Developing Database-Driven Web Sites In Dreamweaver CS4

by Andrew Whiteman

Part of the Adobe Creative Suite, Dreamweaver is one of the most widely used web development packages around. It has gained its popularity by appealing to users with a wide variety of profiles. Its user-friendly interface appeals to inexperienced users with little knowledge of the technologies that underpin web pages. At the same time, it allows experienced web developers to interact with code in a variety of useful ways.

Adobe Dreamweaver enables developers to create dynamic web sites whose content is derived from a data source. Such sites feature server-side pages, written in a scripting language such as PHP, ASP or ASP.Net, which need to be executed on the server. It is therefore necessary to specify a testing server as part of the site setup when defining such sites within Dreamweaver.

Active Server Pages (ASP) is one of the easiest such languages to configure. Now referred to as classic ASP to distinguish it from ASP.Net, the current incarnation of Active Server Pages, ASP was first released in the late nineties and revolutionised the way in which web sites were developed. ASP is designed to run on Windows 2000 server and on Windows XP Professional. It is part of Internet Information Services (IIS), an optional Windows component. Once installed, IIS converts your PC into a web server running a default website located in a folder called “wwwroot” which can be accessed with the web address “localhost/”.

Once IIS is installed on your computer, Dreamweaver is ready to start creating dynamic web sites. The features available in Dreamweaver for generating the necessary server-side content are to be found in three panels: Databases, Bindings and Server Behaviors. The Databases panel is used to create connections to data sources. In the case of ASP, the most frequent solutions are Microsoft Access and the more powerful Microsoft SQL Server. Once a connection to the database is in place, the Bindings panel is used to retrieve data into a recordset. The dialogue box which Dreamweaver uses for creating recordsets automatically generates fragments of SQL as the user interacts with the relevant data objects. However, some familiarity with SQL (structured query language) is necessary to be able to retrieve precisely the data required for a given recordset.

Dreamweaver’s Server Behaviours panel contains a wide variety of pre-built scripts which can be used to add dynamic content to web pages. For example, the Insert Record server behaviour can be used to create a form which adds new records to a database table via a web page or it can be used to create an enquiries page which adds each enquiry to an enquires table and then takes the visitor to a thank you page.

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