Previous Section  < Day Day Up >  Next Section

9.7 Inserting a Navigation Bar

One of the best reasons to use frames is to keep a navigation bar visible on the screen at all times. A navigation bar (called a "nav bar" in the trade) is a set of interactive buttons that let visitors jump to different pages or load pages into different frames. To make your life easier, Dreamweaver's Navigation Bar object makes quick work of adding complex interactive navigation bars to your frames.

Like the Rollover object described in Chapter 5, nav bar buttons use Dreamweaver Behaviors桱avaScript programs梩o dynamically swap graphics files. Nav bar buttons also offer two additional styles that help your visitors know where they are in your site (see Figure 9-12).

The Underscore Targets

What are the four choices in the Target menu that begin with the "_" character?

If you're working on a frameset page, the link target menu lists all named frames. But even when working in another kind of page, this pop-up menu always offers these four options for a link you've highlighted:

_blank opens a new, second browser window when the link is clicked; the new window loads the linked page. The original window梩he one containing the link梤emains open. This feature lets you link to another site, for example, leaving your own Web site available in an open window. (To open a new browser window to an exact size, see Section

_self loads the linked page into the same window or frame, replacing the current page. Of course, this is how links work normally, so there's little point in choosing this option unless you're trying to get extra exercise.


_top offers a specialized, but very useful feature. Suppose your Web page contains frames梐nd one of them contains a link to someone else's Web site. If a visitor clicks the link, the "foreign" Web site will appear trapped within one of your frames. This odd-looking effect is widely considered bad form.

To avoid this HTML social gaffe, choose the _top option for your link. This option forces your visitor's browser to load the linked page into the entire browser window, which overrides all frames and framesets, and avoids imprisoning someone else's Web site within your own.

_parent replaces the current frameset page with the linked page, exactly as the _top target does. The difference is visible only when the frameset page is itself loaded into a frame in another frameset page. In that case, this option will replace only the first frameset. (Beware: Netscape Navigator's support for this feature is notoriously flaky.)

To create a navigation bar:

  1. Create graphics for the buttons in your navigation bar.

    You'll need to create multiple graphic files for each button, using a graphics program like Fireworks or Adobe ImageReady. Since a navigation button can have multiple appearances梥tates梔epending on how the user interacts with it (Figure 9-12), you need a separate graphic file for each state. And, as with rollover images, make sure that each button graphic is exactly the same size. Otherwise, you'll get distortion (see Section 5.5).

    When a button first appears, it's usually in its up state梤eady to be clicked. But when the mouse passes over, the button changes to its over state.
  2. Place the cursor in the frame where you'd like to add a navigation bar.

    It's usually a sidebar, header, or footer.

  3. Choose InsertInteractive ImagesNavigation Bar.

    Alternatively, from the Common tab of the Insert bar, click the Navigation Bar object.

    Either way, the Insert Navigation Bar window opens (see Figure 9-13). Don't be overwhelmed. There are a lot of options in this window, but they're straightforward.

    Just remember that a navigation bar is simply a collection of buttons. You add one button at a time to create a complete navigation system. Each button has a name, up to four different images, and a link.

    The window starts out with a single element called unnamed1.

  4. Type a name for the first button in the Element Name field.

    This name is just for behind-the-scenes use in the Web page. It won't appear on the button or anywhere on the screen. If you like, you can even skip this step and use Dreamweaver's default names: unnamed1, unnamed2, and so on.

  5. Click the Browser button next to the Up Image field to select a graphics file for the up state of the button.

    This is the image you created in step 1.

  6. Choose graphics for one or more states for the button.

    At a minimum, include an over image. But including images for the other two states of the button will add zing to your navigation bar.

    These different state images are good for helping your visitors understand where they are. For example, in Figure 9-12, the frameset loads the first of three pages covering a story about killer cabbages. The Week 1 button in the right corner is in its down state, meaning that "You are at this spot in the story." The Week 2 button is in its up state, meaning that it's clickable, and the Week 3 button is highlighted in its over state, since the mouse is hovering over it. Because these buttons consist of ordinary graphics files, you can make their different states look like anything you want.

