Diet Coda From An iPad Blogger’s Perspective

I am no web developer -- I write prose, not code -- but I just bought Panic's highly-anticipated, fantastically-named Diet Coda for iPad from the Italian App Store. I want to show my support to the great independent developers of the iOS and OS X community. Furthermore, I want to help disrupting the long-standing meme that the iPad can only be used for "content consumption", whatever that has come to mean in 2012. I didn't know I could still find Diet Coda useful for my iPad-based writing and blogging workflow.

I can't review Diet Coda -- as I said, I wouldn't be able to fully understand its functionalities and judge its (possible) shortcomings when compared to the (also coming today) Coda 2. But I can recognize software crafted with care and attention to detail. Diet Coda immediately stands out as one of those apps where pixels aren't just there to fill the screen -- they're the epitome of design enhanced for function.

Take the custom text selection method Panic built. It's not entirely custom -- it's still fundamentally based on "drag handles" and a "zoomed-in view" of the cursor -- but Panic reworked it to allow for faster selection by swiping on the left (where numbered lines are) and to visualize a larger, rounded "zoom selector" (they call it the Super Loupe) when you're moving the cursor between characters. It feels much better than standard iOS text selection -- faster, and somewhat more accurate -- albeit it really needs to be experienced "in motion", rather than through the screenshot I have embedded below.

I wouldn't mind seeing Apple drawing some inspiration from Panic's Super Loupe and Hooper Selection for the next major version of iOS.

Or, again, search. Within a document -- Diet Coda can edit files on your server with syntax highlighting for languages like HTML, PHP, or JavaScript -- you can hit the search icon to initiate a query with options for Find & Replace, Case Sensitive settings, Regex, and Search in Selection. I can't tell you how many times I wished a text editor would implement search through selected text within a document the way Panic did.

It's about getting the details right, yet making sure the main foundation is also solid to begin with. Diet Coda features a perhaps not so innovative, yet reliable column-based navigation for browsing folders and opening files; at any time, the column view can be "enhanced" with thumbnail tabs (also called "document shelf") displaying open files, the main Sites page, and Terminal along the top of the screen.

And if you go back to the Sites page -- where you add the servers you want to connect to using Diet Coda -- and enter "wiggle mode" to edit the sites you've configured, Panic added a nice button at the bottom to confirm you want to exit the wiggle animation. You could stop it anyway by touching anywhere on the screen, but this is a nice extra visual cue.

Same for buttons: the purple ones "glow" when tapped, and the Delete action is, again, custom by Panic, yet incredibly nice to use on iOS.

I may not write a full review of Diet Coda, but I was sure happy to find out Panic's latest effort will find its well-deserved spot in my iPad writing workflow. Diet Coda, finally, allows me to copy the public URL for images uploaded to my FTP server. That's a small feature, but you'd be surprised to know how many FTP iPad apps end up lacking it amidst dozens of other "power user options". I wish Diet Coda would let me upload from the Camera Roll -- hopefully that's coming in a future update. However, together with buttons to copy the public URL and file path, Panic added options to copy an image's HTML <a> and <img> tags to the system clipboard, making it extremely easy to paste the code into Blogsy, my blogging app of choice. The simple, yet often ignored "copy URL" action will play nicely with Writing Kit's shortcut for inserting images into Markdown, too.

Even without fully utilizing Diet Coda's set of features, I'm happy to see the app filling a particular void in my workflow -- and even better, with style and prowess.

We will have more detailed looks at Coda 2 and Diet Coda later this week on MacStories; personally, I believe Panic's latest iOS effort will redefine the category of web code editors on the iPad, proving once again that the platform has moved beyond "consumption" -- and that's just up to users to accept it now.

Diet Coda is now available on the Italian App Store and other international stores (same for Coda 2). Diet Coda and Coda 2 will be available here and here, respectively, on the US App Store in a few hours.