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Make a Multi-Level CSS Dropdown Menu in Dreamweaver CS4

Step Three: Start Building the CSS

Our menu will belong to CSS class called dropdown. The CSS file will do different things with this dropdown class, depending on whether we are inside the main list, or some secondary or tertiary item. Here’s a quick run down of the components we will style (ul means unordered list and li means list item):

  • ul.dropdown will style the main list (the horizontal bar itself)
  • ul.dropdown li will style an individual within the main list (Home, Visit Us or Animals)
  • ul.dropdown ul will style the vertical column that drops down below Visit Us and Animals.
  • ul.dropdown ul li will style items with that vertical column (e.g. Birds and Beasts)
  • ul.dropdown ul ul will style the menus that pop out to the right of the vertical column (e.g. Kookaburra and Hammerkop for Birds)

Let’s dive in with the first one!

  1. Open the CSS Styles panel (Window > CSS Styles) and click on the New CSS Style icon at the bottom of the panel.
New CSS Style
New CSS Style
  1. In the New CSS Rule box, use these setting and click OK:
    1. Selector Type: Compound (based on your selection)
    2. Selector Name: ul.dropdown
    3. Rule Definition: (New Style Sheet File)
New CSS Rule box
New CSS Rule box
  1. Save the file as menu.css in the same folder as menu.html.
  2. In the “CSS Rule definition for ul.dropdown” box, use these settings and click OK twice:
Category Subcategory Setting Value
Background Background color #cccccc
Box Float left
  Padding (CHECK same for all) Top 0
Margin (CHECK same for all) Top 0
List List-style-type none
List-style-image none
Positioning Position relative
Z-index 597
  1. To see what we’ve done so far, click anywhere in our list on menu.html.
  2. In the Tag Selector, click on the first ul from the left. This will select our entire list.
  3. In the Property Inspector, click on the arrow for Class.
  4. Select the new style we created: dropdown

Apply the dropdown class to the main list
Apply the dropdown class to the main list

Here’s what my menu looks like now:
Menu with the dropdown class applied to it
Menu with the dropdown class applied to it

  1. Click on the New CSS Rule icon again.
  2. In the New CSS Rule box, use these settings and click OK:
    1. Selector Type: Compound (based on your selection)
    2. Selector Name: ul.dropdown a:link
    3. Rule Definition: menu.css
  1. In the “CSS Rule definition for ul.dropdown a:link” box, use these settings and click OK twice:
Category Setting Value
Type Font-family Georgia, "Times New Roman", Times, serif
Color #4a53a2
Text-decoration none
  1. Repeat the settings above for a new compound CSS style called ul.dropdown a:visited

Here’s the menu with the link (and visited link) styles we created:

Menu with new link styles
Menu with new link styles

  1. Repeat steps above for a new compound CSS style called ul.dropdown a:hover, except with black color:
Category Setting Value
Type Font-family Georgia, "Times New Roman", Times, serif
Color #000000
Text-decoration none

To see the effect of the hover setting, save the menu.html file and press F12 to preview the file in a browser. If you get a dialog box asking you to save menu.html, say Yes. If you get a dialog box warning you that some pages have been modified but not saved, that means the new menu.css file; click Yes.

Here, I am hovering over the word Birds in the browser, which changes color to black.

Hover changes the text color to black
Hover changes the text color to black


Next: Step Four: CSS Menu Magic

79 replies on “Make a Multi-Level CSS Dropdown Menu in Dreamweaver CS4”

Try this, Cory.

Edit the .dropdown class and add the following two settings in the Box category, Margin subcategory (uncheck “Same for all”):

Right: Auto
Left: Auto

The CSS code then will look like this:

ul.dropdown {
background-color: #cccccc;
padding: 0px;
float: left;
list-style-image: none;
list-style-type: none;
position: relative;
z-index: 597;
margin-top: 0px;
margin-right: auto;
margin-bottom: 0px;
margin-left: auto;

Sorry! Wrap the navigation list with div with its ID set to “nav”. Then create an ID-type CSS rule called #nav, with the margin-left and margin-right set to “auto” as above. You will need to tell it a specific width too for this to work. For your particular menu, the width is 974px.

<div id="nav">
<ul class="dropdown">

#nav {
margin-right: auto;
margin-left: auto;
width: 974px;

Awesome tutorial
nice step by step detail tutorial which are so much useful
I learn a lot
Thanks so much for posting valuable tutorials for us
thanks for your kind effort
Keep up good work
God bless you

very nice.
I have a couple questions:

any way to make it more visually appealing without having to do anything too drastic?

and how do you apply the bar to multiple pages? (this may be a dumb question) but i am a novice college student still learning. your help is greatly aprreciated!

Hi Jordan!

Check out “Changing the Font or Colors” and “Adding a Background Image” on page four of the tutorial.

