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

InnoTek VirtualBox

I only learned about this product a few weeks ago. This is the only virtualization product that is currently available for Windows, Linux and Mac hosts that is also free and open source. It’s developed by a very large community and is backed by InnoTek. Products like this tend to go very far because they have a large developer base who are willing to put their personal time into the product and make it an even better product. I’m very interested in seeing how well VirtualBox performs compared to the two others I have reviewed previously. It’s got big shoes to fill after the Parallels review. Let’s see if it’s up to the challenge.

Instead of installing Windows Vista and Fedora Core into VirtualBox like I did with the other two virtualization products. I decided that since I received my pressed copies of Ubuntu Linux 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) in the mail today, I would install it as a VirtualBox guest operating system. I feel as though I can still judge the product by how well Ubuntu performs in it.

When you startup the application you are presented with a professional looking application. I like the fact that they don’t require you to go through a wizard before you even look at the software. I personally like to get my feet wet, have a look around and see what all I can do before I set up a virtual machine.

Once you do decide to set up a virtual machine. Everything is fairly simple. The only points in the wizard that might concern some people are that you have to manually set up the virtual hard disk drive and it asks you which kernel the Linux distribution you are installing uses. Setting up the virtual drive is pretty simple with the “New Virtual Disk Wizard.” The Linux kernel can usually be found on the Linux distribution vendor’s website or by simply googling around. For Ubuntu Feisty Fawn, the kernel is 2.6 (I think and hope, that’s what I’m going to use at least!). Also, the wizard asks you to choose whether you want a dynamically expanding image or a fixed-size image. Dynamically expanding means that you give the virtual drive a size that it is allowed to reach, but, you won’t take up that much space on your host’s hard drive unless you actually do fill up the virtual hard drive. The fixed-size image pre-allocates the space you want for the virtual machine on the host machine. This option was available with the two other products I have reviewed previously but it wasn’t as apparent. The default in those applications was to use a dynamically expanding image.

After setting up the guest machine I noticed in the details panel for the guest machine that a CD/DVD-ROM device was not mounted. In the previous products the host’s drive was mounted automatically. This isn’t necessarily a problem. In fact I guess it’s a good thing that you have to choose in case that drive is already in use.

The way the latest versions of Ubuntu Linux work is that to install the operating system you now have to do it after you have started up the Live CD. For a Live CD running in a virtual machine, I think it ran pretty well. Let’s see how well it does after installing it directly into the virtual machine.

Getting use to the way you unfocus your host’s keyboard and mouse is a lot different than all the virtual machine products I have ever used. With VirtualBox you have to press the down arrow and then press the right option key. You can’t do it quickly and you can’t do it very long either or it won’t take effect and release control back to the host. I’m not crazy about that, but I’ll get use to it.

Once I got Ubuntu Linux installed into the virtual machine, which installed without any problems, the performance was really good. The menus and windows didn’t flicker when you opened or moved them. Applications opened pretty quickly. OpenOffice.org opened quickly, which is pretty impressive for OpenOffice, especially since it’s in a virtual machine. Usually I get extremely poor performance from OpenOffice in virtual machines which is why I normally install AbiWord into my Linux virtual machines.

VirtualBox has their equivalent of VMware’s “VMware Tools” and Parallel’s “Parallels Tools.” Theirs is called “Guest Additions.” Unfortunately I was unable to install this set tools to gauge how much better the performance would get. However if you were able to install these additions you would get the added benefit of having shared folders and probably better video performance.

Another cool feature that is available in VirtualBox is the ability to connect to your virtual machine remotely and control it. The feature is really nice because you can connect to the virtual machine from any machine on the network using RDP. VMware Server (for the PC) has a somewhat similar feature where you can install the VMware Server Client onto any machine on the network and connect to a virtual machine and work with it just as if you were at the console the virtual machine is running on. The VirtualBox feature is really nice because you can simply connect via an RDP client.

I was disappointed with the screen resolution selection that was available to me in my guest machine. The highest resolution in Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) was 1024×768. When you make the guest machine full screen, it doesn’t actually go full screen, it doesn’t stretch out. It’s simply a 1024×768 window on a black background, which was annoying.

VirtualBox has a way to backup your virtual machine’s current state and restore it at a later time. VirtualBox calls this Snapshots, as do VMware products. The only thing that sets Fusion and VirtualBox’s snapshot feature apart is that in VirtualBox you have the ability to give a description of the snapshot.

