What we know about Coda 2 (and we know a lot)

Coda 2, the next major version of Panic’s fantastic code editor, will be released by the end of July.

How do I know? Because the developers said so! They may keep quiet on their blog and with the press, but the folks at Panic are more open on Twitter – specifically with their replies. I’ve compiled a pretty nice list of features and details for Coda 2 by going through the developer’s @ replies since the first of the year.

Pricing

The Panic folks have tweeted a lot about pricing, but it seems they are still figuring out what they are going to do – there are some contradictory statements. I’m positive they will still be selling both directly through their own store and through the Mac App Store, but I’m not sure on upgrade pricing or price differences between the two channels.

They will be launching the app on the Mac App Store as a new product (Reference). Since the Mac App Store has no paid upgrades there won’t be any upgrade path available. What’s not clear is whether there will be upgrade pricing when buying from Panic directly. They use the ambiguous phrase “Coda 2 will be a paid upgrade” (Reference and Reference), which could mean either that there is upgrade pricing, or that just like in the MAS, you pay full price for the new version.

And what if you buy Coda 1 today and Coda 2 comes out next week? That one is also a little hazy, with one tweet promising a discount and another, from the very next day, promising a free upgrade.

My personal opinion after reading through hundreds of their tweets, many referencing their intention to price as fairly as possible, is that they are leaning towards the “discount for a limited time” approach with both distribution channels (Reference and Reference).

It’s a Big Update

The developers have dropped a couple of hints that there is a lot coming in Coda 2. If you’re familiar with Panic’s other product, Transmit, they say that Coda 2 will be a bigger jump over Coda 1 than Transmit 4 was over Transmit 3.

Confirmed Features

Likely Features

Assuming the reply “It’s a popular request” is confirmation.

Not Happening

Caveat

Although this all comes direct from the developers, plans can change and nothing is final until it’s released. So if August rolls around and Coda 2 still isn’t out, well, that’s software for you.

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Goals 2012

Setting goals has always been something I enjoy. Achieving them is okay, but it’s more the setting. They’re kind of like working out some new way to organize the files on your desktop or some new workflow for handling to-dos. They make you feel like you’re getting somewhere, even though in reality it rarely makes a difference.

Despite that, just like sometimes a reorganized desktop does make you more productive, I believe setting goals can lead to better outcomes.

Launch personal project

Sometime last year I came across an idea for a web site that felt like it had ten times more potential than anything else I had ever come up with.

In other words, it’s feasible.

More importantly, it was an idea I was enthusiastic about because it aligns with my passions. I’ve done a terrible job of doing any work on it recently, but my goal still stands: launching 2012.

Start MBA

This is a follow on to my goal last year to take the GMAT. At this rate I’ll have my MBA by 2023.

Respond within 24 hours

A repeat of last year. If you know me, you know this goal will probably be needed every year.

Coordinate church prayers

In my church I’m responsible for coordinating the opening and closing prayer (or “invocation” and “benediction” if you’re like that) every week. I hate doing it. And I’m really good at not doing things I hate.

I’m supposed to call around and ask people beforehand, but sometime last year I slipped into just waiting until the morning of and asking whoever got to church early. My goal for this year is to actually do what I’m supposed to and coordinate them ahead of time. So far I’m doing pretty well with this one.

Blog once a week

Check! Well, for this week, at least. Part of the logic behind this goal was that I had 51 drafts in WordPress, almost one a week. I think I’m at around 60 drafts now so this should be easy, right? If I had to prioritize my goals this would be near the top.

Run three times a week

Wow. Yeah, um. I’ve run once? Maybe I meant three times a year.

Let’s just pretend it’s January.

If a building has only two floors an…

If a building has only two floors, an elevator only ever has one travel option (to the floor opposite the current one), so why even bring the numbers “1” and “2” into it? Not to mention that the “Close” button never responds, “Open” is pointless – ARGH!

In Alice’s world, “the books would be nothing but pictures,” and in mine, elevators in two-story buildings would have no buttons at all. When passengers stepped in, the doors would close, the elevator would move to the opposite floor, and the doors would again open. I can see a case for keeping the button marked “Alarm”. Maybe.

Christa Mrgan

What is vid.io?

http://twitter.com/#!/vidio/status/131350274378964992

Joshua Topolsky and the others that fled Engadget launched their new site today, The Verge. I found one of the groups Topolsky thanked in his announcement post particularly interesting:

vid.io The product that powers our video. These guys are about to change the game with their technology, and we are so happy to be early adopters.

