Dreamweaver MX 2004

Little things mean a lot. That's what my dad always used to say, and it holds true in this newest version of Dreamweaver MX. While there are no "giant leaps for mankind" with this release, the average web developer will certainly appreciate the design tweaks and improvements they have provided in 2004.
Overall Look
The overall look is similar to Dreamweaver MX, with a few minor changes, namely the toolbars across the top. Your views and personal layout can still be tailored to what you're used to, so it really depends on you.
"Insert Toolbar"
Personally, I liked the old "insert" toolbar with the tabs across the top, as I'm more of an "at-a-glance" person. In MX 2004, when they reshuffled the objects to be inserted, it took me a minute to find a few things. For example, the "insert characters" function is now listed under the "HTML" section, instead of being on it's own tab (or even under the "common" section like in the old days). But I'm usually pretty quick on the uptake and this was not a huge issue for me.
They have added a "Favorites" section of the "insert" toolbar, which I found most helpful, as it allows you to put your commonly used buttons all together in one spot, and keeps you from toggling back and forth to find what you're looking for. This more than made up for them moving the "characters" section on me.
Start-up Screen
One difference is the addition of a start-up screen to give you quick reference to recently opened files, a list of new files you can create, or available sample documents already created for you to modify as you see fit. Some people might find this helpful, but I tend to be more of a traditionalist and access my recently used files with the good old-fashioned toolbar. Luckily, I was given the option to promptly turn this feature off.
picture of StartUp screen
PHP-specific changes
As a PHP developer, if you're worried about Dreamweaver MX 2004 putting you out of business because people can create dynamic websites themselves, you can sleep well tonight. They really haven't improved much on the PHP front as far as the layperson goes. You can still enter a little bit of common PHP code with the push of a button, and get some code hints with Ctrl-Space, but it is far from being a substitute for the experienced PHP/MySQL developer.
PHP Reference
For those newbies out there who are taking pre-written scripts and attempting to modify them to fit their own needs, Macromedia has added a PHP reference section to their list, courtesy of the good folks at O'Reilly. If you recall, Dreamweaver MX had some built-in references, but PHP was unfortunately yet again the last little guy picked for kickball, and was omitted. With this feature, you can highlight a function in your code, right-click, and scroll down to "reference". You are then shown a brief description of what the function is meant to do. A list of functions is also provided for your reference should you want to look up another specific function that isn't in your code. Now, if we can only get the newbs to look up "register_globals".
Server Behaviors
They have added a few common tasks to the server behaviors for PHP, specifically building master-detail pages and user authentication. Yet again, these will hardly replace the expert's knowledge, and I can imagine how difficult it would be to set these up correctly having no knowledge of PHP or MySQL. I honestly don't know if I would use these shortcuts in real life, because I prefer to have more control over my code, but it may be helpful to some PHP coders out there.

Dreamweaver MX 2004

Tools for the General Developer
I know that many of us use Dreamweaver for web layout issues, while we prefer to code our PHP by hand, and thankfully there are some tools that have been added that make our lives a whole lot easier.
Automatic Cross-Browser Checks
With this release of Dreamweaver MX, those of us who tend to tailor our pages to the IE community will get an eye-opening look at the potential errors seen by the rest of the world. Although you can turn this feature off, the automatic browser check runs a quick check for W3C standards compatibility and provides a button on the toolbar with a link to any errors that came up. This check is far from being intrusive and you do not need to have any other browser installed on your machine. I personally found this quite helpful, especially since I am dragging myself kicking and screaming into the murky bog of CSS and W3C standards.
CSS Improvements
Since we're on the subject of CSS, it was obvious to me that CSS is the new buzzword over there at Macromedia. They have added several features such as visualizing the CSS in the layout, CSS code hints with Ctrl-Space keys, CSS page-wide properties box, and the ability to see all the styles available to you in any view. If you're a newcomer to CSS, or an old-school CSSer, you will most likely appreciate these updates.
Table Layout
In the "design" mode, you are now able to visualize the size of the tables at a glance (which I loved!). And example is in the following screenshot:
picture of Table Layout
Not only can you see the pixel count (or percentage) of your tables, you can easily select the entire column (or insert a new column) by clicking on that number. No more positioning your cursor precariously over the table, just hoping that you're selecting the right thing. This, to me, was an example of a little thing that meant a lot.
Image Editor
Another thing I particularly found useful was the image editor that has been included in the main Dreamweaver MX 2004 software. If you need to accomplish a simple thing, such as cropping an image, sharpening an image, or changing the brightness/contrast levels, you can now do these things directly in Dreamweaver without having to switch over to a graphics editor. I would really like to see the Macromedia folks incorporate more Fireworks functionality into Dreamweaver.
Improved text editing
While this wasn't the thing I was most impressed with, I did find this somewhat helpful. They have added the ability to format a block of code by selecting it and right-clicking, and then either indenting/outdenting, changing it from upper to lower case, and converting to comments. Like I said, this wasn't the discovery of electricity, but it was somewhat helpful to a sometimes "broken-source" coder like myself.
Macromedia Contribute Compatibility
Macromedia offers a CMS-type software that enables your clients (or other members of your web design team) to make simple changes to a website, and this version of Dreamweaver fits well with that software. Although others are able to change some content of the site, through Dreamweaver, you as the developer are still able to maintain control of what they can and cannot change (this is a very good thing.) As well, Dreamweaver MX 2004 has included a check-in/check-out file management system to prevent two people from trying to update the same file at the same time. I'm still waiting to find someone to delegate my website updates to, but when I find him/her I'm sure this will be a much appreciated feature.

Dreamweaver MX 2004

Summary
In this update of Dreamweaver, I would have liked to have seen more of a focus on PHP and including some features you might find in an editor such as PHPEdit, but of course I'm a bit biased on the subject and I do realize Macromedia's obligation to keeping things as compatible as possible with all developers. As well, there are a few areas that may be difficult for the newbie to conquer, but thankfully there are fabulous "help" forums out there such as the Dreamweaver forum at PHPBuilder: http://www.phpbuilder.com/board/forumdisplay.php?s=&forumid=19.
There are numerous other updates to the software that I haven't addressed above; things like adding secure FTP capabilities, improved ColdFusion support, and increased integration with fellow Macromedia software family members.
All in all, your decision to purchase the upgrade will depend solely on your particular use of Dreamweaver and whether or not the above improvements will make your life easier. At $199 for the upgrade, I think I could make the case in favor of this purchase to my superiors, and definitely after buying them a few drinks at the local bar.