Overall I am impressed with the performance and features of InnoTek Virtual Box. The performance wasn’t as impressive as it was with Parallel’s desktop but it was better than the performance I got with VMware Fusion. If you can’t afford the $79 price tag of Parallels then I highly recommend InnoTek VirtualBox. With the fact that they are releasing updates fairly frequently I believe the product will continue to get better.

InnoTek VirtualBox

Article update: Wednesday, October 8, 2008: – I have been re-doing screen shots for all the articles on TechButter as you may have noticed. When I re-did the screen shots for this post I was unable to install Ubuntu into a virtual machine due to time constraints.

VirtualBox has been acquired by Sun Microsystems. They have released several versions since the review above. Looking at the reviews around the net it looks as though the application is continuing to get even better.

VMware Fusion

NOTE: Please see the end of this entry for updated information about this product and what has changed in this article since the original posting.

I finally have the opportunity to try out VMware Fusion. I am staying at a house this week for a family member who just purchased a new iMac. While they’re gone on vacation I’m going to try out a lot of Mac software that I’ve been looking forward to playing with. First up is Fusion from VMware.

When you first launch the application you are presented with the options of either creating a new virtual machine or downloading one. This reminds me a lot of “Q” (a free, open source virtualization project) which presents you with similar options. With VMware Fusion you will find a lot more options because of their growing Virtual Appliance Marketplace which is growing every single day with new virtual machines. VMware’s Virtual Appliance Marketplace gives users the ability to try out software before they install it or have to commit hardware to an application.

For the review of VMware Fusion I am simply going to install a copy of Fedora Core 6 and I may also try Windows Vista Release Candidate 1; which I received several months ago before Vista was released in January of this year (2007). It’s outdated, but it will give me an idea of how VMware Fusion and this iMac performs.

When you get to the point in the wizard where you tell VMware which operating system you are going to be installing; there is still no option for Fedora, which, really annoys me. It’s not listed in VMware Server for the PC either. You simply have to select “Linux” and then “Other Linux”. I can understand that they cannot list every single distribution but it seems as though Fedora has a large enough user base to be added to the list. Though, I’m sure users of every distribution would say that.

There isn’t a whole lot of difference in the wizard on the PC and the Mac versions of VMware products. Easy. Simple. Wording is the same. When you have finished setting up the virtual machine you are presented with the settings for that virtual machine, just like you are with their PC virtualization products. The windows of course look different since VMware Fusion is for the Mac. All of the default settings are the same as well, such as memory is at it’s standard 256 MB.

There is an option to accelerate graphics. Unfortunately, it says that it is only available to Windows XP Service Pack 2 guest virtual machines.

Another interesting option which at the moment I do not recall being on the PC version is the ability to pass battery status to the virtual machine. This would be useful if you were in full screen mode a lot and were using a laptop.

When you start up a virtual machine it tells you that the software is running in debugging mode. I read a few days ago that you can disable this to increase the performance of the virtual machine. For now, I am going to leave it enabled and see if I notice any side effects.

Unfortunately when I got to the point in the Fedora Core installation I had to shutdown and remove the hard drive and re-add one, this time making sure the option was IDE. I have this same problem with Fedora on VMware Server for the PC.

NOTE: Please see article update at the bottom of this post regarding the new screen shots for this post.

Once I got Fedora Core 6 installed, the performance wasn’t all that great. I decided since the iMac I am running this on has 1GB of RAM, I would increase the virtual machine’s memory to 512 MB and disable the debugging code. The performance did increase somewhat however it would have been a lot better if I were on a faster Internet connection so I could install the required software from the YUM repositories to install VMware Tools.

One thing that I did not like is that in the PC versions of VMware’s products there is an “Inventory View” which shows you all of your virtual machines. Using the Inventory View allows you to easily delete un-wanted virtual machines. In VMware Fusion however, there is not an easy way to delete the virtual machine in the application, that I know of. You can’t drag it off into the trash, right click on it and delete, none of the menu options allow you to delete any of them. I simply deleted the virtual disk from the hard drive to free up the disk space. By doing this, the virtual machine is no longer listed in the Virtual Machine Library list that appears when you start the application.

Once I shut down the Fedora Core installation I decided to throw caution to the wind and install Windows Vista, the Release Candidate I received several months ago. I say throw caution to the wind but the beauty of virtual machines is that the actual computer is protected from being corrupted.

