Despite arguments over how to categorize an iPad, it’s undeniable that the device is capable of much more than watching YouTube videos. Apps like Photoshop Touch are crossing out entries on the list of what an iPad can’t do, while the new iPad’s display blows computer displays out of the water.
Today, we’ll be looking at coding on the iPad, specifically Koder Code Editor by iCodeLabs. Koder is a code editor that attempts to turn the iPad into a coding machine. Is it capable of doing the job of a traditional code editor, or is it just another swanky entry in the book of the underpowered? Read on to find out.
To put it frankly, Koder looks good, very good for that matter. Compared to Textastic’s chrome interface, Koder’s color scheme is a pleasant change. The tab bar is the perfect size and a pleasing color, and even the document icons look great. iCodeLabs has also done a fantastic job with the customized keyboard row, tossing the traditional chrome keys out, in favor of something with a bit more style.
Not happy with the default theme? Create new themes in the theme editor.
Despite these niceties, the app doesn’t make it easy to learn the ropes. The first thing that appears to users, upon opening the app for the first time, is a blank window surrounded by cryptic icons. What do these buttons do? The help menu is invaluable here, but the user is left to pick through the various icons until he or she discovers it.
Coding apps are all about connections, and Koder offers several types:
- iTunes Sharing
The connection types are separated into tabs, with “local” serving as a way to work offline. Most users will rely on SFTP/FTP to update their web projects and files. Create a new SFTP/FTP project by pressing the globe tab and tapping the compose icon. This brings up the new project menu, where users can customize settings, including connection type. Once the connection settings are in place, it’s possible to view and edit existing documents or create new documents and folders. Koder’s supported files are limited to the file types that it can edit, so don’t plan on viewing any web images.
FTP projects can be "synced" locally and vice versa. Tap the sync button in the manage menu and select a sync destination. Swipe the destination, tap manage, and select "Do Synchronize." Sync isn’t automatic and this painful process must be repeated each time. Instead of syncing a project, users can also download single files, or edit and upload changes directly to the FTP project folder.
Dropbox integration is very similar to that of FTP. Once users input their Dropbox credentials they can create Dropbox projects based on paths to existing Dropbox folders. Dropbox documents and folders can be downloaded to the local directory but, unlike FTP items, there’s no project sync option.
Koder supports syntax highlighting for many of the most common languages; however, Markdown is a notable omission. Overall, syntax highlighting works very well, and users can also customize the appearance of syntax highlighting in the theme settings.
Typing on the iPad can be a pain, especially when using symbols that require multiple taps, like brackets. Koder adds an additional row of keys that includes the basic bracket and quotation necessities, as well as tab, undo/redo, and cursor positioning. These additional keys, along with the auto-closing punctuation, makes typing on the iPad pretty painless, but those looking to do some intense typing will be thankful for Koder’s Bluetooth keyboard support. Unfortunately, Bluetooth users will have to close their own brackets, because the auto-close feature only works while using the on-screen keyboard.
Swipe left or right on the add-on keys to reveal additional punctuation keys.
Koder relies on snippets for commonly used bits of code. Snippets are chunks of code that can be inserted into a document. Users can create new snippets and categorize them for easier sorting and access. Snippets are necessary because the app lacks TextExpander support, which is baffling.
This is one of the app’s greatest shortfalls, because it’s simply not worth spending the time to enter all of the TextExpander custom code snippets into Koder’s snippet library. Unlike Textastic, Koder does not enter the necessary document info when creating certain documents, like html files for example. This means that a custom html document snippet is a must if users plan on creating html files on a regular basis.
Preview is an integral part of any web design workflow, and Koder includes a useful preview feature. Each project has a dedicated preview url that can be set in the project settings menu. Tap the preview eye in the menu bar to bring up the preview URL, view the URL source, or open Firebug.
The preview feature is useful but inconsistent across connections. The FTP preview doesn’t preview the current document in the editor but a predefined url. Dropbox, on the other hand does preview the document. This can be confusing, especially when trying to preview an FTP document. Koder previews html files relatively well, but those looking for Markdown previews will find themselves out of luck.
Koder has potential, but it lacks two key features that prevent it from being truly useful. The most glaring omission is TextExpander. It seems that iCodeLabs is dedicated to its snippet editor, but inputting code into this system is a huge time sink. Syntax highlighting works well in Koder, but apps like Textastic are raising the bar with features like code completion.
This lack of vital features means that Koder doesn’t quite hold up to competitors like Textastic, and that’s a shame because the app’s visual design is top-notch. It’s also worth noting that Koder is somewhat less expensive than its competitors, but I’m sure that most would be willing to pay a bit more for additional features. As of now, Koder is useful for making small changes to websites, but it has a long way to go before it can replace desktop go-tos like Espresso.