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.

Web Sites for Small Organizations

I developed and maintain a web site for a relatively small (100 or so members) organization. I rolled out the first few pages about 18 months ago and it’s been growing ever since. I’ve learned a lot which isn’t surprising since I had absolutely no knowledge of html, php or how to administer a site. Members of the organization who belong to other similar organizations are starting to ask me, “Can you show me how to do a web site for us?” This is a loaded question which usually translates into, “Will you build a web site for us?” Since I’m not in that business, I generally ask them what they want their site to do and point them to books and web resources about how to go about using html, finding a host, choosing between shared and dedicated serving, registering a domain, etc. What I’d like to do here is share some of the applications I use to make it go. Continue reading

Using Dreamweaver

One of Matt’s posts caught my eye as I was doing my daily dashboard check. While this has to do with Dreamweaver on a PC, I’ve been thinking about upgrading my Dreamweaver 8 to Dreamweaver CS3 primarily because it’s now universal binary for my Intel mac. Looks like the Windows version of Dreamweaver CS3 is giving Matt fits but the Intel Mac crowd seems satisfied with this release.

When I first started my web page, I knew zippo about html, let alone php. I installed Dreamweaver 8, grabbed a canned CSS style and started building a web site. Dreamweaver did all the heavy lifting. I set up a template and now there’s 70 or so pages linked together with the template. Once the site became functional, I decided to peer behind the curtain and look at the code. Soon I was editing using the split view and ultimately, only the code view. I giggled at the ‘old hands’ who proudly proclaimed they coded by hand, eschewing the features that came in the box.

Well, I guess I’m now one of the old hands because I haven’t looked at the design view in months. Of course, it does no good when I code php but even when I’m coding php with html output, it’s the code view for me. However, if it was not for Dreamweaver, I would never have been able to understand the how the code works. Even the basics of php (which DW8 can handle but not as happily as asp), became clear to me as I dissected the DW generated code. Now I look at the DW code and understand while it’s not lean, it works.

Since I use both an Intel Mac and a legacy G5, DW8 has been fine for me. Runs like a rocket on the G5. A bit slower and clunkier under Rosetta on the Intel Mac. In fact, it’s clunky enough to push me to upgrade or change. I’ve been toying with switching to Coda but I fear losing the template functionality that keeps my static site updated efficiently. I guess I’ll be moving to DW CS3 in the not too distant future.

Photo Matt ยป Wither Dreamweaver