I remember the days when a plain-text text editor was sufficient to code your website with. I was 13 years old when I started writing HTML code. Back then the code (or at least my code) was simple and there was no need for a fancy HTML editor. Nowadays the code is still simple but there’s more if it and its all mixed together. I don’t know about you but I’ve got XHTML mixed with PHP and then I have to write XML documents, PHP include files, CSS, and the list goes on.
I had never been happy with any of my code editors. BBEdit had an interface problem. Files were hard to switch between. The free programs… well… you get what you pay for. Then there was Coda. Coda was my dream editor! It had everything I needed. That is, until the trial period ended. Again, Coda just seemed kind of bulky and the interface was a bit cold and sterile. I know, shallow reasoning but I like what I like.
Then I found Espresso. Espresso is made by Macrabbit, the people behind the incredibly awersome CSSEdit. CSSEdit is the single greatest CSS editor ever. I’ll review that app in the future. But back to Espresso. Espresso has some great features. But the features aren’t really the selling point here as there are other editors who have the same, less, and sometimes more features. Its the way the features are implemented that makes Espresso such a useful tool. For example, a lot of HTML editors have a preview function. But Espresso’s preview function works independant of any PHP or MySQL databases being used. Other code editors won’t allow you to preview a page you’re working on if it is located on your local disk and the resources for the page are on the web somewhere. Of course there are limitations but this feature goes beyond anything I’ve seen.
Espresso features syntax coloring for a multitude of programming languages and can actually detect what language you’re using even if you are mixing more than one language on a page. In my code the XHTML and PHP are either colored or look like plain text depending on what part of the code I am editing.
A lot of people who already use CSSEdit are asking things like “Will Espresso replace CSSEdit?” and “Will the combine the two into one super-program?”. Those people will love and hate Espresso all at once. Some people want the two to become a super-program that eliminates the need for CSSEdit. Others want the opposite. Here’s the deal: Espresso is a code editor with support for CSS. Besides the live preview feature also found in CSSEdit, Espresso is pretty much its own program. CSSEdit will still be king of CSS. Espresso doesn’t come close to CSSEdit in terms of making Stylesheet editing something a preschooler can do.
I’ve been using Espresso for a couple of months now and it is invaluable to me. Let me give you some insight into my development process so you can see how I actually use Espresso instead of me listing features.
The first thing I do when working on a new website is to create a new project in Espresso and save it to my Home/Sites/ folder. Then I begin creating the directory structure the site will have right from within Espresso. Once that’s done I set up my FTP details and upload the directory structure. As pages are completed I upload them to my server right from Espresso. Espresso is a great FTP program. It doesn’t limit you to any type of file or size. I then continue working on the project tweaking it and adding more pages.
Espresso’s FTP feature allows you to use regular FTP, SFTP, or Amazon S3. The best part is their Update, Merge, and Mirror options. I always hated editing a site that had already been uploaded and having to either write down or remember which files I made changes to. If you make a mistake and forget to upload the right file or upload a file that you didn’t mean to it could mean big trouble for your site and bigger trouble if you have a web app. The Update, Merge, and Mirror features make it easy for you to keep your site up to date without having to remember what to upload.
The user interface is a great selling point too. Its simple yet has everything you need. You can work with tabs, different windows, or use a somewhat BBEdit style sidebar. The top toolbar has options for creating new files or folders, managing your FTP settings, and has a live preview button so you can see how your page is progressing in real time. The left sidebar includes your workspace. These are the files you are either currently working on or have edited recently. You can keep as many or as little in this space as you want. All unsaved files stay here. Under this is Project area of the sidebar. Its a basic folder tree displaying all the files and folders within the project you are working on. Underneath Project is Publish. This is where you store your FTP details. It allows you quick access to the servers you specify. The right side toolbar is your Navigator. Its basically a DOM tree. When working with most programming languages it looks like your standard DOM tree but when working with CSS it turns into what the sidebar of CSSEdit looks like.
The guys at Macrabbit really impressed me and a ton of other people with CSSEdit and now they’re doing it again with Espresso. Right now its in public beta. It was supposed to have come out by now but because they were running behind schedule they decided to offer a public beta. I suggest heading over the Macrabbit’s Espresso page and pick up a copy of the beta. I know you’ll be hooked. As it stands right now there are some bugs but the app is surprisingly stable and rarely crashes. Its going to have some hiccups but don’t get down on it because of that. Look past the blemishes and focus on the overall value of the app. Ask yourself whether it would help you work faster, if its easier to use than what you have now, etc. Each version of the beta is free and expires after a certain date at which point you have to download an update. Remember that this beta does not include many of the features that will ship with the final 1.0 version. Get it and try it while its free. Get a good idea of how it works. I bet you anything you’ll make the switch.
I know, I know this post was long, and poorly written. Give me a break, I’m tired. I’m working way too much. I really had to get a post in before I went to work. I also told the guys at Macrabbit I would review Espresso. I really didn’t have to, nor did they ask me to but I really like it and I said I would and I do what I say.