There have been lots of hubbub going on around Panic‘s new web development tool, Coda, and with good reason.

Coda’s approach to web development quickly divides folks into two camps: those that love it and those that don’t.

Of course, now that I’ve said that I’m going to try to place myself in the middle. 😉

I like Panic, and though I’ve only :scare: met :/scare: them through e-mail and blog posts I like Cabel and Steven as well. I love polished and well-executed applications, and I also love it when people are willing to take a risk and try to do something in a new and different way. And I was one of the initial testers of Coda. All of this makes me want to like Coda, and on many levels I do like Coda.

But I don’t find myself using Coda for all of my web development.

I do use it, but mostly for little tweaks to my web sites – not for development projects. I think there are a couple of reasons for this:

File Management

As noted in Gruber’s fireball, full file management isn’t even attempted in Coda. I live exclusively in the column view in Path Finder and Transmit, and I don’t like the file manager tree control in Coda. I’ve actually gotten rather negative about tree controls for file management over the last few years – they feel like old, bad, outdated tools to me now.

There is definitely a potential solution to this issue, at least in my opinion. Why not allow the file management to go into a tab? Example mock-ups using Path Finder and Transmit as local/remote file browser examples:

Coda Mockup with embedded Path Finder

Coda Mockup with embedded Transmit

As an added bonus, you get that horizontal space back that the file browser is currently occupying.

Also, the built-in FTP functionality is tricky to use in “one-window” mode – Coda badly needs a drop stack (like Path Finder) to avoid the need for a separate local file browser.

Local Development

All of my large-scale projects are built locally, without any need for an FTP client, terminal (except for SVN commits), etc. I used straight text editors for a long time (with BBEdit being my favorite), but I’ve started using the Zend IDE more in the last year or so. Little things like code hinting, variable completion, PHP Doc support and being able to jump around to other files (for function definition, etc.) have become more valuable to me. Coda does a little of this, but not enough that it feels like it can replace ZDE. Nor does it have the advanced text management functionality of BBEdit.

I guess what I’m saying is that the toolset I use is different for different things. For building and maintaining a project or web application or the initial build of a web site, the toolset I use doesn’t really feel like Coda. On the other hand, Coda feels great for maintaining a web site after it’s built and deployed.

Safari (WebKit) for Preview is a Bad Starting Place

My main issue with the built-in browser is that it uses Web Kit (the Safari engine). I find it much easier to develop in Gecko (Firefox) and then customize as needed for IE and Safari than from Safari to Firefox and IE.

Plus, I don’t think I know any web developers willing to give up Firebug.

I’ve never used or liked built-in browser preview in any development tool I’ve ever used. Changing tabs is just as time consuming as changing applications to me, and I rarely have access the same debugging toolset I use in my development/testing browser in a “preview browser”.

So for now I’m using Coda mainly for direct edits of my web sites. It’s great for that, and I look forward to watching it evolve. Maybe in time it will move in the direction I think I want, or maybe I’ll change my paradigm to be more compatible with the way Coda works.

Either way, many kudos to Panic for getting such an ambitious project out the door. And I’m very glad to see the tips coming out as blog posts already.

One more side note: big kudos to Panic for making it dead easy to import your Transmit data into Coda. For a Transmit user, the barrier to entry for testing Coda is ridiculously low.