capsule review

Coda 1.0.3

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If you’re like many Mac-based Web developers, you have a regular set of working tools: a text editor, an FTP client, a CSS editor, an e-book or two, a Web browser, and the Apple Terminal window. And given that you have a limited amount of screen real estate, you’re no doubt constantly switching between them. Panic’s goal is to combine all of those tools into its new program, Coda 1.0.3.

The first thing you’ll notice when you launch Coda is that it’s simply gorgeous. It is one beautifully designed application, and all its pieces fit together neatly. It was clearly made by a team that loves creating OS X software. Panic also produced the Apple Design Award-winning applications Transmit (   ) and Unison, and if you’re familiar with either, you already know that Coda will be slick.

The theory behind Coda is that building a Web site by hand requires several different activities (editing, previewing, uploading, and so on), but that all of that effort is directed toward a single goal: building a Web site. And once you think of it as a single task, it no longer makes as much sense to use five or more different applications.

In its bid to replace all those applications, Coda uses different modes. Rather than create an entirely new text editor, Panic licensed the Subetha Engine, from TheCodingMonkeys, creators of SubEthaEdit (   ). This means that if your site is a collaborative effort, all involved can work on it simultaneously; you can even view each other’s changes as you edit. And it’s got the line numbering and syntax coloring that the big kids have as well.

If you now use a tool that helps you create your CSS visually (such as MacRabbit’s CSSEdit), you’ll find Coda’s CSS editor familiar. If you want to see a list of CSS rules, or even just the CSS text, Coda lets you choose those options as well.

In Preview mode, you can open a new Coda window or split the current editor window in half to view the Web page you’re currently editing. Preview uses Apple’s WebKit, an open-source Web browser engine, but with a couple of additions to help track down problems: a DOM (Document Object Model) inspector and a JavaScript console.

Instead of accessing Apple’s Terminal window, you can use the one built in to Coda. You might not expect much from a Terminal window, but it’s handy to have one this easily available.

As you’d expect from the makers of Transmit, Coda contains a more-than-capable file transfer engine, which supports not just FTP, but also SFTP and WebDAV.

Start using Coda and you’ll appreciate how the pieces fit together and how it makes sense to use a single program for building a Web site instead of multiple applications. However, you may begin hitting the program’s limitations. While Coda’s text editor is good, it can’t do common tasks such as find and replace across multiple files, or compare two files to see how they differ. The WebKit preview is good, but you can’t use it to see how pages will appear if they contain SSIs (server-side includes) or PHP code. And while the JavaScript console is handy, it doesn’t correctly display errors when your scripts are in an external file. And there’s no AppleScript support. And so on.

Macworld’s buying advice

After testing, it became clear to me that Coda 1.0.3 is a work in progress. Panic says that it is going to be updating Coda based on user feedback, and the application will need a lot of updating to be able to hold its own against mature applications. If you don’t own any Web development programs yet and are looking to start hand-coding Web sites, Coda is a good first step. Otherwise, wait for subsequent versions before tossing out programs like BBEdit (   ) and TextMate.

[ Dori Smith is co-author of JavaScript & Ajax for the Web: Visual QuickStart Guide (Peachpit Press, 2007) and Dreamweaver CS3: Visual QuickStart Guide (Peachpit Press, 2007). ]

Coda is a great-looking application that brings multiple Web development tasks within easy reach.
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