The Missing Manual
By David Sawyer McFarland, edited by David
1st Edition November 2002
780 pages, $34.95 US
- What the Book is About
- O'Reilly describes this book
as designed to accommodate readers at every technical level. There are special sidebars
to bring beginners up to speed and shaded boxes containing material for power users.
Somewhat uniquely in the Missing Manual series, the book covers a product that is
available for both Windows and Mac. The book contains keyboard shortcuts for both
platforms, screen shots alternately from Windows XP, Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X and takes
care to provide separate discussions for platform - specific topics.
The bookÝs 24 chapters are organized into 6 major sections plus an introduction and
an appendix on help provision. The major sections are:
- Building a web page
- Building a better web page
- Bringing your pages to life
- Building a web site
- Dreamweaver power
- Dynamic Dreamweaver
- Target Audience
- This book is intended to be
a complete reference for Dreamweaver MX for any level of reader. Like many books
in the Missing Manual series, it also covers some broader context, in this case to
do with web sites built on top of databases (like Amazon).
The book covers everything you would need to know to build a web site if you had
never written a web page or a line of HTML.
While experienced web site authors would not require the introductory material, they
would still benefit from the detailed coverage of Dreamweaver MX's user interface
People upgrading from Dreamweaver 4 may find this book helpful as MX has no user
This book is not specifically about web design or web usability, issues which are
important aspects of producing a successful web site. There are plenty of other books
and web resources on these topics.
- What to Expect
- My first impression was that
this book is alarmingly large: the cover says "the book that should have been
in the box" but in fact it's thicker than the box that Dreamweaver MX came in.
Setting out to read a book this big can be daunting but as soon as you open it, the
magical Missing Manual effect takes over and you are among friends. The magic comes
from clear and attractive layout with lots of boxes, hints and tips separated out
from the main flow of the text, and plenty of illustrations. The voice of the narrative
is humorous and all that mysterious web jargon is patiently explained.
An example web site is developed throughout the book and you can follow the whole
example by downloading the raw materials, following the steps and checking the results
against the final versions which are also available on the web. But don't expect
to be able to make your fortune from the example website as it stands: it's for a
hypothetical newspaper called "Cosmopolitan Farmer" and features some rather
surreal news stories about murderous vegetables.
The organization of the book is for the most part highly logical. The introduction
actually sketches out web design and introduces HTML. The major sections follow on
in a similar way to the Dreamweaver 4 courses I recently attended. The first section
gets you through a web page with text, images and links, the second section then
goes on to add more formatting features such as tables, frames and cascading style
sheets. In each case, the pros and cons of the various elements are discussed in
terms of the two singular constraints of the web medium - effects on download time
and coping with the fact that your audience can be using an ancient browser which
can't display advanced formatting, or may be using a radically different display
resolution from the one you are using to design your web site.
The single aspect of the organization that I found surprising was that layers were
introduced relatively late in the third section of the book, whereas the courses
I attended covered them early on as static layout methods and then returned to them
later for interactive aspects. In the book, both uses of layers are covered in the
section on interaction.
The final 3 sections cover getting your web site onto the web, new power user features
of Dreamweaver MX and web sites built on databases.
I found this last section to be a great introduction to this whole topic. It explains
the server models that Dreamweaver MX can work with, including which are best for
(or included with) each platform, what database could be used with each platform
and then selects one model to develop an example. The fact that a Windows model is
selected for this example is probably not a huge disadvantage for Mac users: the
book explains that for Mac users, the pieces of the puzzle are Apache and PHP which
come with OS X, and MySQL which can be downloaded for free. As this section is just
sketching out the basics, anyone wanting to set up their own Amazon style website
would probably want to get more detailed information on these topics before they
The only thing missing that I had hoped to find was a specific discussion on the
differences between web and print media. For someone with experience of desktop publishing
and word processors where the paper and font sizes are fixed, the transition to the
web medium is disorienting - text sizes can be relative not absolute, object sizes
can be percentages of the window or pixels, everything is stretchy except pictures
which stubbornly stick at the number of pixels they were born with, the fine control
you had as a print designer is gone! These issues are discussed one at a time as
they arise but not collected into one place. This arrangement is probably best since
not all readers may have previous print experience.
- Mac Guild Grade
- A Outstanding
- Final Words
- This book is another excellent
member of the Missing Manual series, with all the same key elements - clarity of
presentation, engaging writing and thorough coverage of the topic and its context.
An unexpected bonus was the example material on the web, which makes this book a
tutorial as well as a manual.