One of the realities of the high-paced technology world we live in is that no sooner do we invest in or learn a new technology than something else comes out to take its place. As developers, we've learned to try to use all of the resources at our disposal: user groups, formal training, books, mailing lists, blogs... whatever we can get our hands on to keep us in the know and sharpen our skills. No matter what method we use to expand our knowledge, learning is always easier and better when it's interactive - but sometimes interactive learning is impractical. If you don't have a local user group or the funds for an instructor-led course, how can you get that level of interaction while learning new skills?
One popular and growing method is by using the power of technology for interactive learning experiences in the comfort of your own home or office. Online learning has become an increasingly effective way to disseminate information, promote events, and train people. Macromedia recently took this online experience a step further by hosting a Community Week -- a full week of live, interactive training and information sessions (called 'MacroChats') showcasing products and techniques for beginning to advanced users. Macromedia developers already have a tight-knit and supportive community, and bringing them together for this special event demonstrated how engaging it can be to combine audio, visuals, and -- most importantly -- a live audience. The Community Week sessions took advantage of the features of Breeze Live, offering attendees an opportunity to ask questions, participate in real-time polls, chat with other developers, and get tips and guidelines from some of the most knowledgeable developers around. Sessions aimed to please a diverse, and increasingly global, audience, with topics ranging from Cascading Style Sheets to Flex for Java. A good assortment of the Macromedia product line was represented -- Flash, RoboHelp, RoboDemo, Authorware, Dreamweaver, and (of course) ColdFusion.
One of the most informative sessions offered was Dreamweaver MX 2004 Killer Tips with ColdFusion. The 'killer tips' format is one of the best ways for developers of all levels to learn those nifty features and production shortcuts that typically are only stumbled upon through trial and error or through reading mountains of books. Angela Buraglia (http://www.dwmommy.com) covered those often underused features of Dreamweaver that make development easier, like design time style sheets and using code snippets effectively. She even provided a URL for a resource with 58 ColdFusion snippets (http://www.dwfaq.com/snippets). She reminded the audience about Dreamweaver MX 2004's handy ColdFusion Reference guide, which is like having an entire ColdFusion manual inside Dreamweaver. Other highlights of the presentation included reusing recordsets, drag-and-drop databases, data source name variables, and customizing default documents.
Of course, no ColdFusion/Dreamweaver presentation would be complete without the ever popular debate as to whether or not Homesite+ and the put-to-pasture ColdFusion Studio are better IDEs than Dreamweaver. That, however, ultimately boils down to personal preference, and many developers who once shunned Dreamweaver are now finding that it suits their needs nicely with the MX 2004 release. If you're curious to learn more, the following resources may be useful: