Panic Coda 2: Early Review & Initial Thoughts

I’ve been a heavy (daily) user of Panic’s Coda mac app for code editing for several years now.  And I, like many other web designers and devs, have been frustratingly waiting too long for Panic to release Coda 2.  Well that day finally arrived yesterday.

My early reaction, sadly, is that I’m disappointed.

I’m primarily a designer and front-end guy, so my focus is on the UI and general usability of the app.  For an app that so many designers use on a daily-basis for hours after hours, the user experience/productivity of the app is paramount, and I’m sad to say Coda 2, in my opinion, has taken a step backward in this regard.

That’s not to say there are some improvements in Coda 2.  So let’s cover a few my favorites first:

List View

Finally!  The sites view can now be a simple list instead of a mountain of site thumbnails that were difficult to search and find a site quickly (not a fan of typing in a search box just to open a project).

Coda 2 Sites List

Coda 2 Code FoldingCode Folding

I can’t say I’ve found myself using this feature much (yet), but I do like the way it has been implemented.  Code folding allows you to “fold” sections of code, making your document more compact and easy to navigation.  The color coding along the left side helps identify areas that can be folded.  Nice touch.

CSS & General Code Completion

Generally, I’m satisfied with the improved code completion features built into Coda 2.  I noticed a few things are a bit more efficient.

Coda 2 CSS Color PickersCSS editing now adds some nifty popup bubbles to help with picking colors.  I think they’re going in the right direction here (who used the dedicated CSS Editor in Coda 1?  I didn’t.).

But I’m unsure if these are totally usable yet.  For picking and matching colors, I still find ColorSnapper to be the best tool out there.

And the CSS code complete doesn’t do cross-browser CSS3 support.  So I’m still using LessElements for most of my CSS3 work.

On that note, I would have liked to see .less files automatically recognized as CSS.  I still have to manually set the Syntax Mode to “CSS” every time I work with a .less file (which is every time I work on any project).  Annoying.

EDIT:  Thank you to @daveyank and @mattvagni for pointing out the preference setting to make .less files always open with CSS syntax :)

Now on to my main qualms with Coda 2:

The redesigned Top Section

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this release is huge pieces of the visual interface have been dismantled and put back together in a less intuitive and overly clever (to a fault) kinda way.  The top section is the first thing that grabs my attention (in a bad way).

Here’s what one of my projects looks like:

Coda 2 Tabs & Breadcrumbs

If you’re familiar with Coda 1 (as I’m sure many Coda 2 users are), on first glance, it appears there are MANY files open, when in fact there are only 2 files open.  The breadcrumbs/file path bar now resides where the file tabs used to.  It’s also the same color/feel as the old file tabs.

OK, so they’ve moved the currently open files to the top, as these thumbnails.  Interesting at first.  But still a bit hard to read the file names on these (at quick glance), especially some are on 2 lines, some not, some truncated, etc.  The thumbnails take up a lot of screen real estate, so I tried text-only mode.  Nicely saves space, except now there’s no way to see the project name I’m working on (kind of a key component, no?)!  This is frustrating, especially when I’m working on 2-3 projects at once, which I often do.

Now back to this new file path bar.  Basically it’s a breadcrumb-style file path, which when you click each step opens a mini file browser popup.  In theory this is a clever idea, but in practice it’s cluttered, inefficient, and only serves to slow me down when I need to quickly navigate to certain files within my project.

I don’t think this piece is necessary at all.  But if it HAS to stay (there’s no option to disable it), then here’s one idea to make it a bit easier to use.  Make the root level the folder selected as the local path for this project.  Don’t make it the root of my computer!  Coda works on a project basis, so I only want to see files and folders for the project I’m currently working on.  The rest just make this harder to navigate.

EDIT:  It appears Panic implemented this this change in Coda 2.0.1 :)

These little details can become very annoying on a daily basis.

Coda 2 Files ListThe Sidebar & Publishing

Here’s another instance of trying to be too clever, and reinventing something that not only wasn’t broken, but might have been one of my favorite features of Coda 1:  The sidebar files list and marking/publishing files to the server.

In Coda 1, you had your files list in your sidebar, and every time you save a file you’d see a little icon next to that file indicating it’s marked for publishing.  As I save a handful of files, I can see which of my files are ready to go live (as well as which ones haven’t been touched).  When I publish, I can see which ones are still uploading and which have finished.  It was beautiful, compact, easy to use, and easy to see, all in one view.

