Espresso: Innovative Web Development

There are a number of different web development tools available for Mac, ranging from mainstream juggernauts like Dreamweaver through to smaller apps such as Coda. Over the past few months, a new contender has gradually emerged on the scene – Espresso – developed by the minds behind the acclaimed CSSEdit.

Espresso aims to simplify the workflow of web designers, providing a streamlined set of tools and techniques which allow you to focus on designing. I found the feature set to include a great package of tools. Broken down into ‘Edit, Organize, Preview, Find, and Publish’, they cover the entire development process of a new site.

Edit & Preview

Visual editing has come an awfully long way since the days of coding a project in Notepad. Espresso uses the same text engine as CSSEdit to color your code in a readable and attractive fashion. It recognizes HTML, XML, CSS and JavaScript by default, with other languages supported through the extensibility features discussed shortly.

A test Caption

Edit & Preview

Another visual feature is that of the dynamic sidebar, which updates as you move through your code to reflect the tags surrounding the current position. This is a great way to keep context and diagnose problems with the structure of your markup.

Finally, the ability to ‘collapse’ sections of code can make managing a particular lengthy document much more straight forward. Moving your mouse over the line numbers adjacent to the markup allows you to collapse the content within any given tag, freeing up valuable screen space.

Organize & Find

Searching through code to find a particular section is a common occurrence made enjoyable by Espresso. Hitting Ctrl-F brings down a search bar, which dynamically highlights and shows the number of matches as you type. It isn’t a revolutionary new design, but is far more user friendly than using a pop-up window to search. Replacing is also remarkably straight forward (and undo-able if you make a mistake).

Organize & Find

Organize & Find

Organizing documents is done through the Project and Workspace on the left. These show a clear hierarchy of the files in any given project, along with a separate section for those currently open. Tabs are not present per-se, but the Workspace is designed to be a replacement. Whilst a little different at first, this way of working felt natural after a few minutes of using Espresso.

One area where the interface is slightly lacking becomes apparent when opening multiple projects. This is handled through launching a completely new window for each project, a solution which leads to a fairly cluttered screen when working on several sites at a time. In the future, I would like to see a tab feature for managing different projects within the same window.

Publish

No self respecting web design tool would be complete without handling the process of moving your files to a server. In a similar way to Coda, Espresso removes the requirement of a seperate FTP application. From my limited testing, built in publishing support works excellently. Three different options are available;

  • Update: This uploads local documents and replaces or removes old documents on the server
  • Merge: Synchronize local and remote documents so each side has the latest versions of everything
  • Mirror: Similar to update, but removes all remote documents which don’t exist in the local project

These three options cover most of the eventualities you’ll face when publishing a site, and a remote file browser can be used if you need greater manual control.

Publish Files

Publish Files

Transferring files is speedy on account of the multiple connection support. The included protocols for publishing files are SFTP, FTP and Amazon S3. I would have appreciated an option to import settings from an app such as Transmit, though I’m probably demanding a little too much!

Extensibility

Extensibility

Extensibility

Espresso prides itself on extensibility – the ability to add new languages and features through an XML plugin architecture. Enjoyably called ‘Sugars’, a variety of plugins are in development. A site has already launched to catalogue these, with support for most major development languages already in place (PHP, Ruby, Django etc). Themes are also available to change the look and feel of the code area. I particularly like Cappuccino.

Conclusion

Whilst still a beta product, Espresso looks set to be a strong competitor to Coda. The interface is deliciously Mac-like, it has a powerful feature set, and the developers already know how to produce a successful development app. Future versions are set to offer full CSSEdit integration and I’m excited about playing with the final release.

Espresso requires Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard or higher, and the public beta is time-limited (requiring regular updates). If you’d like to pre-order Espresso, you can do so for the price of 60€ (around $78) and a discount is available if you already own a CSSEdit license.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts – does Espresso seem like an app which could replace your current development setup, or is it still lacking in certain areas?


  • http://www.programmersvoice.com Adam Griffiths

    This does look like a brilliant application. I currently use TextMate and can’t see anything replacing it as of yet, although in the future Espresso might be a likely candidate. I especially like the mirror part to publishing sites, as I often rename files or upload some dummy images for example, so that is a very interesting tool indeed!