I had never heard of vid.io before. Visiting the site reveals nothing but a sign up box for future updates. Who is behind vid.io? What makes them different from the other players? And how did they get Topolsky and the team at The Verge on board?

Unsurprisingly, there are some heavy hitters involved. Vid.io was founded by one of the co-founders of Viddler, Rob Sandie. Sandie served as Viddler’s president for six years until he was forced out in July of this year. Seems like he got back on his feet pretty quickly. As to the size and makeup of the rest of the team, that’s still a mystery to me at this point.

What makes vid.io special? According to their Twitter account, it’s HTML5, kryptonite, and unicorn tears. I’m guessing two of those are to throw us off the trail.

Indeed, it appears that one of the key features of the video player is that it defaults to HTML5. Even if Flash is installed vid.io videos do not use Flash if HTML5 will work. This is in contrast to most of the major players in video (such as Vimeo, Brightcove, and even Viddler) that default to Flash and fallback to HTML5. It’s a welcome shift, too – with other video platforms it can be frustrating to know that an HTML5 version exists (because a video is viewable on iOS devices), yet Flash is required when viewing from a desktop browser.

The choice to favor HTML5 may be the key selling point. In that same “unicorn tears” tweet, the vid.io team writes, “Yep, we just killed Flash.”

Topolsky is clearly a forward-thinking guy, so it’s no surprise that he would like a video player that looks to the future – HTML5 – rather than the past. And by working with a video platform that was just starting they probably got to influence the product more than they could have with the other video platforms. According to the Twitter support account for The Verge, the video player on the site is “a custom project in conjunction with our friends over at vid.io”.

I think there is a lot of room for disruption in the online video space, so I’m excited to see where vid.io goes. They are certainly off to a strong start.

iOS File Browser

Steve Jobs said that iCloud was the end of the road for document storage on iOS at WWDC in June.

I don’t believe it. There are too many loose ends remaining. What about uploading files through the browser? What about attaching files to an email? What about organizing my files across apps? What about being able to open the same file in multiple apps? Yes, iCloud takes care of the multiple device issue (assuming OS X gets caught up with iCloud document syncing soon – seriously, where is the OS X iWork update that enables iCloud?), but there are so many use cases that iCloud doesn’t address.

Don’t worry, though. I’ve got solutions. First solution: Give up on the hope that iOS will one day have a central file store. “Open in…” is here to stay. File storage has been app-centric on iOS since the beginning. The design of iCloud guarantees that won’t change. Sorry. Take that dream of a “Files” application that works like the “Photos” application out back and shoot it in the head.

My solution for file uploads in Safari and attachments in Mail isn’t so brutal. It is obvious, however: give us a file browser, but give us one that works with the way iOS works. Just because we need an interface to select a file doesn’t mean that it has to work like traditional file selection interfaces. iOS doesn’t have file folders, it has apps. So show us our apps in the file browser. Apple’s already done this, it’s just not in iOS yet. Remember file sharing in iTunes?

iTunes File Sharing

Please Apple, let us use this in iOS.

I should probably unmercifully execute my last solution for organizing files across apps just like I murdered my hopes of a “Files” application, but I just can’t let go of it yet. Here it is: what if our mythical file browser had a second option for organizing your files in addition to the app-based way? What if, say, you could view all your files grouped by tags? And what if those tags were a system-wide service? This is probably too much complexity, but I would love it if I could choose between “By App” and “By Tag” organization in this (still mythical) file browser. “By App” would show me a list of apps and allow me to drill down into the files in each app. “By Tag” would show me a list of my tags (system-wide, remember) and allow me to drill down to the files in each tag, regardless of which app they were found in.

Yeah, this is basically folders again. But no nesting! It’d be much simpler! Okay, yeah, Apple will probably never do it. We can wish, though, can’t we?

Regardless of what they do, I don’t believe that iCloud “completes the iOS document storage story” as Steve Jobs said at WWDC. In fact, as far as it is building the foundation for a completely app-centric file storage system, the likes of which has probably never existed before, I think it is just the beginning.

Mac OS X Lion 10.7 Deep Dive: Versions and Auto Save

The new, complementary functionality of auto save and versions is an interesting beast. It’s the type of feature that a few years from now you’ll be amazed you ever lived without, but right now feels kind of weird. In some ways it feels like a step backward until you understand how it works.