In Coda 2, they created this dedicated list of files that are marked for publishing, separate from your main files list.  You have to click between the 2.  How is this better?  And what about knowing which files are ready to publish?  They could have kept the “marked” icons present in the files list, or in the new files tab up top.  But they’re nowhere to be found.  This is a head scratcher.

Bottom Line

I know this all sounds very nit-picky… but these things matter to someone like me who spends a huge amount of time in this app.

Maybe I just need to give it some more time to sink in.  But I can’t see how these file navigation issues — a central component of any code editor — will become any less cumbersome than they are now.  While I love everything Panic has done in the past, I might have to think about switching pretty soon.

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Discuss

  • http://liftdevelopment.com Dave Yankowiak

    Good writeup, Brian. I find myself agreeing with you on a lot of these things. I’m not too worried, though, as I think some features we’re used to will re-appear in some form as they get feedback. Lots and lots and lots of feedback as evidenced by the #coda2 hashtag on Twitter.

    One thing about the .less files using CSS syntax. Does your installation not keep that sticky? For example, Coda automatically opens .scss (SASS) files as CSS after I set the following in the preference menu: http://cl.ly/273E23441C0h0w3o400b That’s worked great in both versions of Coda.

    Also, agree with you on being able to see the project name when you go to text-only mode for the file names (not a big fan of the thumbs either). However, if you give the first top-left Sites button a mouseover it’ll show the project name. Not the same, but better than nothing I guess.

    I’m hoping that the option showing which files need to be published comes back. A lot of times I’ll actually use that to publish single files if I’m not ready to send all changes to the server yet.

    Overall, I’m mixed in my opinion of Coda 2 so far and haven’t even had a chance to do much with Diet Coda yet, but I’ll give them some time to process feedback and hopefully adapt. I’ve still got Coda 1 installed if I need to use it. :)

    • Brian Casel

      Thanks Dave! And thank you for pointing out that preference for the syntax mode! Works perfectly, and I just updated the post.

      Ya, I hope they do take all user feedback into account… though they’ve been super slow to implement updates in the past. We’ll see..

      I haven’t tried Diet Coda yet either. Looks pretty cool, and may prove useful when making edits out on the road, etc.

  • http://www.entropydynamics.com Korky Kathman

    Brian, I agree on all points. The thing to me that was disappointing was that there were truly FEW functional improvements but more aesthetic ones. The UI changes are mostly superficial to be frank, and as you mentioned (in the case of the sidebar files/publishing case) some aren’t very thought out. In fact, a lot of the new “features” aren’t intuitive, such as the “list view” for the sites.

    Speaking of the sites page, none, absolutely NONE of my site icons worked. Even though I could bring the files up locally and remotely, when I clicked on the “refresh icon” it would just sit there and spin. Very irritating.

    Another item that was very annoying was the reverse functionality of the tabs/spaces preferences. It works backwards from most every other editor I use (NetBeans, Dreamweaver, etc). The MySQL view is a nice addition, but they’ve hidden it so well, it’s clunky. Why not put it as an option when you want to split the page (like preview)? In addition, You’d better get your credentials right the first time when you enter your data in the MySQL login, because if it’s wrong, the whole pane locks and you have to exit and re-initialize the split to get it right? Why wouldn’t you have allowed to save databases so that you didn’t have to log in EVERY time. Dreamweaver and NetBeans got that right, Coda2 didn’t.

    The Diet Coda interaction however, is a nice feature. It’s a good editor on the iPad, and it worked flawlessly for me in the paired mode with my Mac. Now, why I’d want to put the site on my iPad versus opening a split on my large Mac screen is a little baffling.

    I think you hit it on the head, though. There were a lot of things RIGHT about Coda 1. The UI was good, it was easy and intuitive. Why break that in order to take FIVE years to update it? The functional additions in Coda 2 probably could have been done in a year or less. I fear they got the itch to try out all these new UI things and lost sight of the goal of the application…to make it MORE usable, not less.

    • Brian Casel

      Thanks Korky!

      I do actually appreciate the sites view in LIST mode. Much needed improvement that users have been asking for for years. Would have been nice to see them add it to one of the 1.x updates, but at least it’s finally in now.

      Can’t speak to the MySQL feature. MySQL scares me in general, so I stay away from that part of the app :P

      Good to hear Diet Coda works nicely… will download that soon.

  • http://twitter.com/nathanpitman/status/207394994380750848/ Nathan Pitman (@nathanpitman)

    I pretty much agree with all of this – http://t.co/d7xEp2kE #coda2

    • Scritti Politti

      That link goes back to THIS page.

      And a douchetag?

