Espresso Review: One-Window Web Developing

Espresso 1.0




- Sugars make it Sweet.
- Clean and beautiful one-window IDE
- Cheaper than competition
- Same can be done with Terminal and Text Editor
- Expensive for casual users
- Descriptions of server viewing panes are confusing

Espresso.pngOS X gives you all the tools you need to make a Web site. However, using Apple’s TextEdit, all you see is the text, no syntax highlighting, organization of anything else. Then, a while ago, Coda was released, and gave us a great interface and IDE (Integrated Development Environment) for the Internet. Now, there is a new kid on the block that directly competes with Coda. It is Espresso by MacRabbit.

Espresso is a one-window app. Everything that can be done is done in its main window. There are three sections to this window: Workspace, Project and Publish. There are also project settings which can be found in the toolbar.

Picture 1.png

The Workspace section is…well your workspace. This is where you want to put the files you want to work on, or previews of different pages. Instead of having to go through a file structure on the sidebar, you just drag-and-drop important files here, and they’ll stay here. This is also where all previews you generate will go. You can also add a new item to your workspace by going to File>New Tab. If you have a file selected (in the Project section), it will put that file into your workspace. If no file is selected, it will add a blank file to your workspace. To go through items in your workspace, just hit Command-} (Select the next item) and Command-{ (Select the previous tab). To remove an item from this list, just put your moue over it, and then click the (x) that appears. You can also rearrange this list just by dragging. The Workspace is really helpful if you are dealing with many files and many previews, because it provides easy access to the ones you want to access.

Picture 2.png

The Project section contains all files for your current project. If you click the magnifying glass icon, a text field will appear that allows you to search for files. If you click the wheel icon, you can choose to reveal the current file in finder, delete it, duplicate it, etc. If you use Espresso as it really should be used, you usually won’t need to do much work from the Project section, you will just access files, add files, etc. For small projects, the list of files is very helpful, but for larger ones with complex hierarchies and structures, the Project search makes it extremely easy to find files.

The last section in Espresso is the Publish section. This allows you to easily upload files to an FTP, SFTP, Amazon S3 or FTP with SSL server. To set one up, click the Settings toolbar button and then click Add Server. You can then enter the relevant information for your server. Once you have finishes, just click the Save button, and the server will be saved. Your server will then appear in the Publish section of Espresso. When you click on server, there are a couple things you can do. You can just browse and see what files are on the server (just click the Browse toolbar item). You can also do an Update. An Update just updates the copy of the files on the server. Everything on your computer stays the same. You can also do a Merge. A Merge syncs the files on your computer with the ones on your server so the most-up-to dat version of each file is kept. Before you click Publish (which will sync them), you can see what will happen to each file in the Action column. A Mirror is very similar to an Update, except it creates an exact mirror of the files on your computer on the server. The descriptions at the top of the page can get you really confused about the difference between Mirror and Update if you think too much into it. So, just use the names as guides. Mirror and Update are two different things. Based on what you want to do, choose one. It is nice that Espresso has built-in publishing with many SVN-like (Subversion) commands.

Picture 2.png

Espresso includes support for things called Sugars. These extend Espresso’s CodeSense (they add extra languages). So, Espresso is not confined to XHTML, CSS and JavaScript, it can include any language that has an available Sugar. But, Sugars aren’t just developed by a few people that have the experience, they can be developed by anyone who knows a little XML. But, of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to make your own. You can find an aggregated list at Coffee House. Sugars are great because they allow Espresso to support an infinite amount of languages (you could make your own pointless one even!), but Coda also has a form of them, so this does not lead it too far ahead of the pack.

Along with Sugars, Espresso includes Themes. These can also be downloaded from Coffee House. Themes allow for different syntax highlighting colors. They are similar to those of TextMate or Xcode. Except for the installing part. You have to click Reveal in Finder in the Colors tab of Espresso>Preferences… and then drag the .css file in there. Then, you have to restart Espresso, go back to the preferences and choose it from the list. This isn’t that bad, but it would be nicer if you could just click Instal Theme. Like Sugars, anyone with a knowledge of CSS can easily make an Espresso theme.

Picture 3.png

MacRabbit‘s Espresso retails for about $80 and you can download a trial from the Web site. It’s Sugars and Themes add a nice configurability option and community part to it. It is $20 less than the other popular IDE on the mac for web development. Of course, you can use a text editor and the Terminal for most features it contains, but it provides a beautiful interface with a very nice and clean environment for developing.


46 Responses to “Espresso Review: One-Window Web Developing”

  1. Joe Turner on March 31st, 2009 8:17 am

    I didn’t want the fact that it was in the MacHeist bundle to change people’s opinion. If someone is willing to pay the $80, they should do it for the developer.