To apply the bar to multiple pages, you need to put the HTML code onto those pages. In Dreamweaver, you can use the Templates feature to do this (which takes some time to learn but is worth the effort if you work in Dreamweaver a lot).

Thanks for a great idea, Dani. That can be accomplished with background images.

A down-pointing arrow should go on the background image for the first level rule: ul.dropdown.

A right-pointing arrow should go on the background images for the second level rules: ul.dropdown ul and ul.dropdown li:hover.

A plain background image with no arrow should be used for the third level rule: ul.dropdown ul li.


I have tried to create a dropdown menu twice, and still cannot get it to display properly.

When I view (F12) the bar as the menu.htm it appears perfectly, complete with dropdown menus, but when I inseret this into the the main page the dropdowns no longer appear.

Can you suggest a solution to this?

Hello Dawn

Yes I have added the CSS file for the navigation bar to the main html. (does it matter where on the tree it appears?)

Is it a problem, because the file I am adding it to is a template? (dwt) or could it be something to do with the width?

Sorry I’m just really unsure how to fix this problem.

Thank you for your assistance

Hi again! I can’t really diagnose the issue without seeing the files. If you can zip up your site folder (include HTML and CSS file in their respective locations – you can leave out other files), I can try to determine what’s up. If it takes me just a few minutes, I’ll do it for free. Email me at [email protected].

Thank you very very much.. i’d really appreciated it.. and also thanks for the background button image.. very usefull and nice look. have a great day.. 😀

I have made my menu and it’s drop down menus. What I am having problems with is the centering of all 3 main buttons, HOME, PRODUCTS, CONTACTS. I did what you suggested to Cory, but it is not stretching the 3 main categories for the full width of 780px. Suggestions??

Ohterwise, I couldn’t have gotten as far as I have just today! WONDERFUL!!!!!

Hi there,
I have a tiny problem. Menu is working fine, looks really nice… but only in Mozilla. Checked today in Explorer… and nothing. Dropdown is not working at all. Is there any solution?

Most importantly, thank you very much for the CSS tutorial, I had been hunting all over for a really nice looking dropdown bar. I was wondering if you could please help me figure something out. When I view my page in DW (CS4) my last two heading are shown horizontally and not across the page. I know yours does too but my subheadings don’t show, should I keep trying to ignore it since it is functional? I did notice when I add color to the main dropdown head there is a square on the right side that is not colored kinda like the bar is not going all the way over.
Can you please help me with this?

Hello! I need your help. Right now I have everything working except one thing. I have all 4 main headings stacked on top of each other vertically. I would like to have them next to each other horizontally; therefore, the dropdown menus will appear correctly. Can you please help me with this?

Thank you!!

Great article! I’m also still learning how to create websites. I have my css all built and when I put the code in the page it works but isn’t there a way to reference the css so that I don’t have to put the code in on every page?

Very useful post. I’m still learning my way around and have struggled with centering my menu. Now it is right where I want it, even on IE!

This is a wonderful tutorial – works like a dream! One problem – the drop down blocks are set to a red color, but the text on the page underneath it shows through, as if the red is transparent. I can’t distinguish the menu items. I did set the text div to a lower z index, but it does not help. Can you help? Thank you.

I am answering my own question because I figured it out. I had nested div tags. Even though the z indexes were set – it made a difference to just list each div individually, and set each z index appropriately.
Hope this helps someone else…

What a great tutorial – you are awesome. I’m setting this up for a site as a way to “crash course” myself into DW and I’ve learned so much.

Again, thanks for the great tutorial.


Thank you SO much for this tutorial; it is very helpful. I have one problem, which is that my dropdown menu works perfectly in CS4 and displays properly under the “Live View”, but does not display anything but basic links in IE [and I downloaded version 8 hoping that was the issue]. Do you have any idea why they aren’t displaying? Thank you!

Hi Dawn
i really like it and it is really very good tutorial step by step
But i have one problem with this menu
it is work fine in Firefox but it has problem in IE6 please send me solution for this
on my email address
[email protected]

as well as other can also send solution if u have thanks in advance.

I have found your info on creating drop down menus to be incredible – I have spent over two days trying to get this information and you have it clearly and concisely. Every other website (and I’ve been on dozens) either has complicated code with no step-by-step instructions or else the code is “For Sale” Infuriating! Many thanks for your site. Everything so far has worked brilliantly, however I do have one issue. My second level items are never hidden. I have re-entered the info in Menu Magic 2, but they are still visible. Any idea why?

Dawn – I emailed you before regarding hidden 2nd level copy – it’s fine now. One thing though: how do I take this nav bar and put it into a webpage on Dreamweaver? Do I need another bit of code for the ‘table’?
Many thanks.

I have grown in my talents as a web designer after starting in a small communications dept., but have little support and gain training as I can.

I loved and appreciated your tutorial, but wondered if there was a way for me to center the text of each “button” on the initial view. Also, is there a way to have the hover state’s text color change when you go over the top level button and stay that color instead of just changing when you move over the secondary navigation?

