Taco HTML Edit

On Monday morning my 17″ LCD monitor decided to kick the bucket. I guess it was time for it to go out, the 3 year warranty expired in January so that’s usually when things go out. Since then I’ve been using my iBook a lot more because it has a brighter display than the CRT monitor I have attached to the PC. Since I’ve been using the iBook more and it is in front of me now, I decided to start using it to work on my website projects.

I had heard of Taco HTML Edit before and had even had it installed. When I first installed it I honestly did not give it a good chance. I guess since I needed to use it I gave it a better chance and I am glad I did. I have found a lot of great features in the software and am really enjoying it so far. Let’s look at some of the features.

Grouping Files As Projects

The first feature that I immediately used was the projects feature. I use this religiously in Macromedia Dreamweaver and was very pleased to see that a similar feature was available in Taco (I think I’m going to be craving tacos by the end of writing this entry). This feature allows you to define a folder as a project. Whenever you open a project you have all the files in that project at hand, you don’t have to go hunting all over the place for everything, it’s really nice.

When you open up a project the files will open in a new window with the files on the left and a text editor window to the right. The window looks really bare from what you see when you first open Taco. There are no icons in the project editor by default. I usually work with projects rather than single pages and I decided to add more icons to the toolbar, it’s easy enough to do: right click on the toolbar and click on customize, drag and drop the desired icons.

Code Clippings

The next feature I want to talk about is clips. You can put code into clips and when you need to insert that code into your file you just click on that code from the clips menu.

It’s like having code permanently copied so you can always paste it. I’ve been using this a lot this past week on a client’s project where I need to use the same biographical header information on several of their artist’s pages.

Tag Organization

I think I’m fairly good at writing code in a clean, easy to understand manner. However there are times that it can become cluttered. Luckily, with Taco you can clean up your code by using “Organize tags” under the Syntax menu.

Normally I would be hesitant to use a feature like this out of fear that it would jumble my code. I’ve used several text editors and they’ve all done a horrible job at this, however, Taco done a really beautiful job of cleaning up the code and making it look really nice on the screen and easy to follow.

Batch Find

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of work with designing WordPress themes for my clients and I like to do most of the work offline. This means I have to link files to a local network server.

Once I am ready to put the project online on the client’s hosting account I have to make sure the links to the local network server are pointing to their domain. I usually use Dreamweaver for this task but I am really pleased to see that a similar feature is available in Taco.

Syntax Checking

Unfortunately we all make mistakes. I make mistakes all the time when I’m writing code, I’ll forgot to close a tag, add a parenthesis, etc. Silly mistakes usually that take time to find. Fortunately, Taco has a built in Syntax checker. It doesn’t check for compliancy with the W3C, but you can do that through their website so it’s really no big deal in my opinion.

Format Tags & Quick Insert

Two features that are pretty useful are the format tags and quick insert feature. The format tags dropdown menu gives you options for making text bold, italic, underlined, etc. These are nice and very useful when you don’t feel like typing the syntax out. The other feature, quick insert is even more useful. It lets you insert punctuation, math symbols, vowels and even Greek characters. I personally really like the Quick Insert feature because I can never remember the numbers that represent each symbol.

Code Preview

When you’re finished writing your code (or while you’re working on it) you can preview your code using either the Preview option which opens the page you are working on in a web browser window or you can use the Live Preview which opens the page you are working on in another window inside of Taco, as you change the page this window will update to reflect the changes you are making.

Color Tags

Taco has a feature that lets you choose colors from a color wheel, however, I was unable to get this feature to work, one of the only features I was unable to get to work. Everytime I would click on it, nothing would open. Fortunately, for me, I usually already have color choices set before I begin working on a project.

What it doesn’t have

Some people will be disappointed by the fact that this application doesn’t have a WYSIWYG editor. I am fine with the fact that it doesn’t because I prefer to code my pages by hand instead of letting an editor do it for me. There are exceptions to this when I just need a simple page, but for the most part, I like to do it myself.

Also, Taco doesn’t have a built in FTP client. For me this is also not an issue because I normally work on files on my local network and once I am done working on the files I’ll normally use a standalone FTP client anyways to upload files to the website I am working on. For some people though, this may be a problem.

Great Alternative

I’ve been using this software for a week now and am extremely impressed with it’s features and simplicity. I am really enjoying it and look forward to using it even more. I personally feel as though this is a great alternative to Macromedia Dreamweaver, especially if you cannot afford it’s hefty pricetag. Taco is free! I greatly appreciate that!

