Because consultants who develop Web-based applications often can’t select the server environment in which their program will run, they need to master a slew of Web-development platforms. Worse, when testing an application, developers must either replicate the client’s server network in their own shop or schedule test time on the client’s network.
Macromedia’s Dreamweaver UltraDev attacks both problems by providing a common visual development interface for three server environments–Microsoft Active Server Pages, Allaire’s ColdFusion, and Sun’s Java Server Page–as well as tools that let you test an application remotely using a customer’s data.
Dreamweaver UltraDev can test server-side scripts using live data from any remote database that supports ODBC, JDBC, or ColdFusion.
Web designers often need direct access to the HTML source code their development tool generates. This is an area where many Web development products fail, either by hiding the source code or by making it available only for inspection. Products that do let you modify the source code usually overwrite your modifications once you regenerate the HTML. UltraDev’s HTML Inspector, on the other hand, lets you edit HTML using the editor of your choice. When you make changes in the visual layout, UltraDev preserves your HTML edits rather than overwriting them.
UltraDev works well in team-development environments, supporting source-code control features and automatic FTP file synchronization. A nice touch is Ultra-Dev’s Design Notes widget, which lets you attach Post-it-like notes to files for communicating with other team members.
UltraDev’s database connection tools let you quickly incorporate database functionality into your application. You can connect to any remotely accessible SQL ODBC- or JDBC-compliant database, retrieve table definitions and store them with your application, and later use the stored definitions to place database fields on pages by dragging and dropping. UltraDev’s query-authoring tool lets you compose any SQL query and then test the query on live data before pasting it into server-side scripts. The only thing Ultra-Dev’s database aids lack is built-in support for the three open-source databases popular with Web developers: MySQL, mSQL, and Postgres.
When you’re ready to write application code, you can choose from UltraDev’s built-in Server Behaviors–pre-written subroutines that handle common chores such as reading, inserting, and updating database records and executing SQL queries. Server Behaviors include error-checking code, making it possible to build a complete application without writing any server-side code.
With UltraDev’s Live Data feature, you can preview dynamic content on individual pages, using a remote server only to execute server-side scripts and SQL queries. You specify the values of HTML variables needed for a particular page’s test environment, and UltraDev uses the server-resident scripts and database to generate dynamic output on your page. However, this feature is com-plicated to set up, and it doesn’t guarantee your application will work in its production run-time environ-ment. You’ll still need to upload your application to the target server for further testing.