Coda; Web Development on a Mac

I can feel Apple pushing me again. Last time, it was dumping ‘classic’ OS 9 for the new fangled OSX. All my old apps either perished or were finally updated. Now Apple is strongly hinting that I need to do the same with my legacy apps which are not universal binary, if in fact, Rosetta is an optional module for Snow Leopard as widely reported.

So I downloaded Panic Software’s Coda web development software the other day and started to play with it as a potential replacement for Dreamweaver 8 (yes, I know). I started with Dreamweaver because I needed to get up and running quickly and DW had a bunch of ‘out of the box’ solutions for me. As the years have gone by, I’ve found little use for DW’s WYSIWYG editing, canned login scripts and templates. I essentially code by hand but enjoy the autocomplete and syntax matching features. So without further ado, here’s my initial reactions and thoughts about Coda.

  • Splashy, familiar interface. Really feels like a Mac application and not something ported over. Normally, this doesn’t bother me but Coda just feels smoother.
  • Interesting effects and functional autocomplete and syntax matching. Automatically provides closing parens (very welcome since I tend to forget them). However, I wish it had DW’s add-ins which extend this feature to jQuery (sweet). Looks like the Coda API will allow third party developers to do this but we’ll see if there is a big enough developer base for this.
  • Coda lets you work on the server directly, if you want to. Feels like you’re working without a net until you get used to it. The integrated FTP is much more responsive than DW’s.
  • If you work on a single site from multiple desktops, Coda doesn’t provide you with the same sense of security that you won’t overwrite more recent work unless you run Subversion (which Coda does natively…very sweet). DW will tell you there’s a fresher version on the server during the upload process. Again, if you work directly on the server with Coda, you know you’re working with the most recent version.

On my Coda wishlist:

  • It would be nice if I could more quickly distinguish whether I was working on the remote or the local version of the file. Perhaps color coding the tab. I know there’s an icon there but you have to mouseover to see it.
  • Keystrokes (or better yet, a button) for reverse publish (better known as an ftp ‘get’). I’ve gotten into the habit on DW of opening a file and immediately getting it from the server with a click.

I haven’t played around with the CSS editor too much but it looks to be just fine. I think Coda will do nicely for me, especially at $99 USD.

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