Hello, I just want to say thanks for the no nonsense descriptions on how to create a dropdown menu. I was wondering how do I add a sound to the links in this menu? Your assistance is very much appreciated.

I need your help….
actually i m developing a website…
so can u explain me how can i make multilevel dropdown menu which will not be hidden by background image of webpage……
I have tried but the list items of menu becomes hidden by background of my webpage….
so please support me……

Hi Dawn

Fantastic tutorial, really easy to understand and implement.

I was just wondering how to put a transparent colour on the dropdown menu?

Is it adding it as a background image?

Many thanks again


Redoing this site and the only problem I am having is that the dropdown menu under the titles don’t appear. It doesn’t show the dropdown list under About Us, Ministries and Media. Thanks!

hello , can you please help me , i`m stuck at making the second , and third level dropdown, i did exactly as you did , except that my list has more items,but everything i do my 2nd and 3rd level wont show , not even in Live View … i don`t know what to do please help me , thanks

great article….thanks…..if you have any info at all on how I can create a multi column drop down menu similar to the one at where I can put both images, links and text in the drop down menu.

Thanks in advance….I really appreciate it!

Excellent tutorial! How do I get the space to the sides of the drop down text links, to also be linkable? Right now only the text is linkable, not the entire 150px wide box.
Thanks in advance.

AWESOME tutorial!!! One thing though, and I am certain it is something that I have not done correctly. Your examples show that when you hover over “beasts”, the “animals” link shares the hover state. When I select a subcategory link, the main navbar link reverts back to the original link state. Do you have any ideas of where I went wrong?? Thanks!

Thx Dawn for wellwritten tutorial. However i miss being able to see the actual HTML-code after finishing step 11 in “design-mode”. Since HTML is what we actually are doing. And because my somehow is not working properly in DW; have to write it with to get indents. As a result im not sure i end up with same code as you..

Thanks for the post, been having trouble with it for a quite a long time. Although I can’t get the 2nd and 3rd sub menus to appear in the browser and I did it all. Any help would be appreciated. 🙂

that is really a lot of unnecessary steps to add a basic dropdown menu bar. I thought this tutorial was showing hoe to add sound to the navigation links.

This is a very helpful article. But, when I go to the CSS Rule box, the Selector Name: does not include ul.dropdown. What am I missing?

HI, I am sorry but I tought the script was awesome and I still think it is but it doesn’t work in internet Explorer 9. could someone help me, I haven’t seen a post from Dawn for a while now …




hello i made ur navMenu. but wen i put on my original Dreamweaver site made by photoshop the Navbar isnt lined up with the banner and doesnt extend all the way with the width of the site.i’ve been messing with it a while but cant seem to get right settings put in

I tried the Spry Menu in Dreamweaver for a new site I’m creating, but could not get it to work after repeated attempts. Fortunately, I found your wonderful tutorial for which I am very grateful. I just had one problem with it. On page 4, in the section, “Incorporating the Menu into a Page” copying the code with this method didn’t work for me. I went over everything repeatedly, but step 5 was the problem. Only titles copied when I tried the menu.css button below the document tab.
Is it possible for you to show us where to copy the codes for both menus directly into our code views? Thanks so much for this great tutorial!

Thanks for the tutorial, I have repeated this tutorial several times from scratch, I keep missing something out but cannot work out what. The main navigation bar looks fine but the text only changes color when directly over the text not the button. Then the sub menus in normal state do not have a background color until hover when the #ccc shows. The same issue carries through to the 3rd menu.

Could you advise as to which part of the css I should be checking as I obviously missed something important.

Thanks again

i love the tut but have a major problrm. when I click on a link and try to click on the link back it doesnt take me to the same place. for example if i click on my about us page but click on the home page it doesnt have the same path as the first time. Please help


I just want to ask how to make the third level. Im doing a dropdown menu but I can find how to make the third level in a vertical way. I hope u can answer me. I really desperate!

I followed the instructions and things seemed to work. However, on my new website that I am developing (I am a student) I have an image as the top banner and used image maps for the HOME | ABOUT | PORTFOLIO | CONTACT links. I wanted the drop-down menu for items under the PORTFOLIO link. I am using DW4 and CSS.

Not sure if Dawn is reading this anymore… but I also cannot ‘unhide’ the second level items. I did it as per the instructions, but setting visibility to visible doesn’t do anything, not even if I make it ‘important’ to override other things. Only thing I did differently to the article was changing settings as I went to make it look like I need for my site – colours etc. but I’ve been through all the previous commands looking for things to do with visibility or placement in the hope of finding the problem, but to no avail.

I have a web site that I wrote in JavaScript and now I want to rebuild it using DW. I am testing this menu system but I have set borders to 4px width. It turns out that the bottom border of a top box and the top border of a first drop down box overlap leaving everything misaligned. I would have liked to attach an image of it but I can’t do that here, can I? What could be the cause of this?

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