Out of Adobe’s undisputed Fab Four on any web designer’s desktop (Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash and Dreamweaver), the one specifically for HTML and CSS is probably the most threatened. Indeed, replacing any of the first three is almost an impossibility (see my post on GIMP’s attempt to overthrow Photoshop). Finding an alternative to Dreamweaver, however, has become more of a reality.
And why not? After all, when you’re cutting up the design, laying out the XHTML, and writing up the CSS on your framework of choice (see my reviews on the 960 GS, Blueprint CSS, or 1kb CSS Grid), you don’t need an application for rocket science. The main reason why many designers stick to Dreamweaver, as oppose to opting for any of the open-source alternatives, is because a) it tags along other essential Adobe products in a Creative Suite, and b) it boasts some neat features. However, it remains an over-priced product for a relatively simple task.
In comes Coda: a web development application that brings everything you need in a single window (Mac OS X window, that is). Firstly, at $99, it’s not the priciest of applications, given that you develop websites professionally. More importantly however, it packs some top-notch features:
- Subversion integration that allows you to synchronize your files
- An emotionally touching FTP client built into the sidebar. Browse a remote server, click on the file you choose to edit, and save to instantly update the remote file. No need to use a separate FTP client, a text-editor, or endless hours
- Live collaboration. That’s right! Who would’ve thought that you’d be able to work on the same code with someone else at the same time (granted the other person bought his or her own copy of Coda)
- Live preview that is built into the application, but is actually using Safari. Unlike Dreamweaver, you are viewing the page in a full browser, but without actually changing windows
- Built-in terminal if you ever need (doesn’t get in the way if you don’t)
The most important aspect is that it’s sleek. The interface makes you feel very comfortable as you’re creating color-coded magic. Doing everything locally is a breeze, and then editing remotely on the fly saves a lot more time than running around your FTP client and temporary text editor. Its performance is also more impressive than its Adobe counterpart.
The biggest disadvantage must be in its price tag. Even if it is cheaper than Dreamweaver, thus making it the clear winner, it is still $100 more expensive than the second best open-source option. When the likes of Aptana Studio learn from Panic’s baby and step up their game, then no one will have to pay anything to live a proper web development experience. Until then, we’ll take the money out of our savings. My condolences to Adobe Dreamweaver, you were great, but now it’s time to move on.