We’ve been hearing a lot about CSS Menu Writer over the last couple of months and it’s finally here. Just released by WebAssist, CSS Menu Writer takes the hassle out of creating CSS menu navigation in Dreamweaver.
Menu Writer is a Dreamweaver extension that creates horizontal or vertical website menus through a tabbed wizard interface, similar to CSS Sculptor. As with Sculptor, Eric Meyer had a hand in making sure Menu Writer menus are standards compliant and valid CSS and HTML. The extension installs just like any other in Dreamweaver, and is accessible through the WebAssist toolbar.
The real advantage of using Menu Writer to create your CSS menus is the speed at which you can generate a complete multi-level menu structure. The tabbed panels in the wizard allow you to specify a preset style, choosing from 4 different included layouts for both horizontal and vertical menus. You can then choose from 12 color schemes for a total of 96 different menu variations. From that point, you can easily customize the menu to your specifications by changing any of the CSS menu properties including font, border, colors, margin, padding, background images, link states and much more.
Menu Writer generates the menus as unordered lists, as is common with other CSS menu designs. The lists are then styled using the cascading style sheet. For beginner users, no hand coding is necessary as Menu Writer takes care of all the code. Advanced users can easily customize the CSS through either the wizard or directly in the CSS stylesheet. Changes made in the stylesheet are reflected in the wizard and vice versa.
Since Menu Writer uses unordered lists as the structure of the menus, search engines will easily crawl menu links to any depth included in the menu. Menu Writer also allows you to included multiple menus on a single page. That way your header navigation can be company-related while your vertical navigation can be product or service-related.
The use of unordered lists also allows for the use of dynamic database-driven menus. Simply inserting a database field as the source of the list item and applying a repeated region behavior will populate your menu list from your Dreamweaver database.
The ability to not only create a completely custom CSS menu, but to also save your menu and use the identical menu on other websites is a big plus. Much of the time creating a menu is spent on the details, so the ability to remove this step from future menus will undoubtedly save quite a bit of time.
Another nice aspect of CSS Menu Writer is the ability to automatically generate your entire menu from your website structure. Simply by setting up your main and sublevel categories in separate folders, you can define your root directory and Menu Writer will generate your menu based on your folder structure. It’s a real time-saver as long as you setup your site properly from the start.
CSS Menu Writer is available now from WebAssist and looks to be a very promising CSS menu extension for Dreamweaver. WebAssist will be releasing additional menu styles in the future, but creating your own styles is so simple that most designers won’t have any trouble customizing their menus.