    • http://valendesigns.com Derek Herman

      I currently use Coda (which I used to code this site) and feel the same way, I don’t really want to replace it since I love it and have grown really fond of it. However, I might take a look at Espresso and see if it’s worth the switch.

    • http://designshack.co.uk David Appleyard

      It’ll definitely be interesting to see whether Espresso tempts Coda users, as the two are fairly similar. I’m a personal fan of the simple TextWrangler approach, but enjoy the automated features of Espresso. It’s tempting!

      • http://valendesigns.com Derek Herman

        I tried TextWrangler but really couldn’t get behind it. I started coding HTML/CSS in Dreamweaver some years back and got use to the nice looking GUI. TextWrangler just makes me go uh… where’s the pizzaz? IDK Coda replaced Dreamweaver so I’m happy for that at least.

  • http://teampvel.com dave rupert

    MacRabbit should re-evaluate this. They should go back to getting CSSEdit adopted into Coda and then the whole world would be happy that super IDE would take over the whole entire world.

    • http://www.gemmazoejones.co.uk Gemma

      I use Coda and CSSEdit and would love to see the ability to use them both at the same time without things going, er, a little weird. I also use the SVN feature of Coda and will have to see if Espresso has the same feature… But most prohibitively it’s the cost. I’ve paid for Coda, Transmit, etc already. Buying something else isn’t worth it when I already own tools to do the job.

  • http://www.suberapps.com Ben

    I’ve tried Espresso, but I still can’t ditch Coda for it. Can’t live without multiple panes coding with Coda, really increased my productivity ten fold just with that feature alone.

    • http://www.john-fuller.com John

      I agree.

      It’s going to be very hard to get people to switch away from Coda. I know that I won’t, unless something truly major comes along.

  • http://www.jashsayani.com Jash Sayani

    Its a bit expensive. Specially when there is a great free alternative: Smultron

  • http://www.suspectpaki.com Shahid

    As an enormous fan of CSSEDit, I tried Espresso. It crashed on me, losing my work, and didn’t seem as good as Coda. To be frank, I don’t think much of Coda either. For now, I’m still sticking to TextMate, CSSEdit and Cyberduck.

  • http://twitter.com/jonathanhaslett Jonhas

    I have been an avid CSSEdit user for a long time. Up until now I have been using Coda for html.

    Took me way to long to find the preview functionality in Espresso (hint, hint) but once I did I sold.

  • http://www.thelastknight.co.uk Benjamin Reid

    Still Coda for me I think. Good to see companies are still battling it out though!

  • http://smilingdesigner.com Bjorn

    So hard to break habits, but maybe it’s time to switch Editors!

  • Björn

    I use TextMate but would happily switch to Espresso if the code folding were better… I really hope they fix it for the final version. Right now if you fold some code, it collapses all the lines and only displays (…). That doesn’t really help me – the TextMate approach is much better in that it displays the first line of the folded block and puts (…) behind the first line.

    The feature I’m excited about is the advanced find and replace functionality: You can use regular expression and see the resulting matches in your document in realtime! That’s great news for people like me who don’t know enough about regular expressions to use them in other applications but would like to facilitate the power of it. Espresso makes it easy to fiddle around with your regex until it’s correct…

  • http://www.mikedaleo.com Mike

    CSSEdit changed my life when I found it! If this app is anywhere near as well designd as CSSEdit I’ll be getting it for sure.

  • http://marotte.net Marotte

    CSSEdit is an absolute wonder, so I was somewhat disappointed with Espresso.
    As a text editor, it doesn’t bring much more than Coda or Textmate, IMHO.

    And I still miss simple, efficient WYSIWYG features, like for typing text, linking to images or the like. It’s a real shame Dreamweaver is the only option.

  • http://vexdigital.com Kat

    I’ve been using Coda for 2 years, and I was looking forward to Espresso. I’m in beta. Not sure what all I can really say, except that it has to really fix the publishing feature before I considering switching off of Coda. I would also like to see a project manager interface instead of the current setup.

    So far, I’m not going to put the $ down, but if some updates in the future add a lot more functionality that I’m missing, I’ll consider it.

    One feature I do enjoy is its auto-closing tag. Helps minimize losing how many divs you’re in.