Things start out feeling pretty normal. When you create a new document and then go to save it, you’ll see “Save…” in the File menu, which replaces both “Save” and “Save as…” from previous versions of the OS. Frankly that’s a welcome change as it didn’t make much sense to have them both there for an unsaved document, considering they both led to the same save dialog. However, the uncomfortable feeling starts when you go to save your document after making some changes, or go to do a “Save as…”. This is what you’ll see then:

Versions File Options

New file options

Where’s “Save” and “Save as…”? What’s “Save a Version” and “Duplicate”? There are a lot of changes here. The shortcut for “Save a Version” is a good clue to what’s happened. Apple has renamed “Save” to “Save a Version”. The concept behind the wording is that you’ll be creating an explicit marker in the version history for this version. It’s also saving the document in the traditional sense, of course, in that the next time you open it you’ll see what you just saved, but that’s less important now with auto save – you could never hit Command-S, never select “Save a Version” from the File menu, and your changes would still be saved.

“Duplicate” is a replacement for “Save as…”. When you think about it this may be a better description of what “Save as…” actually does. Anyone reading this probably understands how “Save as…” works from years of use, but a brand new computer user might think that “Save as…” overwrites their document, so that after doing “Save as…” they would still have only one document, not two. Duplicate makes it very clear what’s happening. When duplicating you get the same dialog as the old “Save as…”, letting you choose a filename and location for the duplicate copy.

“Revert to Saved” enters you into the Time Machine-like version browser for the document (more on that later).

Saving, Editing, and Locking

A version-enabled document can exist in one of three states: locked, edited, or saved. A saved document is one where the most recent saved version is the same as the current state of the document. There is no special indicator of this state, except for the absence of contra-indicators.

Versions Saved DP4

A saved document

You can lock or duplicate a saved document or browse past versions.

Versions Saved Options DP4

Options for a saved document

An edited document is one where the most recent saved version is not the same as the current state of the document. As soon as you make a change to a “saved” document it becomes an “edited” document. This is indicated by the word “Edited” appearing in the title bar of the document.

Versions Edited DP4

An edited document

You can lock, duplicate, or revert an edited document, or browse past versions.

Versions Edited Options DP4

Options for an edited document

“Revert to Last Opened Version” is equivalent to the familiar trick of closing without saving for those times when you want to start over after a bunch of edits.

Versions Revert Dialog DP4

Reverting a document

Duplicating an edited document will give you the option to revert the document after duplicating.

Versions Edited Duplicate

Duplicating an edited document

One thing that is hard to get used to is auto save on close. If you close a file with unsaved edits the application will no longer prompt you to save your changes – it will simply save them and close. Related to this change Apple has done away with indicating an unsaved document through the red close button of a document window. In previous versions of the OS, an unsaved document would have a gray dot in the close button.

A locked document will not be auto saved and cannot be edited. This is indicated by “Locked” appearing in the title bar of the document, and in the file icon itself getting a lock icon overlay.

Versions Locked DP4

A locked document

The lock icon is shown on the file icon in the Finder as well. This is important because locked files are full-on locked – you can’t even change the filename. Selecting a locked file in the Finder and hitting enter won’t do anything, where on non-locked files this allows you to edit the filename.

Versions Locked File Icon

A locked file on the desktop

Trying to edit a locked document will generate a prompt to unlock or duplicate the document.

Versions Locked Dialog DP4

Editing a locked document

Versions

Versions is surprisingly straightforward. You can get to the versions interface by either selecting “Browse All Versions…” from the document options drop down, or you can select “Revert to Saved” from the File menu (why these don’t get the same name I don’t understand). On the left side you’ll see your current document and on the right all your previous versions. You can move back and forward in time by either clicking on the windows that appear “in the distance”, or by scrubbing through the timeline on the right side.

Versions Browse

Versions interface

As was demonstrated at WWDC you can selectively pull from previous versions and drop them into your current version in addition to just wholesale restoring a previous version. Interestingly, the windows showing previous versions are also “live” windows. All toolbar options are selectable, but the system prevents the changes from happening. If you try and change the font, for example, you can get the list of fonts and pick one, but your choice will be ignored.

Versions Browse Edit DP4

Trying to edit a previous version

One other interesting tidbit is that when the versions interface is loading up the text “Retrieving versions from Time Machine” is shown. Under the hood the tech powering versions is based off of what Apple developed for Time Machine, but Time Machine is not required to be configured or running in order to use versions, so it seems somewhat incorrect to say that the versions are being retrieved from Time Machine.

Mac OS X Lion 10.7 Deep Dive: Mail

Mail has received perhaps the biggest update of any of the pre-installed applications in Lion, with a column-based layout, new search methods, improved conversation threads, updated icons, and better support for Exchange and Gmail.

