Should I Upgrade to Adobe Dreamweaver CS5.5?

by James Cook on April 17, 2011

IMPORTANT: With the announcement of Creative Cloud, Adobe has also changed its upgrade pricing policy. For CS6 only owners of CS5 and CS5.5 will qualify for upgrade pricing discounts. For more on this critical change and how it will affect your upgrade plans see Creative Suite: Upgrade, Wait for Creative Cloud or ???

The decision to upgrade is always difficult. It requires balancing costs against new features and performance. The decision is more difficult if you rarely use the software or have already skipped a couple upgrade cycles. So I thought I’d offer my advice about whether you should make the upgrade to Dreamweaver CS5.5.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that you are:

  • Inexperienced with Dreamweaver but have decided to learn how to create websites and happen to have an older version of the program available OR
  • You are an experienced Dreamweaver user considering the upgrade.

Let’s look at the upgrade scenarios:

Dreamweaver 8 (or earlier) to CS5.5

Cost: $199

PRO: The web has changed dramatically since 2005 and so has Dreamweaver. DW8 is sorely lacking in support for modern web standards. Upgrading will allow you to create modern, CSS-based websites. Among the many benefits of upgrading from DW8 you’ll find:

  • Integration of Dreamweaver with the rest of the Adobe Creative Suite (copy and past from Photoshop for instance)
  • Vastly improved handling of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and built-in CSS-based layouts
  • Spry widgets and effects

CON: The only excuses not to update are:

  • Your ancient hardware doesn’t support new versions.
  • You still insist on designing with tables.

Neither excuse is valid if you are serious about learning to design and build websites. It’s time for you to invest in upgrading your equipment, your software and your skills.

Conclusion: MUST UPGRADE

Dreamweaver CS3 to CS5.5

Cost: $199

PRO: CS3 marked Adobe’s integration of Dreamweaver into Creative Suite and was the first version of Dreamweaver to support CSS styles and layout in a manner accessible to non-programmers. Unfortunately the CSS support built into CS3 still left a lot to be desired. Among the many benefits of upgrading from CS3 you’ll find:

  • Vastly improved handling of CSS
  • Improved workspace layout (with the ability to choose between several built-in workspaces and to save customized workspaces)
  • Photoshop Smart Objects
  • Live View (a non-editable browser –like view of your pages based upon the Web-kit platform)
  • Ability to divide the Split View window vertically as well as horizontally

CON: Those of you who insist on using tables for design should be aware that Layout Mode was dropped beginning with CS4. Most serious users considered Layout Mode an abomination but some casual users were upset by its removal. But, if you’re serious about web design, it’s time to abandon tables and embrace CSS and modern, standards-based design.

Conclusion: MUST UPGRADE – The improved CSS support and significant user-interface improvements make the jump from CS3 to CS5.5 a “must upgrade” for serious users.

Dreamweaver CS4 to CS5.5

Cost: $199

PRO: Upgrading from CS4 gives you a number of new features including:

  • Ability to temporarily enable/disable CSS properties from the CSS Styles panel
  • CSS Inspection which displays CSS box model properties in Live View
  • All new “modern” built-in CSS layouts.
  • A “simplified” Site Set Up dialog.

CS5 also adds new features of interest to advanced developers including:

  • Dynamically-Related files which allows linking to PHP-based Content Management Systems such as WordPress
  • Improved PHP code hinting.

Conclusion: PROBABLY – For most users the new features offered in CS5 and now CS5.5 are evolutionary rather than revolutionary. But the sum of the two upgrades is probably enough justify the expense for most users. Advanced users in particular will find a lot to like.

Dreamweaver CS5 to CS5.5

Cost: $119

PRO: The upgrade from CS5 to CS5.5 offers:

  • Multiscreen support, which offers Live View preview of your pages at various monitor resolutions (phone, pad and desktop computer) simultaneously
  • FTPS (secure ftp) support
  • Code hinting for HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery

CS5.5 also adds additional features targeting developers of mobile content:

  • Improved support for CSS3 media queries
  • Support for jQuery Mobile
  • Ability to export projects as native apps for the Android and iOS mobile operating systems

Conclusion: PROBABLY NO – In CS5.5 as in CS5, Adobe seems to be targeting primarily advanced users and developers. Most users won’t notice many changes and certainly nothing that would justify the upgrade fee. MAYBE DEFINITELY YES – If you have any interest in developing for mobile devices, CS5.5 is a “must upgrade.” In fact, even some hardcore coding skeptics may be tempted to take a look.

If you have a question or comment about making the upgrade to Dreamweaver CS5.5, please join the discussion through the comment form below.

Christopher November 2, 2011 at 4:28 pm

What about emails? I use CS3 for building emails. Should I upgrade to CS5.5? Funding is not an issue. I just want to have the latest so I can build the best possible emails.

Thank you.

BTW, thanks for the information. This is an excellent source.

dwcourse November 2, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Actually, since email programs lag behind browsers in support of CSS-based design. Best practices for emails still uses tables and inline CSS so I doubt that you’d see any great benefit in upgrading if all you do is emails. In fact, since some of the table-based design elements have been removed in later versions of Dreamweaver, it might make your life more difficult. I’d suggest downloading the 30 trial of DW 5.5 and trying it out.

Stan Loten October 17, 2011 at 4:21 pm

I have Dreamweaver MX 2004 but I now run Mac OS 10.6.8. Cn I upgrade from MX 2004 to a version of Dreamweaver that will run on my operating system?

dwcourse October 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Adobe doesn’t offer upgrade pricing for any versions earlier than Dreamweaver 8. You might want to check out purchasing a subscription. You can find details on pricing, upgrades and subscriptions at

Harry Dance May 1, 2011 at 9:35 am

Anyone currently building or learning to build websites who “aren’t that interested” in developing for mobile platforms are desperately missing the point. The future of the world wide web, which is getting closer each day, is and will be predominantly about mobile platforms. I’m grateful Adobe are proactively keeping up to speed with this upgrade, no matter how cynical some might be. However, it might be argued that a genuinely improved business model would be to charge a little more for the original purchase and then permit FREE upgrades to .5 versions upgrades etc, until the next major release.

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