Taco HTML Edit

Aptana Studio

Yesterday morning I downloaded Aptana, it is a web development application much like Macromedia Dreamweaver. I've been using it most of the day to work on a new project and I really like it a lot. I think it is very close to being able to steal away Dreamweaver's customers. Best of all its a free application. Even better than it being free is that it’s a cross platform application. You can run it on Linux, Mac and Windows. I thought I would share with you some of the things I like and some of the things I don't like about it.

What I like:

When you first startup the application you are presented with a getting started guide, I guess you could call it. It shows you where everything is, such as where the files are located, where the code assist view is, where the code checking is. Things like that. It’s really is useful if you're switching from another program.

Whenever you are typing code it will pop up (unobtrusively) and tell you whether the code will work with Firefox or Internet Explorer while it also suggests code to you. I find that very useful and I personally think it would make a person become a better web developer.

Also, whenever you are typing code, if that code is incorrect it will display an error message down in the error checking area of the program. It doesn't come up and beep at you and the best part of it is that it is live, you don't have to wait until you've wrote a whole page of code to find out there is a problem.

One of the other features that I found extremely useful as I was using Aptana yesterday was the code outline view that is always present on the right side of the screen. For example, yesterday I was working on a CSS file for a WordPress website. I needed to quickly get to the part of the code where I defined the style for the sidebar. You can simply scroll down the code outline view and find where you've defined style for a particular element. I really found this to be very useful.

Another feature I found useful but probably not one that I will use very often. I could be wrong, but I didn't use it any yesterday other than to see what it did. There is a way to change the perspective of your coding environment. You can change it to a debugging mode, a team synchronization mode and a resource mode. I'm interested in seeing what the team synchronization mode does and I wonder how it would work.

As I worked with Aptana yesterday I realized that I was able to more quickly identify problems with my code and also, I was able to see errors in my code from the previous day that I never saw in Dreamweaver. One of the reasons for this is because of the layout of Aptana. Its got the code centered on the screen. The second reason is due to the live error checking feature. With Dreamweaver I always forget to open the validation panel and validate my code.

What I don't like:

Like Dreamweaver, with Aptana you can define your website into a project. This bundles all of your files together into a folder. I really like this feature a lot. The only problem that I had with it was that whenever I would close Aptana and re-open it I could not figure out how I could re-open that project. You can navigate to the folders using the file viewing window but I could not figure out how to re-open a project.

Something that some people will immediately be disappointed with if they use Aptana is that it does not contain a WYSIWYG environment. For me this is fine because I never (try not to) use the WYSIWYG environment in Dreamweaver. If you do use that feature of Dreamweaver you will miss it in Aptana because it is simply a coding program.

One thing that I do miss with Aptana is whenever I am typing code in Dreamweaver and I need a color, Dreamweaver will pop up a dialog with colors I can choose. I really like that a lot but I know I should probably be more prepared for what colors I am wanting to use 😉

Final Thoughts:

I really like it. I am planning on at least trying to use this as my main web development program. I know there are still a few problems with it but from what I saw yesterday, I really like it. I also think that there is finally a shift for more good free and open source web development applications that are cross platform. Also, they're not even a version 1.0 application yet and they've already got a lot of great features. I'll definitely be happy to see what they can come up with between now and version 1.0.

Aptana: The Web IDE

Article update: Thursday, September 11, 2008: I’ve updated this article with new screen shots. Unfortunately, I was unable to acquire a copy of Aptana build 0.2.0.10299 which is what the review above is based on. I’ve been re-doing the screen shots here on TechButter so that they all look good with the new theme. In my opinion, the layout and design of Aptana has only been slightly altered.

Since publishing this article in 2006 I have been using Aptana a lot. There was a while when I was developing with Taco HTML Editor but now that I have my PC back up and running I am using Aptana again. I would have used it on the Mac but it was way too slow on there.

I am pleased to report that the problem I mentioned above regarding the project management feature has been fixed and improved. You can now create a project and easily return to it after you close and re-open the program.

There are a couple of things that bug me with the latest version. First, as you open files there is a Java program that opens called “theAwtToolkitWindow.” I personally find it really annoying. Second, I wish there was a way to turn off the code auto complete.

Otherwise, I think it’s a great application and they are constantly improving it. There are now two versions. A free version and a professional version which costs $100. They have additional purchasing options. Also, they have a couple of new products: Aptana Jaxer and Aptana Cloud.