Column-based Layout

Moving to a columnar layout has a surprising number of implications. You might not guess that it would take much work to move a list of messages from appearing above the message preview to the side, but a lot of Mail’s previous functionality was based on having that wide, spreadsheet-style list of messages. For example, with the switch to a stack of messages on the side they’ve had to add a sort drop down (previously handled by clicking the column headers in the spreadsheet-like view).

Mail Sort

With the old layout it was easy to add a column to the list view if you wanted to see, for example, the number of attachments. The new layout has a little less flexibility and looks a bit cramped with every option turned on.

Mail Everything Message

The new layout has also prompted a change to the search filters bar. In Snow Leopard and earlier, when you started searching a bar would appear above the messages list allowing you to restrict search to a specific mailbox. In the earlier developer previews this was moved to a spot above the new message list, but in the most recent developer preview it has been integrated with the new “Favorites” bar.

Mail Save Search

Search mailbox filters in developer preview 3.

Mail Search Bar DP4

Search mailbox filters in developer preview 4.

Speaking of the favorites bar, it’s a list of mailboxes that you can customize. The thinking is that you can hide the mailbox sidebar most of the time and just use the favorites bar. If you need the full mailbox list there is an icon on the far left of the favorites bar to show and hide it. Or, if you don’t want to use the favorites bar, you can hide it (but if you do a search it slides down so you can still filter by mailbox).

And if you don’t like any of this new stuff you can still get the classic, messages-on-top layout. If you stick with the new layout, however, you can customize the message list a good bit, selecting how many lines (from none to 5) of each message to preview and whether to show a picture of each sender (based on pictures in your address book).

Mail Viewing Preferences

Search

As Phil Schiller demonstrated at the WWDC keynote, Lion has a new search method that’s used in Mail and the Finder. It provides an interface to the search functionality that was previously only available when creating a smart mailbox. When you start typing in the search field an autosuggest drop down will appear, offering various ways to apply that search term, i.e., find emails where it’s in the subject, or where an attachment matches it, or where it matches the sender, etc. It tries to be smart with its suggestions – for example, if you type “ash”, it won’t just offer to look for emails from “ash”, but will show names from your address book that match (“Ashley”).1

Mail Search Suggestions

If you select one of these suggestions then your search term will be replaced by what Schiller called a “token”, which work kind of like the blue oval around email addresses in mail. On the left side of the token is what you’re searching (“From”, “To”, “Subject”), and on the right is your search term. You can click on the left side to change what you’re searching, and you can double click to edit your search term. As Schiller demonstrated you can add multiple terms to create fairly complex searches directly from the search field. One quirk is that if you don’t select one of the suggestions and just hit enter after putting in a search term your term won’t get “tokenized”; it will work exactly like search worked in the past.

Mail Search Token Options

You can choose to save any of these searches, at which point you’ll get the smart mailbox dialog that you may be familiar with from earlier versions of Mail, which makes it clear that these search tokens are a new front end to functionality that already existed.

Mail Search Save Smart Mailbox

Conversations Threads

Conversation threads aren’t technically a new feature in Mail, it’s just that they were so poorly done previously that no one really knew they were there. Lion fixes that. The threading is smart and the presentation excellent. In previous versions of Mail the threading was based entirely on the subject line. Now, “Mail groups messages into conversations based on many factors, including the message headers, subject, sender, recipients, and date.” From what I’ve seen so far it works.

Mail Conversation Threading

In addition quoted content is hidden by default, presenting a clean conversation. For those that hate top posting you can choose whether the most recent messages are at the top or bottom.

One other piece that makes the conversation view work is inline actions. Hover over one of the messages in the conversation and icons fade in to delete, reply, reply all, or forward the email. In true Apple style each of these actions animates. Reply, for example, fades in a new email window and a copy of the message jumps from the conversation into the new email window.

Mail Inline Actions

Everything Else

Gmail integration has improved, with a dedicated “Archive” button available for the toolbar. Unlike Mail on the iPhone and iPad, however, Lion Mail doesn’t have a single button that switches between deleting and archiving depending on what mailbox you are in. Archive is available for any mailbox; if you click it on a non-Gmail mailbox, it will just create a new folder called “Archive” and move the message there.

Mail Toolbar Options

“Move” and “Copy” buttons have been added for quick filing of messages. This functionality was available in previous versions of Mail but was only accessible from the “Message” menu.

Mail Move and Copy

And last but certainly not least, we’ve finally been freed from the tyranny of the font inspector. Developer preview 4 revealed the addition of an optional formatting bar in the new message window. Hallelujah.

Mail Formatting Bar


1In the most recent developer preview, however, it’s still a little flaky. Hopefully that is addressed before release.