  7. Type a text description for this button in the Alternate text field.

    This optional step can be a help to those viewing the page with their graphics turned off or those who have vision impairments as described in Section 5.2.2.

  8. Using the "When clicked, Go to URL" field, specify the page you want the button link to open.

    Since this is a navigation bar, clicking the button should take your visitor to another Web page. You can click the Browse button to select a file from your site, type in a path to a page in the site, or, to link to a page outside of the current site, type an absolute URL beginning with http://.

    Nav Bars, No Frames

    Can I use the Navigation Bar object without using frames?

    Yes, but you'll lose most of the benefits of the Navigation Bar feature and add unnecessary code to the page.

    One of the cool aspects of a Dreamweaver nav bar is its ability to indicate where the visitor is within the site, thanks to the button's down state.

    Imagine this scenario. You've built two frames: a top frame for a nav bar, and bottom frame for the main content. The buttons in the nav bar are all in their up states. Moving your mouse over the first button causes it to glow, and clicking it loads a new page in the bottom frame.

    At the same time, the button you just clicked changes to its down state, letting your visitor know what section of the site he's seeing. Only the page in the bottom frame changes, because the top frame with the nav bar simply uses a Dreamweaver behavior to swap the graphics used for the buttons.

    Now imagine that you didn't use frames, so that you just inserted the navigation bar on the same page as the main content. When you click a button in the navigation bar, the browser loads a new page, completely replacing the page that had the navigation bar! You'd have to rebuild the navigation bar on every single page of your site.

    Moreover, the down state of the button would never appear, because as soon as you click the button, a new page replaces it.

    In other words, there's not much point to using the Navigation Bar object in Dreamweaver unless you're also using frames. If you want to create a frame-free site, it's probably best to just stick with Rollover objects (see Section 5.5) for building navigation buttons.

  9. Select a Target from the pop-up menu.

    Since you're including the navigation bar in a frame of its own, the linked Web page should load into another frame, leaving the nav bar exactly where it was. Select the name of the frame from the menu, as described in Section 9.6. The Main Window option makes the Web browser replace the frameset and frames with the linked page.

    (The names of the other frames in a frameset appear only if the current frameset is open and you're adding the navigation bar to one of the pages in a frame. If, for example, you've opened the navigation bar page by itself, Dreamweaver doesn't know the page is part of a frameset, or what the other frames' names are.)


    Don't turn off the Preload Images checkbox. As noted in Section 5.5, preloading images prevents a delay when a visitor moves the mouse over the navigation image.

  10. If you like, turn on Show "Down image" initially.

    The down image can function like a "You are here" sign, letting visitors know their location in the site. You should select this option only for one button in the navigation bar, and only if that button links back to the original frameset.

    For instance, say your home page is a frameset, and one frame contains a navigation bar. Select this option for the Home button on the navigation bar. In this way, when visitors peruse your page, that button is already highlighted梚ndicating where they are.

  11. Click the + button. Repeat steps 4-10 for each additional button in the navigation bar.

    The - button deletes the highlighted button. The up and down arrow buttons let you rearrange your buttons by shuffling a highlighted button up or down in the list.

  12. Choose the orientation of the bar from the Insert menu.

    Navigation bars can run horizontally梡erfect for headers and footers梠r vertically 梩he right choice for a sidebar.

    To help control layout, turn on the Use Tables checkbox. By containing your graphics within the cells of a table, this feature keeps your graphics together on a page and prevents them from moving around if someone resizes the browser window.

  13. Click OK to insert the navigation bar.

    You can only insert one navigation bar per Web page. Once inserted, you can edit it only by choosing ModifyNavigation Bar. The Modify Navigation Bar dialog box looks just like the one shown in Figure 9-13, so that you can edit, delete, and rearrange your navigation buttons.

    To modify a button, select it in the "Nav bar elements" list. You can then assign new images, settings, and links to it.

    For more advanced navigation bar features, see Section

This navigation bar has three buttons so far. The different properties of the button w1 appear here, including its image files, alternate text, link, and target. Unfortunately, the Horizontal/Vertical pop-up menu and Use Tables option are available only when you first insert the nav bar. If you want to reorient the bar after you've inserted the object, you'll have to do it by hand.
    Previous Section  < Day Day Up >  Next Section