Panic Coda 1.0 First Impressions

Panic released Coda today, stealing some of the thunder from macrabbit’s CSSEdit 2.5, also released today. CSSEdit, along with Transmit and skEdit, have been my preferred trio of development apps, so how does Panic’s Coda—an all-in-one FTP client, text editor, preview browser, css editor, terminal, and reference library—stack up?

Panic Coda

I’ve been playing with it for the better part of the afternoon and so far, Coda has prompted gasps of both pleasure and frustration. The interface is polished and clean, with flowing effects (like site icons that scale up and flip over to reveal a new document or the site settings), and a refreshing attention to details. As a package, Coda is impressive—almost perfect—but when you start using it, you can’t help feeling it falls just a little short. It makes you long for 1.1 or 2.0, or however long it will take to fill out the feature set just a tad.

As an FTP client, Coda isn’t designed to replace Transmit, condensing the file browser to a sidebar. But Coda uses Panic’s new Transmit Turbo engine, making file transfers noticeably faster. Unfortunately, there’s no audio feedback for when a transfer is complete. The transcript window seems like an orphan floating all by itself; I wondered why it wasn’t a drawer, as it is in Transmit.

The text editor is easy to use, with most of the features you’d expect: syntax coloring, line numbering and auto completion. Using the Subetha Engine, you can code collaboratively. Coda uses Grep for search and replace, but unless I’m missing something, there’s no way to search within all the files in a folder, something I’ve come to rely on in skEdit. And the Clips palette, which lets you store snippets, doesn’t allow you to organize them into folders as you can with skEdit. If you have more than a handful of clips, using the palette can be cumbersome (you can use keyboard shortcuts to insert them, though).

You can split any pane to compare multiple views in a single window (for example, editing an HTML file and previewing it at the same time), but if you split a pane while editing a file and open another file, you have to split the pane again. It would be great if there were a preference so that anytime you opened a text file you would also get a browser preview.

The weakest link in Coda is the CSS editor. It seems almost modeled on CSSEdit, with a similar look: enter styles on the left and edit them on the right. There are two editing modes: a visual mode with controls similar to CSSEdit, and a text mode which displays forms where you can enter values for any properties. You can also split the CSS pane and edit the CSS directly in a text window. There are two problems with this: first, the area where you enter the selectors isn’t resizable, so even if you want to use the visual or “text” editor, you’re likely to feel cramped. Second, if you want the best of both worlds, using the CSS editor to remind you of the available properties and still editing the text manually, the split pane approach is kind of a kludge. CSSEdit is clearly superior here.

Coda also includes a terminal, something I don’t use much, and a Books pane that offers The Web Programmer’s Desk Reference, which covers HTML, CSS and Javascript, all reformated for easy reading. You’ll also find a PHP reference. They hope to add more books. This is actually a great idea. Let’s hope they do add to this.

I’m not ready to say that working in Coda and switching back from pane to pane, or arranging and rearranging panes to suit me, is any better than switching from one application to another. When I first logged on to Panic’s site this morning, I had my credit card in hand, but I waited to pull the trigger. I did just buy it, but more as a leap of faith that it will grow on me or get better in the next version. Oh, and they had a special offer for $69 for Transmit 3 owners.

Here’s one equation: Transmit ($29.95) + CSSEdit ($29.95) + skEdit ($24.95) = $84.85. Coda is $99, or $89 if you already own Transmit 3.

Bottom Line: If you’re just starting out, buying Coda is a no brainer. But if you have your favorite apps in place, Coda may or may not be worth it for you.
From: Panic
Price: $99, $89 if you already own Transmit 3.
Platform: Macintosh

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