate choices to complete the statement and offers them in a popup menu beside the text you're typing (see Figure 5). Dreamweaver has had this for a while now and it's nice to see GoLive follow suit. However, GoLive's code-completion feature does not offer up available CSS classes in your working document as Dreamweaver's does. Nevertheless, code completion is an essential aide for anyone comfortable working with code.
Figure 5: Code completion is a feature that finally finds it way into GoLive's code views.
Over the past few years, CSS has earned acceptance as modern, capable browsers began to support the language's powerful presentational capabilities. Almost gone are the days of using tables and spacer GIFs to impose your Web design out of HTML. CSS allows for exact positioning and formatting of HTML elements yet coding and applying it correctly is a daunting task that shouldn't be taken lightly.
Fortunately, GoLive has had an excellent visually oriented CSS editor for some time, adding a code view in a recent release. In GoLive CS, Adobe has consolidated the CSS editor into one manageable window that provides both a graphical and code view along with preview pane that allows you to see what your style definition will look like before ever applying it (see Figure 6). You can even call up a mini-preview of the CSS class you are about to apply to a selected element in this context. All these improvements to the CSS editor go a long way toward making it easier to work with CSS -- something we should all find ourselves doing more of, if we haven't already.
Figure 6: Before you apply a style you can hover over its name and preview it.
For GoLive CS, Adobe has licensed the rather capable Opera rendering engine just as Macromedia has done for their Web design applications. By using this engine, Mac users are offered a true-to-life rendition of what the final layout with look like on modern browsers, since the rendering engine is based on one. The Windows version still uses Internet Explorer's built-in rendering engine.
If you became disenchanted with GoLive in the past because of the large amounts of nefarious code it has been known to generate, you'll be happy to know that the Adobe developers have gone to great lengths to make the code generated by GoLive CS as compact as possible while keeping it easy enough to go in and tweak -- something that was next to impossible to do in previous releases. If you're just getting into coding yourself, the product comes packed with a bunch of ready-to-go snippets of code to get you off and running. XHTML support found its way in GoLive 6 and the validation feature still holds its ground with Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004's browser-checking feature. All these code-related features and more, make GoLive CS a formidable coding tool hiding behind a versatile Web layout tool.
All in the Family
Through every release of GoLive, Adobe has made an effort to add integration touch points to other products and bring the product's user interface further in line with the rest. The overarching theme of the Creative Suite is tight integration and a common UI, so it's not surprising to find GoLive CS having its fair share of features related to this. From the extremely simple manner of bringing over InDesign assets and creating and editing Acrobat files, to the subtle refinements to the user interface, the product has integration written all over it.
Even though InDesign 2 had integration points to GoLive 6, the feature was somewhat hidden and then, once discovered, overwhelming. By taking full advantage of the parallel development effort of the suite, Adobe has been able to address these weak points on both fronts: InDesign and GoLive.
Within InDesign CS, a clearly labeled menu command, "Package for GoLive" is all it takes to assemble your InDesign document and all its assets for use in GoLive CS. Once the package is opened in GoLive, you're able to preview each page in the Package Assets window (see Figure 7). Hovering your mouse over an asset (artwork or text) will highlight its entire bounding box. Then it's a matter of just dragging and dropping assets you choose within a GoLive page layout. What's more, text can be dynamically linked back to the source InDesign document via Smart Object technology or even converted to an image on the fly to retain more elaborate text formatting. Cross-media publishing has never been this easy.
Figure 7: Browsing an InDesign package in GoLive is easy. Then just drag an asset out onto your Web design.
Integration permeates various aspects of this new version of GoLive in many different ways. Of course, GoLive includes support for Version Cue, Adobe's integrated versioning, and workflow system. Acrobat PDF creation of any Web layout is possible via a simple click of a tab button and there's even improved viewing and editing links within Acrobat files as well (see Figure 8).
Figure 8: Adobe PDF creation is integrated so tightly that you may not even notice you're creating a PDF. Just click the PDF Preview tab and GoLive automatically does the rest.