Back to the Mac

My wife will tell you that I love interfaces. (She’ll roll her eyes while she says it, but she’ll say it). Given that it shouldn’t be surprising that I’ve been devouring media about OS X Lion since the beta release. I’m talking frequent Google searches (filtered to blogs within the past 24 hours), rereads of AppleInsider’s excellent in-depth reports, and, shame of shames, several hours worth of watching terribly produced YouTube screencasts1.

What I’ve come to realize from all this “research” is that the “Back to the Mac” concept – bringing ideas and features of iOS to the Mac – that Apple revealed at WWDC is much wiser than it initially seemed.

I think the main thing everyone got out of the presentation at the time was “Oh, great, now my Mac is going to have a grid of icons instead of a desktop.” It seemed like Apple was intending to replicate the least liked parts of iOS or at least migrate the pieces that actually fit worst into the Mac paradigm. This impression led many people to think that future Macs might come with touch screens, a locked down App Store as the exclusive channel for software, and sandboxed apps.

Instead Apple is taking features that most people don’t even really think about as unique iOS features (though they are); features like seamless app resuming, app “multitasking” with full screen apps, invisible scroll bars, easy application launching, automatic saving, OS state restoration, and physics-based scrolling.

These are all improvements to OS X, some more meaningful than others, but all worthwhile. The common thread through them is allowing the user to think less – getting closer to the old tagline, “It just works.” With application resuming and auto-saving you don’t have to worry near as much about application crashes or restarts. With OS state restoration you can apply software updates that require restarting the computer without going through an hour long prep-for-shutdown process. With the spaces-based “multitasking” of full screen apps you can focus on one task when necessary but easily get back to the desktop (and your other applications) at any time. With invisible scroll bars that only show up when needed you maintain all the functionality of the current scroll bars but with less visual clutter.2 And with Launchpad, the iOS-like application launcher, Apple has abstracted applications away from the file system.3

Apple didn’t go for the obvious features that define the iPad and iOS, the ones everyone thinks of first (like being touch-based), but instead they took everything they learned about making a computer even easier to use and applied those lessons to OS X.

Lion may not work like the iPad, but it feels like the iPad.


1 Seriously, if you’re going to make a screencast, maybe you should actually show interesting stuff on the screen rather than telling me what you could show me while showing me the desktop for 10 minutes.
2 As a web developer I love that these new scroll bars overlay the content such that the width of the content window is the same regardless of the need for scrolling.
3 At my all-Mac company I have seen many, many OS X users that are completely unaware that the Applications folder even exists. Here’s something to think about: Launchpad combined with the dock and the desktop mean that a user could theoretically never use the Finder.

Things Only Twitter Can Do

Dave Winer proposes (as he has before) that Twitter should focus around being a news service. I tend to agree, although I don’t know if “news” fully captures what the platform is capable of. Twitter is able to provide answers to questions that no other service can answer and at a speed that no other platform can match.

Here’s an example: While watching Eminem’s performance at the Grammys I wanted to know the story behind the medallion he was wearing. I did a search on Twitter for “Eminem necklace” and learned that it was a symbol for Alcoholics Anonymous.

Another one: My power went out on a Saturday morning. I was worried that it might be a problem with just my house rather than some upstream issue. The first thing I did was check Twitter for any nearby tweets mentioning a power outage. (In this case I didn’t actually find any answers but the point is that I even thought to check Twitter). I’ve had good results with these cases in the past – why is there so much traffic right here? What are those sirens about? I’ve been able to get answers to those questions through Twitter. Twitter is a window into what’s happening not only right now, but right here.

I generally find that I could care less about the trends (worldwide, regional, it doesn’t matter), because they don’t matter to me. They don’t answer any of my questions and they rarely align with my interests. I think it would be a real missed opportunity if Twitter where to go in the direction of so many other aggregator services and focus on the global “what’s popular”. If there’s one thing I’ve seen from services that attempt to surface relevant information from aggregated community input, it’s that crap floats. The lowest common denominator stuff is what rises to the top.

Indisputable Proof that MobileMe Changes are Coming

Behold! I have indisputable proof that the web interface for MobileMe is going to change.

Old MobileMe Account Dropdown

Account options UI for the Contacts, Gallery, and iDisk sections

New MobileMe Account Dropdown

Account options UI for the Mail, Calendar, and Find My iPhone sections

Why are they different? Because Apple has updated Mail, Calendar, and Find My iPhone in the past year. They haven’t updated Contacts, Gallery, or iDisk. There is no way that Apple would let this discrepancy continue indefinitely; they are too obsessive about UI. The only reason they would allow this is because updates for the other sections are in the works.