An interesting feature that is available to Windows virtual machines is the ability to use the “Windows Easy Install.” I decided to try this option just to see how well it would work and exactly what it would do. Using this option you give a username, password and your product key before the virtual machine is even started and the operating system installation is underway. It also gives you the option to have your OS X home folder accessible to the virtual machine by default so you can pass files easily between virtual and host machines.

Windows Vista installed without any problems. I didn’t have to answer any questions during the installation. Fortunately, for those who are installing Vista on real hardware they can get this same feature by using vLite. The performance of Vista was decent, much better than it was in a virtual machine on my PC and it was even better than it was when it was installed directly onto my PC.

Two features that VMware Fusion is missing is the ability to take a screen shot or video of the virtual machine that is currently running. These are great features for writing tutorials or showing someone how to do something. I assume that these features will make it into future editions, once they start charging for the product. Video recordings of a virtual machine are only options you can get with VMware Workstation, which is not free. However, capturing screen shots is available in the free VMware Server.

Overall I am very impressed with VMware Fusion. I think VMware has done a great job of creating a virtualization product for the Mac. I’m very happy to see that VMware is going after the virtualization marketplace on the Mac because they have always been my favorite vendor in the PC virtualization marketplace. In a way I am upset to see that VMware Fusion is only available for the newer Intel based Macs, but, with that said, the performance of the new Intel based Macs combined with VMware Fusion comes together for a great virtual computing experience.

VMware Fusion

Article update: Wednesday, October 11, 2008: I have updated this article with screen shots from the latest version of this product. Please note that in the article I talk about installing Fedora Core 6 but you are now seeing screen shots of a virtual machine running with Ubuntu 7.04. I’ve been updating the screen shots on TechButter so that they look great with the new, wide theme.

A few things to tell you about the updated product. First of all, the default memory. In the article above I mention that the default memory is 256 MB for virtual machines. They have bumped this to 512 MB as the default.

A neat feature of VMware Fusion that is either new or a feature that I missed when I wrote the original article is OS detection. If you have an operating system disc in the drive when you are creating a virtual machine and VMware Fusion recognizes it, you can use it’s custom settings for that operating system. I used Ubuntu 7.04 which is an outdated version of Ubuntu and was surprised to see that it recognized it.

The fact that there are pre-defined settings for various distributions of Linux and the various operating systems is a really great feature. It allows the developers to make the virtual machine work a lot better. Sound files played without having to install any additional software, which usually, you have to do when you’re working with Linux virtual machines.

The performance of running virtual machines in VMware Fusion has been increased. I don’t think it’s just the fact they changed the default memory from 256 MB of RAM to 512 MB. I think the actual coding of Fusion has been improved to allow a better performance.

I mention above that deleting virtual machines was difficult to find. Deleting virtual machines in the most current version isn’t obvious, but maybe that’s a good thing. It is in the menus, though.

I really hate that I cannot remember whether or not the version I originally reviewed had the “Unity” feature or not. However, the latest version does. Here is the description of “Unity” from VMware’s website:

Run Windows applications like Mac applications, quickly switching between Mac and Windows applications, minimizing Windows applications to your Dock, and even store Windows applications in your Dock to launch at a moment’s notice.

Unity works pretty much the same way Parallel’s “Coherence” mode works. I think all the Mac virtualization product vendors are making sure to implement that as a standard feature.

Unfortunately, there is still not an easy way to quickly capture screen shots or video from VMware Fusion. You would think that VMware would implement this feature since Fusion is their virtualization product for the Mac.

There are a ton of other features. I didn’t even begin to scratch the surface due to time constraints. Learn more about VMware Fusion’s features.

As of writing this article update I have to say that I would recommend Parallels Desktop over VMware Fusion and VirtualBox. I think it works better and has a better feature set.

MarsEdit

I was telling a friend about my experience with offline blogging software. He pointed me to MarsEdit. I hadn’t heard of it before, it wasn’t a free application. I usually don’t download anything but free software. This time I did download it and after using MarsEdit for a couple of weeks I decided to buy it. I have been using it ever since. I like it a lot and want to talk about what I like and some of the things that I would like to see in the application.

Why do I need this type of software?

