I'm writing this blog post using Panic Software's newest IDE, Nova.A lot has changed since the first release of Coda in 2007. At that time, we were still primarily making websites, and thus it was an all-in-one-tool tool for a different era where an FTP (yeah, remember those?), a web preview, terminal, and editor all in a single window akin to Dreamweaver without all the bloat. Panic holds a special place in my heart, as they're based here in Oregon, and hailed from PDX long before it was "Portlandia," I was a super fan of Audion, used Transmit for quite a while and as fate would have it, I work two blocks from Panic's downtown location.... I fully admit I change the color of their sign colors every now and again.

I used Coda from about 2007ish to 2013, and professionally during 2010-2013 and served, forever leaving Dreamweaver behind. I've since gone from Sublime to Atom to WebStorm, but fingers crossed, I'll circle back to the Panic.

I'm struck deeply by how much the "IDE" application has morphed into its own sub-genre of UX that defies the native OS's visual language. Any of the usual UI is generally disregarded; File trees, scrollbars, icons, gradients are all abandoned. The multi-pane interfaces look nothing like what we've come to expect as the OS standard. In short, code editors seem to exist outside of their host. I have a feeling outfitted with similar color schemes. The average user would have a tough time identifying Visual Studio vs. Atom vs. Sublime vs. Webstorm at a quick glance. However, Nova is certainly the child of Coda, as it carries a similar "Mac-like" feel. It looks fantastic in its black-text-on-white-background. For whatever reason, the dark theme doesn't seem as "nice," and it's largely due to the Apple UX choices. Gradients, transparencies, and San Francisco (the font). It's all here.

Screenshot of Nova top, Atom middle, Webstorm bottom

Picture: Nova top, Atom middle, Webstorm bottom

Here's what I've noticed thus far in a bullet point of unorganized thoughts:

  • My first order was to switch the default font to Operator Mono. I'm happy to see ligatures are fully supported, but it's not making use of italics; thus, the beautiful monospaced cursive I love isn't rendering properly. I don't see any documentation on theming. Maybe I'll look under the hood later...
  • In-window organization feels a bit more natural than the other IDEs, allow you to drag and position windows nicely. However, trying to split both horizontally and vertically doesn't work as it should. Based on the UX, I'm sure it will.
  • It feels zippier than Atom/VisualStudio. Electron kinda sucks and hence why I went to Webstorm.
  • The visual language all about denoting tabs by a top-border. Blue is a local document, and green is a local terminal, and purple is a remote server. The borders are only visible on the front window.
  • Auto tag completion works as expected. Tag/bracket highlighting is nice is and well done.
  • Docker annoyingly triggers the terminal process forever spinning icon.
  • I can't rename terminal windows like Webstorm. It does name the name of the active task.
  • Auto soft-wrap is, by default, on. I'm always curious as to who doesn't use soft-wraps? Am I the unpopular opinion guy when I think this should be the default?
  • Extensions are the main event. Sublime paved the way on this, and Atom/Visual Studio ran with it. It's pretty clear what's the big new killer feature. Pretty much all the documentation that exists currently for Nova is for extensions. It makes sense, functionality for IDEs should be flexible and Nova is no different. The only question is can it attain critical mass? Hopefully.
  • Edit: Tried Nova on my 25,000+ word blog post and the delay between each keypress and rendering to screen was brutal. Looks like Nova for now isn't as speedy as Coda 2 or even Atom.

All-in-all, Nova feels like progress.