Collecting the Internet So You Don't Have To

We work on the Internet. As such, we are constantly consuming information. Believe me, there is a lot of it out there. Sometimes we even forget things unless we write them down. Our blog covers everything from web standards to the muppets, php to comic books, music and everything else that we find interesting. Leave us a note when you drop by.

Coda 2: Making A Good Thing Better

Wil Alambre
Wil Alambre Senior Programmer
Visual Lizard
1 (204) 957-5520 ext:152
1 (888) 237-9559
Wil Alambre Whiteboard Ninja

Here at Visual Lizard Coda is our go-to development application. It used to be that, when we needed to build a site, we needed a code editor open, we needed an SVN manager open, we needed an FTP program open. Having a single application that handled it all was a milestone; there was the time we were doing things the hard way and there was the time we started using Coda.

When Coda 2 was released, I was one of the first to download it. I was so excited to try Panic's upgraded application that I grabbed it as soon as midnight rolled around. Sure, there was a seven-day trail available at Panic's website for those who wanted to dip their toes, but I grabbed it from the App Store. Buying directly from Panic would give them a bigger cut (Apple taking 30% from the App Store purchases) and probably provide quicker updates (not requiring Apple's approval to push out new versions), but the App Store version comes with iCloud syncing, and I really don't want to rely on remebering where I put all my serial numbers anymore.

One of the first changes I saw was the Sites screen. Sites could now be dragged onto one another to create groups. Since a good chunk of my work involves development servers, staging servers, production servers, etc, this simplified my ever growing project list a lot. Also, I finally had the option to see the Site screen as an actual list! The thumbnail view is certainly pretty to look at, but like the Mac OS X dock, it's prettiness doesn't translate into practical usage, especially when you have dozens of projects. The list view has the extra advantage of showing the site's root URL and last date the project was opened.

A welcome addition to Coda 2 is a built-in MySQL editor. The main thing I like about Coda is that I can develop in one place, and I do a lot of MySQL work. No more alt-tabbing to a dedicated MySQL app or phpMyAdmin. I can open multiple instances in tabs, connect to other servers with host-user-password info, and run arbitrary SQL. This sort of addition reenforces the idea that Coda is made for me and developers like me.

The sidebar has been rethought for the better. It used to be split, with a perpetual file list above and most other options (code help, shared documents) in a smaller space below. Now it is a single, fully adjustable pane. The black floating SVN window (which I was never a fan of) can be there, now feeling a full part of the app. The code helper can be there, having a lot more room to display, rather than the cramped single line in Coda 1. The file can be there, but more importantly, can also not be there.

Overall, Coda 2 is the development application I fell in love with peppered with great updates. Code folding, quick file opening, Trasmit built-in FTP-ing, CSS popup tools, GIT integration, file browser from the path breadcrumb, etc. I'm still discovering little additions that I can now not imagine not having.

Now, since this is the launch of the app, it is expected there will be a couple hiccups. Off the top of my head, these are some of the things we are looking forward to being fixed/improved...

  • In the preferences pane, checking/unchecking the iCloud-syncing option sometimes crashes the app
  • In the sites list, when I copy the root URL from the site editor, sometimes that field appears blank when you open that site again to edit. The data is there, but its disconcerting to see it blank.
  • On the site list, it would be fantastic if I could click or shift-click on something on the root URL to open it in a browser.
  • Sometimes, the site list will just "forget" my SVN username and password.
  • I also purchased Diet Coda, and I'm hoping our iCloud-synced site list will eventually be available on it.
  • When I shrink the toolbar to text-only mode, the already-small favicons the app uses for the Sites tab are sized down to the point of being almost incomprehesible.
  • When the toolbar is larger and using the icons, I find the Files icon looks too much like the white-backgrounded code icons of all the other tabs.
  • HTML and CSS validation is included, but no PHP? Someone will make a plug-in, I'm certain, but still... darn.

...there's probably more, but I'll let my co-workers chime in on their own. None of these are critical, and they haven't stopped me from making Coda 2 my default editor already. It might sound silly to be this passionate about what application I use to build in, but when you love your work, its hard not to love how you work.

Economic Development Winnipeg gets a new coat of paint

Ross McDowall
Ross McDowall Senior Web Developer
Visual Lizard
1 (204) 957-5520 ext:151
1 (888) 237-9559
Ross McDowall Fearless Dwarven Warrior

Economic Development Winnipeg has just relaunched their site with a minor redesign and a major change to how they present the plethora of documents they provide. The changes to the design were both aesthetic and presentational.

Aesthetically speaking there was some honing to the colour palette and a sharpening to the fonts by our friends over at Doowah Design. The largest of the display change appeared on the home page of the site where there was a change to how the promotional elements were displayed. These are now smaller banners which can be swapped out and run over set periods of time. The former version of this promotion functionality was more prominent in the display, taking up the majority of the home page. The new design has changed the focus from those large promotions to the core behind EDW. EDW provides statistics and information about business in Winnipeg, the home page now provides more immediate access to the latest business and economic development news. It also presents instant access to the latest EDW publications for the visitor who is interested in the economic outlook of this city.

One of the features from the old version which has now been expanded is the feature drop menus. A visually appealing piece of functionality which the visitor can use to find the information they want within the site. Short concise titles of internal pages allow the visitor quick access to the information in which they are most interested.

The presentation of information has changed slightly as well. Each page of the site will now display documents associated to the topic of that page. Also, the addition of a right side column to the presentation of the internal pages provides corresponding contact information for the people at EDW most appropriate to discuss the information presented on the page that the visitor is viewing. Instead of having to go to a long list of people and description of their job titles in order to find the individual that a visitor would want to contact, the new presentation makes that information available right there.

From a functionality standpoint, there have been a couple of big changes. Firstly, in discussions with EDW, it was decided that administratively it was in the best interest of the site's development to include a central place for the management of all of the documents that are presented on the site. There is now a central place to do this, and once a document is uploaded, it is assigned to any and all categories to which it may belong, and then the administrators can assign the document to any page or as many pages in the site they wish. There is no longer a need to upload a document many times in order for it to appear in many places.

Secondly, we were asked to create an Associated Contacts piece of functionality. As described above, this piece allows the administrators to assign contacts to pages throughout the site based on the individual's expertise.

All of the development work done for the latest design and functionality was built on the Catalyst administration CMS while the site was still live and was able to draw on current data so there was no reason to worry about keeping data synchronized. This specific situation allowed for a seamless transfer from old to new. This isn't always the case, but it's nice when it happens this way.