  2. Geezer on March 31st, 2009 8:43 am

    Good but not yet as good as BB Edit which has years of development behind it and more ‘occasional but life saving’ features than you can shake a stick at.

    I like Espresso but I think it will need a bit more refinement to seriously challenge BB Edit – then again, if you like many of BB Edit’s features but don’t want to shell out the full whack, you can always go with TextWrangler for software at a price that can’t be beaten.

    Don’t try to use Text Edit unless you have to, there is no way to permanently tick the ‘ignore rich text commands’ box in File>Open and this soon becomes tiresome – also I like colour coded tags.

  3. uri on March 31st, 2009 3:01 pm

    There are also macvim and the – just in case you can’t spend $80 (!) on an IDE, which is limited by it’s Sugars (typically, most useful features of any IDE, and flexibility, come as 3rd party extensions), or need a more powerful tool. Both versions integrate quite nicely with OS X UI.

  4. CaptSaltyJack on March 31st, 2009 3:44 pm

    Espresso apparently doesn’t know how to deal with a PHP page that is mixed with HTML, Javascript, and PHP. If you tell it to comment a block of code, it doesn’t know whether to use // or . Also syntax highlighting is off. This alone is a big bag of fail for web programmers.

    Once they make Espresso context-aware, then it will be a killer app.

  5. Anthony on March 31st, 2009 10:54 pm

    Not a bad review but you missed a few important points which could be dealbreakers for some:

    1. Espresso can only live preview static HTML files. The MacRabbit website seems to indicate that it can live preview just about anything but that’s clearly not the case. Local servers aren’t even supported and anything other than HTML requires you to type in the address of the file and manually hit reload after each edit.

    2. Espresso doesn’t integrate with your media files whatsoever. No image or video previews and dragging these files into a project window simply creates a broken link. So there’s no shortcuts for adding an image to your page – Espresso can’t even detect its dimensions.

    3. The sidebar forgets its settings constantly. Set a file to quick publish and then add it to your workspace. Quick publish is now unchecked. In fact the entire sidebar resets.

    4. And lets not forget the lack of visual CSS editing & X-Ray

    All things considered Espresso isn’t bad but it does need a lot of work.

  6. S on April 1st, 2009 2:05 pm

    Wow, this is a review? Has the reviewer even actually used it for any real web development? Espresso was rushed to release to make the deadline for MacHeist. It’s lacking a _horrible_ amount of basic features. There’s _no_ support for any kind of automatic indentation, for example.

    Basic things that Mac users take for grated, like drag-and-drop support for the Snippets feature, is nowhere to be seen. The whole snippets feature is awfully bad.

    Unless your needs for web development are really limited, definitely wait this one out. Espresso 1.0 is the equivalent of an early beta right now.

  7. jeff on April 7th, 2009 4:42 pm

    One window web development is Codas slogan… rip?

  8. Kirk on April 7th, 2009 6:07 pm

    I really don’t understand how anyone thinks espresso or coda beats BBEdit for quick building. I guess if you really like typing all the code they are great, but most of the time I get a word doc and just cut and paste then have BBEdit attach the tags. Try formatting a number of list items in espresso vs. BBedit, there is no comparison. Buy I do love their CSSEdit!

  9. conan on April 22nd, 2009 3:44 am

    I really, really wanted to like Espresso. A friend raves about CSSEdit, so when this app came up on MacHeist, I spent a few weeks using it to develop a site.

    While it is pretty (but so is my wallpaper), I find myself either fighting it or jumping to other apps for everything but text editing. Fighting the FTP sync to not be so stupid, fighting opening image files to preview, fighting the “live” preview (I get this for free in a browser), fighting having to look up every last CSS attribute (hints?!), etc, etc.

    So sad. It may be good one day, but currently, it’s crap. Back to the tried-and-true TextMate + FF w/ FireBug or Stainless w/ it’s Inspect Element (way to go Mesa Dynamics!).

  10. Anthony on April 22nd, 2009 7:53 am

    “So sad. It may be good one day, but currently, it's crap.”

    Yeah the more I use this program the more I dislike it. It’s very pretty at first glance (what I suppose this review is based upon) but in practice it’s severely limited. You can’t preview images nor can you drag to integrate them so you’re back to the Finder for dimensions. You can’t quickly upload non text files so you’re back to Transmit for FTP. You can’t do visual CSS editing so you’re back to CSS edit.

    Calling Espresso “one gorgeous, focused app” is a bunch of marketing hyperbole. At best its an adequate text editor with lots of extensibility and potential. But I don’t think you’ll find anyone that can actually use this app in its current form for real work. A- is being awfully generous.

