Ditching Dreamweaver. Is Aptana the answer?

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Anyone who follows me on twitter already know how I feel about Dreamweaver.

It may be “the” IDE for web designers/developers, but it is plagued with issues that won’t go away. Each release adds new features, but none have fixed what I see as two overshadowing problems:

1) Lack of simple customization 
2) Bugs, bugs, bugs

So, I have been looking for a good replacement.

Is Aptana the answer?

It offers a great interface and complete customization. Check it out on the official site.

However, it has been a bit of trouble to set up. Here is a running log (as in, check back for updates) of the thing that I find:


There are 2 options to install:

  • 1) a stand alone application
  • 2) as a plugin for eclipse

The stand alone version may seem tempting, but it caused me nothing but trouble on an Intel mac. The plugin worked the first time without any trouble.

Projects and Connections

Projects are like “sites” in dreamweaver. One easy thing to do is to set the projects up to use the same local files as DW. In my case “/Sites”. This keeps the local files correct, no matter which IDE you are using that day.

But, here is the strange part: When you set up a new project it seems to freak out if you point to a folder already in use under the default location. The silly solution? Use the folder as the project name and keep “use default location” checked.

You can then make a “connection” to your FTP account.

Upload on Save

This is a great feature that is built into dreamweaver. It also appears to be built into Aptana. Look under Scripts > Synchronize. Unfortunately, this is only a sample script that is broken. Activating it won’t do anything. There is also a bunch of misinformation on the web about how to get it working. Here is how I did it:

  • – Create a ‘scripts’ directory in your project
  • – Create a file called ‘upload_current_file_on_save.js’
  • – Copy/Paste this script into the file: snipplr.com/view.php?codeview&id=19884

Or, you can skip the scripts folder and just update the broken script. On my instal it was located at: “/Applications/eclipse/configuration/org.eclipse.osgi/bundles/417/1/.cp/scripts/upload_current_file_on_save.js”. Yes, .cp is a hidden folder, so you have to use Finder > Go to folder to get there

File Associations

Dreamweaver initially assumes that you want to use it when opening any file. Aptana/Eclipse makes no assumptions. Look under Preferences > Editors > File Associations to set everything.

However, some programs like Photoshop don’t seem to open properly.  I still can’t get it to work properly, but I discovered this simple “hack”: Let it use the system specified editor and set the finder (on mac) to open all images in Photoshop. Silly to have to do it this way, but…

7 Responses to “Ditching Dreamweaver. Is Aptana the answer?”

  1. aaronpk Says:

    I haven’t used Dreamweaver since 2002 and don’t regret it for a minute. On the other hand, I’ve been struggling to find a good IDE for PHP/HTML/Javascript development for a very long time as well.

    Komodo on OSX is pretty good, and allows for editing files directly from an SFTP server. That combined with command-line Subversion was my preferred environment for a long time.

    In the last year or two I’ve started using Aptana, on both Windows and OSX. I’ve been extremely happy with it for the most part. I’ve always installed the standalone version and it’s worked without any trouble immediately after installing. As great as Aptana is, it definitely has its quirks. One of which is the obscure “upload on save” script you’ve discovered.

    However, don’t download version 2! They took out a lot of the great features for some reason. Use version 1.5.1, which is nearly impossible to find a link to! Save this file locally in case you need to reinstall it, and bookmark this link! http://studio-download.aptana.com/25914/Aptana_Studio_Setup_Win_1.5.1.zip

    If you add an SFTP site to Aptana, you will be able to edit files directly on a server without needing the “upload on save” script.

    The Subversion integration is fantastic, and another really useful feature is the two-way sync in case you edit files both locally and remotely and need to sync changes between the two sets of files.

    Hope this helps.

  2. gabrielm Says:

    You haven’t missed much. There have been no major improvements in dreamweaver since 2002. I would give it up completely, but we use DW templates extensively at work.

    Aptana has been great so far and I will check out 1.5 to see what I am missing. Before this, I used a combination of textmate and jedit – not being satisfied with either.

  3. Jodycb Says:

    I’ve been using mostly jedit outside of work and I have tried to use Apatana a bunch of times but got frustrated with getting it set up right. I suppose I should give it another shot.

  4. crypto Says:

    Aptana 2.0 is awesome. It’s a Java app, so make sure you JVM is up to snuff. It’s very fast on Snow Leopard under the 64bit JVM. Besides Subversion, the CVS integration is great. The search tools are the best I’ve ever seen in an IDE. It’s smart about PHP, Ruby, Rails, JS, CSS, etc, etc — all the things you want. Did I mention it’s free? The key startup hurdle is to figure out how to get the to PlugIns Manager view and add all the goodies. I downloaded the Aptana Rails version then added the plugins for PHP and CVS. Of course, all is not rosy. Believe it or not PHP wordwrap still doesn’t work right, but all things considered, Aptana is wonderful.

  5. aaronpk Says:

    Update: Apparently the link I posted to download Aptana is an ever so slightly older version which doesn’t include SFTP support and for some reason can’t update itself.

    Here is the correct link to download the latest 1.5.1 version (26124)


  6. Bring the Fresh Says:

    Thanks for the Aptana tips. I’ve been pulled into a project where I have to pick up js quickly and figured I better start w/ the best IDE option. I’m a long time DW user, so it will be interesting to see if I can survive without a visual editor!

    Have you tried Aptana Studio 3 yet??


  7. Heel Spur Says:

    Thanks for the informative post! I will download Aptana ASAP!

    BTW – Thanks for the tips.


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