Two Weeks with Coda

One Window

Two weeks ago I finally decided to give Panic’s newest Mac OS X offering, Coda, a thorough test to see if will better serve my web development needs. I had known about it since its initial release, hailed by many as the perfect solution to web developers needs, while downplayed by some due to lack of features. Coda is an 80% solution — an application that tries to simplify the average coder’s workflow, unifying the standard multi-program arrangement into one window, with configurable tabs for various purposes. Panic won’t win everyone over with this tactic, but the idea of opening a single, dedicated program to do my work in really appealed to me both as a designer and a programmer. Coda’s icon, a simple green leaf, subtly hints “keep it simple” at every launch. Panic’s developers have taken this approach to heart, crafting a straightforward interface which rivals that of the best Mac applications.

One week ago, I purchased Coda. It doesn’t have Subversion support and it doesn’t have fullscreen mode. What I did find, though, is a unique application that neatly organizes most of the tools I need to get web development done. A syntax-completing text editor, visual or textual CSS editor, terminal, and live web preview are among my most used tools, any of which can be swapped for another, or split into multiple views. With my preferred syntax coloring set up, Coda’s split tabs make me feel right at home, editing HTML and CSS side by side with a preview of the results just a click away.

Get Back to Work

Coda makes getting back into “the zone” really quite easy with its Sites feature, which keeps track of each project’s tab arrangement, FTP settings, public URL, and more. Double-click a Site to start working right where you left off. As for publishing, Coda leverages Transmit’s FTP engine, which keeps folders in sync between your computer and web host with little effort.

A Few Shortcomings

I often work with MySQL as my data store and use CocoaMySQL as a front-end, but switching applications goes against the one-window flow that Coda tries so hard to bring together, so I installed phpMyAdmin and just use it inside a Preview tab within Coda — couldn’t be simpler. The same goes for online documentation not covered by the built-in PHP and JavaScript references. For Subversion, I’ll just use command-line ‘svn’ calls within a Terminal mode, as it’s surprisingly straightforward for a command-line utility.

Only the Beginning

As of this writing, Coda is just at version 1.1, so there’s plenty of room for it to grow. At the very least, I hope to see fullscreen mode similar to NetNewsWire’s in the near future, so I can really get into my code and ignore little distractions like menu bar extras, Mail badges, etc. Panic has dropped their biggest application yet on the Mac web developer community, and overall, I’m very satisfied with Coda and am getting so much more done in so fewer windows.

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Two Weeks with Coda

Iconverter

Iconverter is a simple little utility I discovered which helps you juggle between images, ICNS files, and actual “pasted” icons for Mac files and applications. Often when dealing with icons, I find the need to convert an ICNS file to an editable PNG image with transparency, or go from a PNG back to an ICNS. As much as I like IconBuilder, my needs are not nearly that complex, and Iconverter simply gets the job done. What I enjoy most about the little app is the “Use file contents” checkbox, which will force it to read the data from the file instead of the icon itself — most other icon utilities default to using the system-designated icon of an opened ICNS file (a file with dog-eared corner), not the actual file contents. Iconverter handles this with ease, and is my first choice for getting icons just right.

Iconverter

MacFUSE

Amit Singh, author of the excellent book Mac OS X Internals, has published a Mac version of FUSE, a kernel extension that allows various data structures to be “remapped” as a local file system. Even internet-dependent sources like Flickr photo albums, RSS feeds, and remotely-connected SSH sessions can be represented as files in a folder. If you’ve never seen technology like this before, this video demo shows just how cool this stuff is. There’s already a FlickrFS extension that can be implemented with FUSE, so it shouldn’t be too much trouble to implement it on the Mac, making Flickr photo managing as easy as drag-and-drop. After backing up my current system (this is unsupported software), I’ll try installing MacFUSE and a handful of plugins.

MacFUSE

Toast 8 Released

Today at Macworld, Roxio released an all-new version of Toast Titanium for Mac. Notable features include support for Blu-Ray burning, transferring video from a TiVo to your Mac, spanning data across multiple discs, better DVD handling, audio mixing, and tons more — all in a shiny new interface. You can check out the new look by viewing the photos I’ve posted on Flickr.

Toast 8 Released

Xdisc: Mac Xbox ISO Utility

Often when dealing with Xbox content on the Mac, it’s useful to be able to create a bootable DVD, perhaps of a game or Xbox Dashboard program. While Xbox Media Center doesn’t run well from a DVD, games, utilities, and other programs are designed to be playable from a disc.

The Xbox can’t normally read computer formatted CDs like ISO 9660 and Joliet (XBMC can, though), but to make a bootable disc, it must be of the proper format. Microsoft designed a custom disc format for the Xbox in an attempt to stop piracy and secure the system, however it was quickly reverse engineered to allow for all kinds of uses. Xdisc is an Xbox disc image creator/extractor for Mac OS X, built on top of the open-source extract-xiso utility, which can be compiled for most operating systems. It can build an Xbox ISO file (disc image) from a folder on your computer, or can directly FTP into the Xbox and create an image of a folder or DVD, including games. It can also extract the contents of an Xbox ISO, producing the original files that make up the software. FTP is fully integrated into extract-xiso — and thus Xdisc — making for a great solution that can communicate directly with the Xbox to get the job done.

The author, known as “trackfive,” does not have a personal site that I can find and link to, so I’m hosting a copy of Xdisc right here, so you can download away. Also included in the download are several drag-and-drop applets to quickly create and extract XISOs without launching the application and messing with settings.

1/7/2007 Update
Trackfive has also produced some Automator plugins, which allow you to Control-click (right-click) on a folder or file and create or extract the Xbox ISO in one simple step. What could be easier?

Xdisc: Mac Xbox ISO Utility

Burn

As often as I use Toast and refer to it in postings here, it’s easy to overlook some of the freeware options that will usually work just as well. Burn is one such program which allows you to easily burn data, audio, video, and disc images. Unlike Toast — and more like Disk Utility — Burn uses Apple’s disc burning APIs, which are provided for developers to add CD and DVD writing capabilities to their programs with little effort. It can handle Mac and PC formatted discs, audio and MP3 CDs, all kinds of video discs (DVD included), as well as a number of disc image formats. While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles Toast has, Burn may provide all the features you need for free. Download it here.

Burn

The Unarchiver

The Unarchiver is a replacement for Apple’s relatively hidden “BOMArchiveHelper” application, which is responsible for the Zip, Tar, and gzip abilities built into the Finder. Not only does The Unarchiver come pre-loaded with much better icons, but it handles Zip, Tar, gzip, bzip2, RAR (including multi-part RAR), 7-zip, StuffIt (but not SitX, sadly), and many other formats. Installation is as easy as dropping the program somewhere on disk, perhaps in /Applications, and then associating preferred formats to be opened with The Unarchiver. I find it’s a much better archive handler than Apple’s own, and the “brown box” icons help differentiate compressed files from regular documents.

The Unarchiver