  11. T on May 11th, 2009 7:12 pm

    sadly there is not a single editor under mac that supports php including a live debugger.
    there is of course komodo who even highlights you php errors instantly – but its expensive and the free version doesnt even gives you a code browser what makes it to useful as textedit on huge classes. since it is also a very huge app it gets sometimes slow even on my 8 core box – 3 seconds freezes etc. happen every few minutes. it also has problems with my german PC keyboard.

    my workaround right now is to use phpDesigner under vmware fusion…

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  13. Josh K on October 5th, 2009 10:47 pm

    After trying BB Edit, Coda, Espresso, and TextMate (all for various amounts of time and on a project to project basis) I find using TextMate in conjunction with Transmit and MAMP Pro (for locally hosting the project) to be the best combination. Espresso still needs some work, Coda lacks a lot of features I love in TextMate, and BB Edit is just a pain. A lot of people swear by it, but I’m not one of them.

  14. CaptSaltyJack on October 6th, 2009 8:24 pm

    Josh: Just curious, as a Coda user, what does TextMate have that Coda doesn’t have?

  15. Josh K on October 6th, 2009 8:39 pm

    Coda lacks the raw text editing capabilities. For a program that costs $100, you shouldn’t have to manually set the syntax mode. It should read it from the file extension. Little things like when you type a {, TextMate copies it with another }. If you press return it indents and moves the } properly. Things like adjustable tab stops and tag wrapping, are missing from Coda.

    The one thing I dislike about TextMate is it’s lack of project management. I was hoping that Espresso would bridge the gap between TextMate and Coda, but it felt odd.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Coda. For version 1.6.5 it’s a great program. I just prefer TextMate for 99% of the coding. Coda works best for simpler html / minor php based sites while TextMate is great for handling mass amounts of code and manipulating it with ease.

  16. CaptSaltyJack on October 6th, 2009 9:09 pm

    Actually, Coda does recognize file extensions and will put you in the correct syntax mode. I just verified it. Opened up a .js file, and it put me in Javascript mode. Opened up a .php file and it put me in PHP/HTML.

    Now, one problem with Coda, if you’re working with a PHP file, and it has HTML in it, Coda doesn’t know if your cursor is editing within a PHP block or not. I wonder if TextMate does. I’ll have to give it a try, thanks for the info, Josh!

  17. Josh K on October 6th, 2009 9:29 pm

    It recognizes file extensions when you’re opening them up, but if say you open a Site and create a new document, it will automatically assume it’s html (or whatever your default syntax is) even after you save it. Now close it the document and open it back up and everything is good.

    Hadn’t noticed the PHP/HTML thing though. What do you mean about the cursor not knowing? You mean syntax highlighting?

  18. CaptSaltyJack on October 6th, 2009 9:36 pm

    Correct. Highlighting and I believe code completion. It’s not that smart, whereas TextMate’s HTML mode actually knows what a PHP block is, and all the PHP highlighting, code completion, formatting, etc., works perfectly. TextMate rocks, I just wish it had some way of uploading modified files to a server. So I could edit a bunch of PHP files, then say “upload only files I’ve modified.”

  19. Josh K on October 6th, 2009 9:48 pm

    I *love* the publish action in Coda. TextMate’s text engine combined with Coda / Transmit would rock. That’s probably the thing I miss most when using TextMate, that and programming hints / highlighted completion.

    Like I said, I was hoping Espresso would match that, but it falls short on both while still costing an arm and a leg. Coda’s license was worth it to see if it got a lot better around 1.5, but TextMate has paid for itself many times over.

  20. CaptSaltyJack on October 6th, 2009 9:56 pm

    TextMate has some pretty nice code hints and completion though!

    1) Type str_ then hit Option-Esc to get a completion list.
    2) Type str_replace then hit Option-F1 to get a code hint.
    3) Type str_replace then hit Ctrl-H to bring up the official PHP documentation.

    Coda can’t do that. :)

  21. Josh K on October 6th, 2009 10:00 pm

    Did I mention my favorite feature of TextMate? Even after using it for two years I’m still finding out new things!

    Coda can’t, that’s great. Thanks for the tip!

  22. CaptSaltyJack on October 6th, 2009 10:14 pm

    Hah, nice :) And you know about projects, right? File->New Project. Then you drag a folder into the drawer and save the project to a file.. and TextMate gives you easy access to all those files.

    Now all it needs is a way to publish files to a server, and Coda is history! I get the sense that those guys are full of themselves anyway, they don’t listen to user feedback.

  23. Josh K on October 6th, 2009 10:17 pm

    I did know about Projects.

    Let’s hope TextMate version 2 comes out with an integrated project management / ftp solution.

    Panic people are nice. They are quick (comparatively speaking) to respond when you have a question, and I love Transmit. Coda was a bit of a step away from TextMate, but I find myself always falling back on it.

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