Gusto: Slick Web Development on Your iPad

If you’ve dabbled in web development before, you know it’s a pretty involved activity; using the browser, a development application, an image editor, references, and more. It’s hard to imagine how this could be transferred on to an iPad, where you work in single window apps exclusively.

If you’re expecting the experience of Coda you should turn back now, but if you want the ability to fix a critical error or add something for a client on the go, Gusto might be the perfect app for you!

Getting Started

Gusto has a slightly different workflow than you might be used to, but this small alteration helps a lot in keeping things simple and manageable. Just like in Coda, you first create projects for your websites. Once done, you can go into your projects and connect via FTP. You will see a list of files and folders, and you will need to chose some to download to your localhost, your on-the-iPad stash of files. Once you have downloaded them, the files can be modified, and subsequently uploaded back onto the server.

The fact that you have to choose files from the FTP server instead of having the whole list at your disposal is a tremendous productivity booster. First of all, your view won’t be cluttered, and more importantly, once you’ve downloaded the files, there is no waiting time when opening them.

Managing Your Projects

The project management screen in Gusto.

The project management window is built in much the same way as Coda’s. Your projects are arranged on a grid, represented by thumbnails which are generated from the URL you add when creating the project. This results in a very nice, visual experience, you kind of want to start working!

You can easily add new projects or modify existing ones using a simple form and adding some basic data. You can assign a title and a url to the project, and add the FTP details. Gusto supports the ftp and sftp protocols, the designation of port numbers and starting directories.

Time to Start Coding

Once inside a project, you will have to connect to the server, select files you want to use, and then download those files. Navigating through directories is effortless, and quite fast. Once done, you can open files and start editing.

The editor supports syntax highlighting, custom themes, line wrapping, tabbed editing, and encoding, which make Gusto a treat to use – but does it actually allow you to do your work properly?

I would definitely argue that it does. While I would not recommend trying to code Facebook from scratch, the editing experience is comfortable enough to make quick changes to projects or to perfect that image handling function you’ve wanted to get around to for ages.

One of the best features of the editor is a small line above the keyboard which contains frequently used coding keys, like the less than and greater than sign, parentheses, and so on. This makes banging out code a heck of a lot easier, however, I quite miss having an equals sign in there.

Frequently used coding symbols at your fingertips.

The file browser on the left allows you to open selected files in other apps (Evernote, Plain Text, etc.), create new files, and add files to the local repository from the FTP server. It can also be hidden altogether, giving you more space to create some ground breaking classes.

Once you are happy with your editing you can preview your work, or connect to the FTP server again and simply upload all (or selected) files. Since Gusto is not an IDE, the preview will be more difficult to use on server side scripts, but with HTML-only sites it works perfectly.

When you fill out the site URL in the projects setup form, be sure to use the “domain.com” format, do not add “http://” to the beginning as the app adds it on its own even if you have done so as well, so it will try and preview “http://http://domain.com”.

The main editor view.

The Design

I was pretty happy with the overall look and feel of Gusto. I do have some usability issues (more on this later), but from a purely design point of view, the app is great.

Some elements are clearly borrowed from Coda, which is a positive thing for sure, while some elements are from the more traditional iPad style. I especially like the project view, which looks like Coda’s, the only elements I don’t like are very minor (like the iPad style file list encased inside the Gusto style border).

Usability

While I have already said that I think Gusto is a competent editor, how easy is it to use? Will you be pulling out your hair due to mis-types and mis-clicks?

The feature I would like included most is TextExpander support. While you have dedicated curly braces buttons, it would still be easier to type “sfunc” to create a skeleton function structure. This is of course in part the iPad’s fault inherently, but since TextExpander is readily available and integration is not a huge task, I think that for a project which relies on input so different from regular text, this is a must.

Another feature set I would warmly welcome is the ability to manipulate lines. Using two fingers to select text sections would be phenomenal, and having a few dedicated buttons in that top line for deleting, duplicating lines, going up/down a line could also speed up some coding tasks.

A minor issue I found is that it would be nicer to have a handle on the right side of the file browser which you could use to slide it away, instead of having to go to the options to toggle it on or off.

Conculsion

I use Gusto for three things. I need to be able to fix any doomsday bugs on my sites wherever I may be, I need to be able to jot down some ideas for classes and functions, with the opportunity to test them out as I go along, and I need to be able to add documentation to code, which I sometimes do after the fact – a perfect activity to pass some time and do something useful.

For all these, Gusto is a near perfect application. It could use some extra features and some fixes, but what app couldn’t? If you have similar needs, I can heartily recommend this product. The closest contender to Gusto is Markup for iPad, but while at the same price, I found it wanting in many respects. I like the design and the workflow less, but most importantly, it does seem to crash quite a bit. It only crashed once on me after using it for a few hours, but even that isn’t great.

At $9.99 it is not the cheapest app out there, but the ability to do what I need it to do is well worth that amount for me. Overall, Gusto is a very capable web development app. It doesn’t offer the full feature set of a desktop application, but is excellent for on the go editing of online files.


Summary

Gusto is a very capable web development app. It doesn't offer the full feature set of a desktop application, but is excellent for on the go editing of online files.

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