  • http://www.rt-designs.de Jan Mueller

    I disagree. I’ve tried it after all the buzz (they’re really brilliant in that regard) and am very disappointed. I’m using Dreamweaver and am constantly looking for a replacement for various reasons (mostly speed). For SVN I’m using Versions on Mac or Tortoise on Windows; haven’t seen any “built-in” app that can compete with those two.

    No for the most annoying things with Coda2: auto complete / parameters for PHP and JS functions is missing. This is really important – I don’t know anybody who knows all params on top their head. It’s also missing that functionality for custom code. Dreamweaver has both of them.

    Document navigation / Code folding. While looking nice in the screenshots; it’s far inferior to what DW has to offer. Pick any element in DW and you get the nice (and very useful) navigation-path to that element. Let’s you pick it or it’s parents easily and just as easily fold whole sections. Coda fails to implement it like that. I can’t think of a better alternative to select elements and nodes of code. What Coda offers is far worse in terms of usability and effectivity.

    Preview / Split-View. This is a great thing in DW. You can navigate visually or in source-view. Again: very useful + missing in coda. Airpreview sounds nice; have not tried it but would be “view” only.

    Sad to say; but I guess I have to stick with DW for a while.

    • Brian Casel

      Thanks Jan!

      I’m not a heavy PHP/JS (by hand) coder so I can’t speak to much about the autocomplete for those languages (or lack thereof).

      I would have liked to see it easily identify the closing tags in HTML markup (click on an openining div tag, highlight it’s closing tag, etc.). Not sure if DW does that, but if so, +1 for DW :)

      Years ago when I used DW I never found the visual mode useful. Same with Coda’s preview mode. Both go untouched for me.

      • http://liftdevelopment.com Dave Yankowiak

        FYI my disgust with Dreamweaver was largely responsible for my initial love of Coda. That is one of the buggiest, most bloated apps I have ever used and I used it for years. Man I hope Coda doesn’t become that.

        • Scritti Politti

          I gave up on Dreamweaver after I spent hours trying to debug code on my server, only to find that Dreamweaver’s FTP function didn’t work at all. Literally: It claimed that the files uploaded fine, but it never sent them. Unbelievable defect in a shipping product.

  • http://www.mmorpg.com Evan

    Totally 100% agree with the pain of moving the publish functionality into a different pane… as a pain

    I hit publish files every 1-2 minute, or less, and having to navigate to do this is crazy.

    • Brian Casel

      Me too. I know most developers prefer to develop and test locally, but I’ve always just continuously published to a web server as I code. Easier to cross-browser test and quickly check sites on mobile. This is why making the publishing process as quick/easy as possible is a crucial aspect of Coda, for people like you and me.

    • http://www.user25.com Donny Nyamweya

      - The inability to see my current project, and the PAIN PAIN PAIN of having to switch file tabs to upload files to the server, see what has changed, or checking/update to SVN.
      Also, not sure why they got rid of the nice context/right-click menu that used to allow me to trigger comparison, revert, etc.

      I have #Coda2 a good month of contant use (to allow novelty to wear off) but could not put up with these issues. I am back to using Coda-1 waiting for sanity to come to #panic, or for MacRabbit Expresso to implement SVN so that I can move over.

  • http://twitter.com/colorsnapper/status/208241984182300673/ @colorsnapper

    — For picking and matching colors, I still find ColorSnapper to be the best tool out there.

    @CasJam reviews Coda 2 (http://t.co/zV4cLuJ7)

  • Philbee

    Constantly having to navigate to the “Publish” pane may yet make me go back to Espresso, where this is solved beautifully, IMHO.

    • Brian Casel

      Yeah – I’m auditioning Espresso and Sublime Text as my new editor this week… though I haven’t fully given up on Coda 2 quite yet.

    • Scritti Politti

      Espresso’s bizarre full-screen publishing page sucks. It starts out empty, then doesn’t indicate which side is local and which is remote, and frequently gets stuck in a state where it doesn’t update or show anything needing publishing at all. This shitty UI is what kept me using Coda, but Coda’s work-threatening defects are going to send me back to Espresso’s equally defective but less dangerous UI.

  • http://wpti.ps Piet

    Although I agree that it’s a total pain that the little icons behind to be uploaded files are gone in Coda2, you actually don’t have to move to the Publish button to publish those files as the shortcut “cmd ctrl p” still works.

    So if you know that you hit cmd s to save your file (and immediately after you see the number change in the purple circle at the arrow above it), then you can also confidently publish those files using the shortcut.

    • Brian Casel

      Yes – I’ve used the cmd ctrl P shortcut for a while and still do.

