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Dreamweaver CS5 : Understanding Templates & Creating Your Own Templates

11/7/2011 5:58:07 PM
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1. Understanding Templates

Templates exist in many forms. Furniture makers use master patterns as templates to create the same basic design repeatedly, using new wood stains or upholstery to differentiate the final product. A stencil, in which the inside of a letter, word, or design is cut out, is a type of template as well. With computers, templates form the basic document into which specific details are added to create new, distinct documents.

Dreamweaver templates, in terms of functionality, are a combination of traditional templates and updatable Library elements. After a new page is created from a template, the document remains attached to the original template unless specifically separated or detached. The new document maintains a connection to previous pages in a site. If the original template is altered, all the documents created from it can be automatically updated. This relationship is also true of Dreamweaver's repeating element Libraries. In fact, templates can include Library elements.


Library items work hand-in-hand with templates.

When a template is first created, the entire page is locked; locked sections of a template cannot be changed in a document derived from that template. A key process in defining a template is to designate certain areas as regions that can be changed in some way in a template-derived document. Dreamweaver supports four different regions in a template:

  • Editable regions: The area, such as all the code, within an editable region may be altered. In a page where all the navigation code is locked, for instance, the content area can be designated as an editable region.

  • Editable attributes: Within a locked tag, specific attributes can be made editable. For example, you can unlock the border attribute for a table while keeping the cell padding and cell spacing secure.

  • Optional regions: Content within an optional region may or may not be displayed, depending on certain conditions set by the template designer.

  • Repeating regions: Certain areas in an otherwise locked object (typically a table) can be repeated as many times as needed in a template-derived document. Repeating regions are great for controlling the overall look and feel of a table but allowing the number of detail rows to vary.

All the various region types require template markup within the document. You can also combine certain template regions — you could, for example, make some of the content within a repeating region editable and keep some of it locked.

Naturally, templates can be altered to mark additional editable areas or to relock editable areas. Moreover, you can detach a document created from a template at any time and edit anything in the document. You cannot, however, reattach the document to the template without losing (or seriously misplacing) inserted content. On the other hand, you can give a document based on one template a completely different look (without changing the content) by applying another template with identical regions.

Let's look at an example template. The layout, background, and navigation controls are identical on every page. One basic template page (shown in Figure 1) is created, and all the final pages are created from the template. Notice the highlighting surrounding certain areas in the template. In a template, the specified regions are highlighted, and the locked areas are not. A tab further identifies each region to make it easier to add the right content in the right area.

Figure 1. In a template, designated regions are clearly marked and distinguished from the rest of the page, which is locked and cannot be changed.

2. Creating Your Own Templates

You can use any design you like for your own template. Perhaps the best path to take is to finalize a single page that has all the elements that you want to include in your template. Then, convert that document to a template and proceed to mark all the changeable areas — whether text or image — as a type of region. Before saving your file as a template, consider the following points when designing your basic page:

  • Use placeholders where you can. Whether it's dummy text or a temporary graphic, a placeholder gives shape to your page. Placeholders also make it easier to remember which elements to include. If you are using an image placeholder, set a temporary height and width through the Property inspector or by dragging the image placeholder's sizing handles. Of course, you can also just insert a sample graphic.

  • Finalize and incorporate as much content as possible in the template. If you find yourself repeatedly adding the same information or objects to a page, add them to your template. The more structured elements you can include, the faster your pages can be produced.

  • Use sample objects on the template. Often, you have to enter the same basic object, such as a plugin for a digital movie, on every page with only the filename changing. Enter your repeating object (with as many preset parameters as possible) on your template page. Then, you only have to select a new filename for each page.

  • Include your <meta> information. Search engines rely on <meta> tags to get the overview of a page and then scan the balance of the page to get the details. You can enter a Keyword or Description object from the HTML category of the Insert panel so that all the Web pages in your site have the same basic information for cataloging.

You can create a template from a Web document with one command: File => Save As Template. Dreamweaver stores all templates in a Templates folder created for each defined site with a special file extension (.dwt). After you've created your page and saved it as a template, notice that Dreamweaver inserts <<Template>> in the title bar to remind you of the page's status. Now you're ready to begin defining the template's editable regions.


You can also create a template from an entirely blank page if you like. To do so, open the Assets panel and select the Templates category. From the Templates category, click the New Template button. Another approach to achieve the same result is to choose File => New to display the New Document dialog box, select the Blank Page category, and then choose HTML template from the Page Type category. Use this method when you want to build an XHTML-compliant template from scratch.

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