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Thoughts on Coda

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Having discovered the beauty of Transmit fairly late in its life, it’s exciting to be among the first (thousand) to experience Coda, Panic‘s brand-spanking new ’one window web development’ application.

The wow factor is laid on pretty thick with this app, albeit very tastefully, as is Panic’s style. But I’m not going to let my initial “I’m wetting myself over this beautiful GUI” reaction take too much hold (after all, I did that once before and then had to change my mind). Those gorgeous curled-page ‘site’ thumbnails (see below) and the slick animation – as lovely as they are – don’t account for the general usability of the app outside its aesthetic pleasantries.

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Jon Hicks and Mark Boulton – both Coda beta testers – have already posted about the app and their readers’ comments reflect the two camps people are falling into: they either love it and focus on how sexy it is, or dislike it for its lack of features when compared to (most commonly) TextMate. It seems fairly obvious that TextMate appeals more to the hardcore coder, given its support for SVN and the like, but personally I like the app because I think it’s an absolute joy to use. And as trivial as this may sound – and ok, I’m going back to aesthetics here – its semi-transparent background is actually a feature that adds to my enjoyment of the program.

One of the things I love about Transmit is its ability to open different connections in tabs – a feature strangely missing entirely from Coda. Panic say that “you’ll still launch Transmit to do serious transferring with a bit more breathing room” but I found that even the simplest uploading & downloading was a fairly sluggish process when used to the grace of Transmit.

However, the biggest problem I have with Coda is its visual CSS editor (see image below). On Mark Boulton‘s post, I said the following: “Why would any hand-coder (a very large chunk of Coda’s target audience) want to revert to a holding-your-hand-while-you-take-baby-steps graphical editor? [And] why should a CSS file be treated differently from any other text-based file? Taken to its logical conclusion, we should’ve seen tabs for PHP, ASP, JS, DAT, etc. This is the same reason I’ve never seen the point in CSSedit (as lovely as it looks) when TextMate is such a wonderful app.” Of course, you’re not obliged to use the visual editor, and it’s certainly nice to see all of your possible options sitting there, but it’s Panic’s emphasis on the feature seems strange, given the market.

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But it’s not all doom and gloom. I’m not here to dismiss Coda, because it is – without question – an excellent, beautiful and functional application, retaining the same high quality standards we’ve come to expect from Panic. And more importantly than anything else, it’s an amazing leap forward: why oh why did no-one else think of combining a text editor, a browser, and an FTP client? It was surely the next logical step, and the next logical step for Coda v1.1 would be to address some of the issues that its preliminary users have addressed.

Download Coda’s free trial and share your thoughts in the comments!