      However, this is ANOTHER area where they’ve made it slightly worse in Coda 2 than in 1. Yes the shortcut still works. But before, the popup confirmation also listed the files that I’m about to upload. Now it’s just a message, with no list. Why? How is that fixing a problem or improving anything?

  • http://meandmymac.net Arnan de Gans

    I’m having much of the same issues as you have and in the end wish i never bought Coda 2…

    I’m actually thinking of going back to version 1 or find a new app alltogether. Sadly.
    All this extra clicking to achieve the same as in version 1 is just dumb and a waste of time.

  • http://nathanpitman.com Nathan Pitman

    For me the updated sidebar is a disaster. Previously you could see the status of your versioned files at a glance without having to switch away from the files/folders view.

    In general I’m finding that tasks that once took one or two clicks now require three or four.

    I’ve switched back to Coda 1 and I’m taking a 2nd look at Espresso and the beta of Chocolat. That said Coda 1 is still a great integrated editor with a ‘*really* super sidebar’!.

    • Brian Casel

      Couldn’t agree more, Nathan.

      I gave Espresso several tries. While the editor is great, I can’t get used to the way they handle FTP. I also gave Sublime Text 2 a try- nice alternative, but a bit too geared for hardcore devs (I’m more of a front-end/design guy).

      For now, I’m reluctantly sticking with Coda 2 because A) I don’t like the idea of using an outdated version and B) While there are good alternatives, I’m not ready for a long period of reacquainting myself with a new editor :/

      • Scritti Politti

        Exact same problem with Espresso. Their UI is just as incompetent as Coda’s, but in different ways. Its bizarre full-screen FTP UI isn’t just cumbersome; it doesn’t work. You can get stuck in a state where it doesn’t think there’s anything to do.

        I think it also lacks Coda 1’s dirty/ready-to-publish indicators on files.

        And there are other problems that kept me using Coda, but yesterday the defect where it ignores the paths you set in the sites almost resulted in my overwriting a production server’s code. Inexcusable.

  • http://nathanpitman.com Nathan Pitman

    I should add, in the end I asked Panic for a refund and they were happy to provide one (much to their credit). Hopefully they’ll sort out the sidebar and some of the other usability issues in a future release.

  • WSMFP

    You did not mention the complete fail with the search function.
    I must use search – find&replace a lot more than other people because in coda 2 it is absolutely horrible.

    In version 1 it was a decent search tool. The search textbox was in the large window and it was sizable so you could see big blocks of text. In version 2 it is tiny and half of the text box is cutoff.

    I reverted back to version 1 but every once in a while I check to see if there is an update to 2.0 that addressed the search and publishing window failures.

    Not today……

  • Scritti Politti

    It’s worse than just this. First of all, the local and remote root paths that you set in a site are essentially meaningless. When you open a site, those are NOT guaranteed to be the directories that Coda starts in. Coda will simply start in the last directory it happened to be pointing to. This can cause disasters when you don’t realize that you’re working in (and uploading to) the wrong place. This is a critical bug that has gone unfixed through several updates. That’s inexcusable.

    The split editor basically doesn’t work at all. If you split the editing window into two panes, it puts the same document in both panes. Fine. But when you try to switch one of the panes to show another document (by using that path bar you fairly complained about), Coda closes the other pane, so you’re back to one editor! WTF? This behavior makes no sense at all. Utterly stupid.

    Meanwhile, there’s no graphical CSS editor like Espresso’s, which should’ve been item #1 to address in this application.

    And despite years of customer complaints, there’s still no way to import & export sites so you can move them between computers. This is another WTF item that should’ve been present in version 1.0. As an overly complicated and unreliable workaround, Coda put iCloud “support” into Coda. As any developer knows, iCloud is an opaque and unreliable means of syncing. Not to mention that local paths may differ between the computers you use for your work. If you could export & import sites, you could copy them to other computers and make changes to the local paths to match their disk volumes. But with iCloud, such changes will be propagated to all your other computers, making them incorrect. Dumb.

  • Mesut Erhan Ünal

    Thanks for the article Brian,

    I want to ask something about Coda 2. I have Coda 2.0.13 trial installed on my computer and what surprised me is there is no CSS hinting/autocomplete (I am not sure if this is the right name) in Coda or I could not turn it on. For example: when I type <div id=" or <div class=" Dreamweaver automatically shows up available CSS ids and classes (both styles you wrote between tags and in an imported stylesheet document) on a drop-down menu. When you working with a huge CSS like bootstrap, it turns to a kind of lifesaver as you cannot memorise all the classes and ids. Is there any option to get this handy feature in Coda?

    Thanks.