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17.6 Create and Use Library Items

To create a Library item, start by opening the Library window. Choose Window - > Assets, and click the Library items button (it looks like an open book, as shown in Figure 17-4) to reveal the Library category.

Now select the part of your document that you wish to save as a Library item: a blob of text, a graphic, or whatever.

Note, however, that Library items can only contain page elements that appear in the document window梚n other words, only HTML from the <body> of a Web page. You can't include anything that appears in the <head> of a page, like Cascading Style Sheets, Dreamweaver Behaviors (Chapter 12), or meta tags. Furthermore, Library items must include a complete set of HTML tags梑oth an opening and closing tag梐s well as all tags necessary to complete the original object. For example, Dreamweaver won't let you turn just a single cell, row, or column in a table into a Library item. If you try, Dreamweaver will add the entire table to the Library.

Use the tag selector (Section 1.2.2) to make sure you select the precise tag information you want.

Next, add the selection to the Library. As you may expect, Dreamweaver provides several ways to do this:

  • Drag the highlighted selection into the list of Library items.

  • Click the New Item button (Figure 17-4).

  • Choose ModifyLibraryAdd Object to Library.

The new item appears in the Assets panel, bearing the jaunty name "Untitled." Just type to replace that proposal with a more useful name, such as Copyright notice or Logo. Your new Library element is ready to use.


Even though you can't turn a CSS style into a Library item, you can turn HTML that has been styled with CSS into a Library item. For example, you can add to the Library a paragraph that has a custom CSS style applied to it. When you attempt to add this paragraph to the Library, Dreamweaver will warn you that the item may not look the same when you place it in other documents梑ecause the style sheet information doesn't come along for the ride. To make sure the Library item appears correctly, make sure that you attach the same style sheet to any page where you use that item. External style sheets (Section 6.1.2) make this easy.

The Asset panel's Library category lists the name, file size, and location of each Library item in the current local site. When you select a Library item from the list, you see a small preview. In this example, the Library item "copyright" is a copyright notice.

17.6.1 Add Library Items to a Page

To add a Library item to a Web page, drag it directly out of the Assets panel's Library items listing onto your page. (The long way: Click to plant your insertion point in the Web page, click the Library item you want in the Assets panel, and click the Insert button on the Assets panel, shown in Figure 17-4.)


Library items (.lbi files) also appear in the Site panel in a site's Library folder. Dragging a Library item from the Site panel to a page, however, doesn't insert it into the page. It merely opens the Library item for editing.

When you insert a Library item into a Web page (or turn a selected item into a Library item), it sprouts a light yellow background color梠r, in the case of nontransparent graphics, it takes on a gray, darkened look. The highlighting indicates that Dreamweaver intends to treat the Library item as a single object, even though it may be made of many different HTML elements. You can select it or drag it around, but you can't change it.

Remember, too, that the placed Library item is linked to the original copy in the Library. The copy in your document will change automatically to reflect any changes you make to the copy in the Library, using the technique described next.

You can break the link between the Library and a Library item you've already placed onto a Web page. Select the item on the page and then click Detach from Original in the Property inspector (Figure 17-5). Dreamweaver removes the comment tags (see the box below), thus breaking the link to the Library.

You can also insert the HTML of a Library item without maintaining a link to the Library by pressing the Ctrl (figs/command.jpg) key when adding it to your document. Now the HTML on this page won't be updated when you change the original Library file.

Don't use this method if the Library item contains images or document-relative links, however. Dreamweaver doesn't update the links with paths appropriate to the document's location when you insert the Library item. In this case, to unlink a Library item, use the method described in the first paragraph of this tip.

Under the Hood of Library Items

Behind the scenes, Dreamweaver stores the HTML for Library items in basic text files. Those files' names end with the extension .lbi, and they stay in the Library folder inside your local site folder (Section

When you insert a Library item into a Web page, Dreamweaver inserts the item's HTML and adds a set of comment tags. These tags refer to the original Library file and help Dreamweaver remember where the Library item begins and ends. For instance, if you turned the text "Copyright 2004" into a Library item called copyright and inserted it into a Web page, Dreamweaver would add the following HTML to the page:

<!-- #BeginLibraryItem "/Library/copyright. lbi" -->Copyright 2003<!-- #EndLibraryItem


Although you can't edit a Library item on a page in Design view, you can muck around with the code in Code view. In the example above, you could change 2003 to 2004 in Code view. Don't do it! Any changes you make will be obliterated the next time you update the original Library item. If you want to make a change to a Library item, edit the original Library item, or detach the item from the Library (as described above) and edit it.

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