Aptana vs. Dreamweaver – close, but not quite.

Apatana vs. Dreamweaver

Anymore, you can’t have a release of some new device or some software application that isn’t labeled as a killer. This isn’t any different. I ran across this a week or so ago on Digg, titled – Dreamweaver Killer: Cross Platform Open Source (Javascript, HTML, CSS) IDE – which couldn’t be further from the truth. [As a side note, this is really more of a comment on how Digg users seem to over inflate importance to get their stories on the home page – not a claim by the developers]


Before I go any more in-depth, Aptana isn’t a full version, it’s a beta -0.31. So it will be treated as such. That being said, I installed the app, and the InstallAnywhere installer worked perfectly with no hiccups or goofy problems, ran straight through like I would expect. The 43mb download was quick and easy to go from exe to working application. This application is a breeze to use. Once I had it opened, I had pages opened and edited in minutes. Getting everything organized was simple too. It works well with my multiple monitor setup, and the windows are very useful. The project window is just as nice as any I have seen, just right click in the project window to create a new project, give it a name and point it to the files. Done.

The Outline tab is what really caught may attention. This is something Dreamweaver does not have. It shows CSS, JavaScript and HTML all in the same view in order of hierarchy. The only thing here I would like to see is if you collapsed the <head> group, it would collapse it in the source view as well. This is a feature that Dreamweaver has that I really like. Some of my pages get really long, and moving inside the source view gets to be a bit tedious at times, so it’s nice to be able to collapse the garbage you don’t need to view just then. You can also maximize or minimize the source/preview tab within the main application window which works better than the same thing in Dreamweaver. Dreamweaver treats it like a standard window, and the IDE gets all wonky. It seems disjointed in Dreamweaver, and more integrated in Aptana.

Since it is a beta, there are several things left out and under development still PHP support is the biggest one right now, and .NET support would be the next thing. All of my sites are PHP based, so I sorta need it to be able to use the app effectively. I know I can go and get the PHP Eclipse plugin, but quite frankly I shouldn’t have to. If it is a complete application for web development, it should simply include the standard tool set in it’s list of features. They’re working on it though – so that’s a bonus.

Aptana’s disk footprint is half that of Dreamweaver too at around 90mb (compared to 170mb +/-), which isn’t too surprising considering what it doesn’t have built-in – but if space is a consideration this is far more lightweight.


Dreamweaver is still my true love as far as web editors. There are some quirks to Dreamweaver, the fact that it crashes on me 2 or 3 times a week simply sucks. It’s always done this though, and it is far better than the last 2 versions as far as this goes. I don’t like how my version at home is different from my version at work, and has it’s own special quirks in both places. It’s .NET support is pathetic, and working with check in/out enabled is troublesome; working with VSS is even worse.

The design and source views work extremely well, and I like being able to turn on information in design view such as table widths, and object borders if I so desire. The integration of O’Reilly books as a reference is a huge plus Well all know what Dreamweaver is and can do, so I’m going to stop there.


Overall, I really like the Aptana editor. It’s designed well, comes with a cool Web 2.0 logo, and seems very stable and reliable. It’s still very young yet, and doesn’t meet the needs I currently have. So, while I think it is very nice, it isn’t enough to entice me away from using Dreamweaver as my primary IDE. I’ve been using Dreamweaver since version 2, and I really like it. It’s easy to use, very powerful – and of course; familiar. I can get small things done quickly, and I don’t have to learn anything new. I know, lazy… but true.

Another reason I am going to keep an eye on it is because at work we are working on Continuous Integration processes, and I have been able to resist using Visual Studio for too long, and it has caught up with me. If Aptana can fit more directly with our development processes, I will gladly kick Dreamweaver to the curb. Save us some money, and make my life easier as far working with the rest of the team. Through Eclipse you can interface with ANT or MAKE, and there is a way to work with source controls already, so this might become a reality….

I hope Aptana is in it for the long haul and they keep up the good work. Adobe needs some strong competition, because right now the only force they face is Microsoft and FrontPage. And FrontPage sucks. They need competition. Without it, they will not continue to be innovative, which would basically force me to switch to Aptana.

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