Current web design uses multiple applications and windows, all doing different things, and all for use in their own specific areas. Dreamweaver for coding, Transmit for FTP, other CSS editors, Terminal and loads more. But Panic have decided that it doesn't have to be this way and have produced an application that goes by the name of Coda. Coda takes all of these applications for use in varying situations and sits everything (yes everything) into just one window, run by one application. Although Coda has been released for a while now, its ever more present image in the web development community, means that the latest version (1.7) is due for a review.
The fact that Coda integrates many different applications into one, and is still able to maintain a sleek, modern design that is relatively easy to navigate around is no mean feat. But Coda also manages to bring together these different application types and save you tonnes of time whilst doing so. There are essentially three separate sections inside the Coda window. At the top you have the navigation bar, which includes tabs for: Sites, Edit, Preview, CSS, Terminal and Books, all of which will be covered later in this review. On the left hand side you have a file browsing system, which includes files that are stored both locally on your machine and on the internet. This dual functionality really does work well if you keep your file systems organised, and will save you a lot of time that would otherwise be spent flicking between Finder and your favourite FTP application. Then there is the business end of the application. This third and final section is where you can view your currently connected site, edit any HTML, PHP or CSS file (as well as lots of other file extensions), preview your work, directly enter commands into terminal, and brush up on your web design and development skills with the book section. I have to say that the setup really does work well, although as a minor point there is a lot of free space in the navigation bar that could be used better, especially when the application is stretched to the full width of the screen (as you can see here though the window size is not full screen).
Because Coda assists you with your web design, it is no surprise that the first section displays all of your current sites that you have recently connected to or have saved FTP settings for. Each homepage is displayed on a little flailing piece of paper, held to the window with pieces of tape. Although slightly cheesy, the graphics do look good and it spices up the otherwise dull atmosphere generally associated with code editing applications. Each site has a local and remote connection associated with it as well as subversion (and terminal) settings if appropriate. A great feature is the auto save functionality that Coda has. If you close the window, all settings and files will be saved that were present when the window closed, along with any FTP settings used. This takes away the annoying task of setting up a remote host to your server every time you open Coda, which unfortunately is still associated with several FTP applications still being used for the Mac.
Finding your Files and Publishing
The file managing part of Coda is handled through a similar interface to Transmit, confined to a sidebar on the left of the screen which we talked about earlier. You can swap quickly between local and remote files, and easily add new files and folders. Uploading a file (or marking it to be published) can be easily achieved by right-clicking and scrolling through the many options available to you. The batch feature is a great addition to Coda, which lets you automatically upload any and every file that has been edited since the last update. Also, much like WordPress keeps a version of every post you write each time it is saved, subversions keep track of every change you make to your files and notes any changes since the last save so that you may revert the file to a previous version.
Editing with Coda
The use of color when editing with Coda is spectactular. The heart of Coda, which, if executed wrong could have brought serious consequences upon itself. However, the great looking editor, with built in syntax coloring, line numbering, auto completion and block editing really does make for a coding experience which makes you feel at home, but with some extra boot. The additional option to host collaborative efforts on a single file also makes developing your website that bit easier, and fun at the same time.
Previewing Your Work
After all that effort, I would ashamed if I could not easily preview the result. Preview in Coda brings a great viewing experience, and because it functions exactly like a Webkit browser, you’re able to literally see your code and preview side by side. This can update in real-time when previewing locally, or automatically on each save for a remote file.
To be honest, I could set myself up a web design kit totally free of charge using a variety of free applications. But I wouldn't really want to when the guys at Panic can produce a great looking application, that does everything in a de-cluttered window which makes the whole process so much simpler and neater too. Its a great feeling when you can edit a file and then straight away upload it, without even switching windows, let alone changing the application! The beautiful user interface and well proportioned design, Coda has gone straight to the heart of many designers, many of which are still using it now having bought the first release and were extremely pleased with this Apple Design Award Winning Application.