I have been a Macromedia Dreamweaver fan for several years. Although I rarely use Dreamweaver MX‘s impressive integration features, I do use Dreamweaver to build Web pages. So when I had the opportunity to test-drive Namo Interactive WebEditor 5, I was interested to see how it stacked up against Dreamweaver—and whether I would switch my page-authoring tool loyalty.

Hey, this looks familiar
After downloading the 45-day trial version of WebEditor 5 from Download.com, I started to tinker with the features. One of the first things I noticed was the Dreamweaver-like tabbed interface. As Figure A shows, WebEditor 5 provides bottom tabs you can use to switch the page between WYSIWYG view, code view, and browser preview. The upper tabs let you move from page to page.

Figure A
WebEditor 5 tabbed interface

The features you’d expect
WebEditor 5 offers many of the advanced features you would expect from a well-rounded authoring tool, such as several prefab JavaScripts and the ability to work with XML files. You’ll also find several preproduced templates you can use if you are in a hurry to crank out a site. One of the features I found interesting was the ability to re-sort HTML tables by ascending or descending order (Figure B). WebEditor 5 accomplished this without any additional code being written. You can also clean and verify HTML as you can in Dreamweaver.

Figure B
You can easily sort HTML tables.

If you are a fan of the site management tool in Dreamweaver, WebEditor 5 won’t let you down. It offers a similar functionality (Figure C), including a source code control mechanism that allows developers to check in and check out pages to protect code integrity. And of course, you’ll find built-in FTP functionality so that you can keep your local and remote sites easily synchronized.

Figure C
WebEditor 5 Site Manager tool

What I didn’t like
Despite the decent functionality, I found a few flaws in WebEditor 5. One big aggravation was the constant pop-up dialog box reminding me that I was in the 45-day trial period and that if I didn’t remove any files created with the product after this period, I would be in violation of the licensing agreement. Although I understand the need for such a message, its frequency was too much.

Another disappointment was the lack of support for XHTML and the ability to convert HTML to compliant XHTML. I searched through the somewhat-useful Help Index and couldn’t find a reference to XHTML support. I also didn’t find any support for managing accessibility issues. So if this is of concern to you, you might want to look at stand-alone accessibility tools as well. If you’ve used WebEditor 5 extensively, and I somehow missed these features, please tell me where they are because I couldn’t find them.

Would I jump off the good ship MX?
Back to my earlier question: Would I forsake Dreamweaver for WebEditor 5? The short answer is no, primarily because I’ve been using Dreamweaver MX since its release and don’t want to change products midstream. But if you’re still in the decision-making process, I would suggest you seriously consider Namo WebEditor 5. At a much lower price, WebEditor 5 packs in a great deal of features. It will set you back about $100, compared to $399 for the full version of Dreamweaver. (Tack on an extra $500 for the entire MX Studio.)

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The bottom line
I recommend that you take a look at WebEditor 5 as an alternative to Dreamweaver, especially if you are budget conscious. You can download the trial version and see whether WebEditor 5 will work for you. Of course, if you work with ColdFusion or Flash MX, you may want to stick with Dreamweaver MX. And if you need compliant XHTML or minimal accessibility testing, you should probably pass on WebEditor 5 or make sure that you purchase a stand-alone product to supply the missing features.