You may be wondering what the point is in having offline blogging software. The main reason is because when I want to write a blog entry I hate having to open the browser, go to the blog, login and make a new entry. I’ve had bad experiences with writing blog posts and emails in the browser window. I am scared to death while I write my post the browser is going to crash! I know a lot of blogging software such as WordPress saves your post while you’re working on it. In my experience though, it’s never enough!

Another reason for offline blogging software is if you are like me and you have multiple blogs, it is really nice to be able to update them all from a convenient location. Currently, I have 4 blogs plugged into MarsEdit. Whenever I need to make a post on one of them I can simply open the application and make the post. Also, if I see a mistake that I have made in my entry it’s so much easier to open MarsEdit, make the change and re-submit instead of having to go to the browser, to the blog, re-login, etc. I can blog much more easily and more often!

What I like about MarsEdit

First of all I have to say I absolutely love the MarsEdit icon! I know I don’t talk about the icons of applications a lot but this is one of my absolute favorite icons. It’s very sexy on my dock!

There are a lot of great features in MarsEdit but there are not a ton of icons cluttering up the application. It’s very simple and clean and I really like that. Instead of having an icon for every little thing there is a drop down menu with a lot of options for inserting HTML or custom tags. I also love the fact that there are keyboard shortcuts for a lot of these, especially the command to paste a link (Option + Command + A).

For each blog you have, you can set up different options. You can choose what warnings you want to receive before your entry is posted; such as warning you if you’ve not set a category or entered a title for your post. You can also choose which services you would like to ping to let the blogging world know that you’ve just made a new entry on your blog.

I also really like the simplicity of the “Save as Draft” button. You click the button as many times as you’d like while you are working on your entry. If you exit the application you can come back and work on it at a later time. But what I really like about it is the fact that whenever I finish the post and I post it to my blog it is no longer in my drafts folder. In my opinion it’s a much better option than using the typical “Save” or “Save As.”

What I’d like to see in MarsEdit

The first change to the application that I would like to see is whenever you are uploading images to your post that the application know which blog you are working on and upload to the appropriate folder.

Using MarsEdit you can choose whether people can leave comments & TrackBacks for your entries. However, you cannot make a password protected post, change the slug, or many of the other things you can do with a WordPress blog.

Although I really love this application and am glad that I made the purchase of it; there is one more thing that I would really like to see added into this application. That is the ability to make new categories. You can select from already created categories but you can’t make new ones (to my knowledge). I have to post the entry and then go to the website and add the proper categories. Granted, I’d have to go to the website anyways to make sure the entry was posted correctly. It would just be really nice not to have to log back in if everything else is correct just to add a category.

I know what you’re probably thinking after reading those two paragraphs above and I’m going to address it right now. Since this application is a cross platform (supports many content management systems) blogging tool; it would be extremely difficult to get every single option that all the blogging platforms offer into the application. I don’t think it would be impossible but it would be difficult because there are always new features to all of these blogging platforms. Also, I am sure there are some limits as to what developers can implement with some blogging systems due to the fact that some systems are closed source.

Do I recommend this application to others?

Yes, I most certainly do recommend it. Since purchasing the application I have blogged a whole lot more because of it. It’s so nice just to be able to open up an application and start blogging. I realize there are other applications out there, even free alternatives. In my opinion none of them can compare to the ease of use of MarsEdit or how fast it works (the others took FOREVER to launch and were very clumsy). MarsEdit offers a LOT of features, I barely scratched the surface! I feel as though my $24.95 was well spent!

MarsEdit from Red Sweater Software

Article update: Wednesday, October 1, 2008: I have updated this article with screen shots from the latest version. I also updated the grammar, at least, I tried to. I have been updating the screen shots on TechButter so that the pages look uniform with the new theme.

The image uploading tool has been improved. You can now specify which blog you are uploading to. When you do open the image uploading tool it connects to the blog you are currently working on. You can now choose from previously uploaded images or images in your catalog. Also, you can connect MarsEdit to Flickr and use images in your account.

The ability to make new categories has been added. Also, you can now change the post slug (what the URL of the post will be). You can also edit the post excerpt and the tags. To my knowledge there is no way to password protect a post using MarsEdit.

I have to be honest with you. Although I really love MarsEdit and have paid for the updated version, I don’t use it as much as I use to. If I were on my Mac more often I probably would. Since getting a new monitor for my PC I’ve been using my Windows machine as my primary workstation again and I post entries to my blog using my web browser. I do think MarsEdit is a great application and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for that type of functionality.