capsule review

Codosaurus for iPhone and iPad

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Codosaurus

As a web developer, I often need access to my web servers from my iPhone or iPad. I rely on iSSH and LogMeIn Ignition to administer my Linux and Windows servers, but I occasionally need a tool for editing web pages when I’m on the go. Enter Grilled Bacon’s Codosaurus, a $6 universal iPhone/iPad app that does precisely that. (A free feature-limited “lite” version is also available.)

When you open the app the first time, you’re prompted to create an optional master password, which is a really good idea since you can save connections to your servers, complete with their usernames and passwords. Server connections can be made via Wi-Fi or 3G. Unfortunately, connections are restricted to standard FTP, which limits the app’s usefulness in my case, since most of the servers I manage use the more secure SFTP protocol. When making a new connection, you provide a descriptive name, then specify the server’s URL, port, username, password and, optionally, starting path.

Secret Code: When you edit a Web page using Codosaurus, buttons at the top of the screen help you navigate, search, email, and save your document. A coding-optimized on-screen keyboard places particularly useful keys at the top.

If you’re accustomed to using graphical FTP-style apps, then proceeding from here should be pretty straightforward. The screen displays a listing of files and folders in the current directory. Tapping a folder displays its contents while tapping on a file opens it in the editor. Buttons along the top of the screen let you navigate back to the previous folder, go back to the connection screen or create a new file or folder. When creating a file, you can start with a completely blank page or use one of its templates (such as PHP or CSS). You can also modify its “custom” template to include code of your own choosing.

When you’re editing a Web page, there are buttons at the top of the screen that let you go back to the current directory, jump to a specific line number, search within the document, email a copy of the current document and save your changes. Codosaurus also has what its developer calls a “coding optimized” keyboard—a nice feature that adds some useful keys above the top row of the keyboard that code monkeys will appreciate.

It’s nice that the app is optimized for both iPad and iPhone displays. I much prefer using the app on the iPad because of the larger screen. However, I don’t always have my iPad with me, so it’s convenient to have the app on my iPhone as a backup without having to buy a separate version.

But there are some cons to Codosaurus. Besides the fact that it only supports standard FTP, the app doesn’t have a progress indicator for when it’s in the middle of a lengthy action, like connecting to a server or displaying the contents of a large folder. This makes it difficult to know if the app is working properly or frozen, or if it simply failed to register the screen tap. The editor lets you jump to a specific line number, but, oddly, there’s no option to display line numbers. There’s also no undo function in the editor mode. That can be very dangerous, considering that you’re editing live web pages. I also had a problem with occasional crashes when making connections and navigating directories.

It would be useful if the row of special characters above the keyboard could be customized. For example, I’m sure that ASP coders would love to have a “%” symbol there. Another useful addition would be options for syntax highlighting and code-autocompletion.

Despite occasional connection problems and stability issues, Codosaurus has proven itself useful on occasion. I think that the app has promise, but it still feels like a work-in-progress. Unfortunately, the app hasn’t been updated since last April, so for it to earn a permanent spot on my home screen, Codosaurus needs some more attention.

[Brian Beam is a software developer and partner with web development firm BOLD Internet Solutions, living somewhere near Kansas City.]

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Codosaurus

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