Although there have been obvious attempts to bring GoLive's interface more in line with the rest of the suite, GoLive still suffers from being the odd one out. Palettes still can be stashed to the side of the screen as they now can within InDesign, yet the palette's tabs and collapsing widgets are different from all the other applications in the suite. With the attention towards a cohesive user interface through the suite, GoLive's slight differences stand out all the more. All in all, the user interface is clean and accessible. Any newcomers to the application who are familiar to page-layout applications should appreciate its strong integration capabilities and similar approach to Web layout despite its minor UI inconsistencies with the rest the suite.
Even though GoLive CS is Adobe's most solid offering of the product to date, it does have a fair share of flaws, issues, and disappointments. For one, if you relied on the Dynamic Content module offered in the previous version for visually laying out dynamic content, you may want to hold off on upgrading for a while. Adobe decided to not develop a version of this module for GoLive CS. Instead, Adobe intends to point you to third-party solutions to fill this void, although, that doesn't sound like a free solution to the problem. You can still hand code in the server-side language of your choice (PHP, JSP, ASP, etc.). You just won't have the helpful visually oriented tools to aide you as before.
When working with any type of layout application, easy selection of elements is paramount to getting your job done. Unfortunately, GoLive still suffers from an awkward method of selecting essential elements of your layout such as table elements (TRs, TDs) and layers (DIVs). Although GoLive's selection behaviors are similar to Dreamweaver's, they are very out-of-step with the rest of the suite. Where Adobe has engineered innovative features and tools to help selection feel natural and consistent in Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop, GoLive goes against all this leaving you frustrated and wondering why it is still different from the rest.
The last disappointment I experienced is in terms of performance. I found GoLive CS to behave sluggishly at times with even with moderately sized site and relatively simple layouts. I suspect this could have something to do with the new Opera rendering engine employed in the Mac version. These shortcomings are not enough to offset the comprehensive set of features and enhancements offered in GoLive CS. If you're a current user of the Dynamic Content module, you may disagree. However, aside from the clumsy method of handling element selections and the lack of responsiveness, I find this upgrade is still a worthwhile upgrade if you can deal with the minor annoyances.
Whether you're a longtime user of GoLive, Dreamweaver, or a newcomer to Web design, GoLive CS certainly has something to offer to you. Existing GoLive users will enjoy a refined user interface (albeit slightly different from the rest of the suite), improved features such as Smart Objects, and better code handling through code completion and CSS dynamic previewing.
Visual designers who have latched on to Dreamweaver may want to consider switching to GoLive, especially if you find yourself mostly using Adobe products in your workday. You may find the menu setup and layout-driven design scheme more inviting and logical than Dreamweaver's somewhat jumbled set of menus and workspace -- not to mention the powerful set of integrated tools and features you gain when using GoLive along with the rest of the Creative Suite.
However, those who are more technically inclined may find GoLive's workflow awkward and not suited for you. That's just it, GoLive seems as though it was developed with the visual designer in mind where as Dreamweaver has become more and more a tool for the designer turned developer. This is important to note since many Dreamweaver users will probably be put off by GoLive. Adobe software has always appealed to visual designers and even GoLive, a tool that essentially helps to write out code, demonstrates why.
Lastly, if you are new to Web design and development or now tasked with cross-media publishing, I can't think of a better tool to help get you up to speed with publishing your designs in no time. With GoLive's superior hooks into Photoshop and Illustrator along with the incredibly easy Package for GoLive found in InDesign, this Web layout design tool is easy to use and understand yet versatile and powerful enough to work on your most challenging of Web sites.
GoLive CS is a worthwhile upgrade for just about anyone considering the application. It still offers some of the most innovative, timesaving features found in a Web design tool and its strong integration points to the rest of the suite, can't be beat. If you're using Dreamweaver and still feel uncomfortable with using it, give GoLive a spin. Otherwise if Dreamweaver feels like an old friend, there's probably not much for you here. Although Dreamweaver is the most popular tool for Web design, I'm hoping (as I expect Adobe is as well) many Adobe Creative Suite Premium Edition owners try GoLive CS and hopefully discover its merits. If this turns out to be the case, Adobe might turn the tides, just as they seem to have with QuarkXPress users warming up to InDesign.
Read more by George Penston.
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