  • http://www.sanneterpstra.com Sanne

    Need a lot of improvements. (see comments above). But I think this will be a great competion for coda!

    For now, I still stay with coda. But if Espresso is ready, I definitely will give it a try.

  • http://krishammons.com Kris

    I have been using Coda since it’s release. I love it, however, with recent releases, I’ve been having weird issues with publishing. So, I’m definitely going to give Espresso a hard look. Either way, I think Espresso coming to the scene is excellent for this space. Keeps innovation happening!

  • http://anthonyshort.com.au Anthony Short

    I’ve been with Espresso since the private beta, and it’s quickly getting better and better. You probably won’t see the full potential until they’ve opened up more of the app to Sugar developers. So while it may not seem that great compared to Coda just yet, by the time it’s released, it will be a force to be reckoned with.

    The theming is great too. It’s just like writing CSS. (I made that Cappuccino theme btw :)

  • Sam

    Personnally I use Aptana Studio which is an interesting alternative to Dreamweaver or Coda. B

    • http://www.friendfeed.com/zenrhe Rowan Evenstar

      I also use Aptana, as it is a similar interface to NetBeans and Eclipse that i used for Java programming at Uni. But its starting to drive me nuts, and not a great Gui to look at all day.

      Im looking to start using Coda and CSS Edit, but its great to see Expresso will be some competition, it just has more growing to do.

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  • http://myows.com myows

    nice article – but it will be hard to leave away coda…

  • http://www.givision.net GIVISION | Jiri Mocicka

    It was a really nice article. I thing it’s a bit expensive compare with BBedit or Coda that was mentioned before. Could be as an option.

  • http://iliasjohri.be ilias

    Can’t wait to see a thorough comparison between Coda & Espresso once the final Espresso is out.
    The most perfect solution for me would be Coda with CSSedit built in!

    • BLKWRLD

      I agree DUDE!

  • http://www.tutorialsfornoobs.com David Turnbull

    It’s definitely impressive looking, but I don’t think the simplicity of Textmate can be beat. The software just gets out of your way and lets you code.

  • http://www.remyoverkempe.com/ Remy Overkempe

    Have been using it for a while now and it’s a great product. Never been a fan of Coda, so still edited my files in GoLive (I only needed the ability to quickly put in/replace code, and it wasn’t worth the upgrade to Dreamweaver for that alone). I now use Espresso for everything (except CSS editing of course; CSSEdit all the way there) and even though it’s a beta, I love it.

    Along the way to 1.0 the features will expand and new ones will be added, so I don’t see why I should stop using it if it’s only going to get more awesome! (Oh, and I have no complaints about the price. I live in the Netherlands, so I pay the euro price. 234-0 € vs. $ .. :P)

  • http://www.rorystory.co.za Rory Jacobs

    Sticking with Coda. Just add collapsible div tags and some search capabilities for the actual code. It would be perfect.

  • http://www.helloimtom.com Tom Sinclair

    Nice article, Im definitely going to look into buying the app when its out but do none of you use skEdit?
    Best editing app I have used, everything all-in-one and its lovely to use, try it out :)

  • http://www.ejenks.com Erik Jenkins

    It’s way too early to decide whether to make the switch. Coda is in b-e-t-a. Decide when the full version comes out!

    • http://www.remyoverkempe.com/ Remy Overkempe

      You mean, Espresso is in b-e-t-a?

      • http://www.ejenks.com Erik Jenkins

        Yup, sorry ’bout that, my bad :P

        It’d be way more embarrassing if I spelled beta wrong though XD

  • http://www.voicescreener.com Kris

    It’s really unfortunate that there is no IDE that can complete on an enterprise level.

    Coda, Textmate, Expresso… whatever I like them all but it’s frustrating to always be forced to use the likes of Eclipse and .NET!

  • bear

    Zend Studio is the sh*t!

  • kj

    TEXTMATE + CSSEdit + TRANSMIT + TERMINAL….. all ul ever need :)

    • http://www.twitter.com/phillipsmn Mason

      I use Coda and CSSEdit (@kj – Coda includes Transmit+Terminal). I’ve tried Espresso since the beginning, but I’m not 100% sold. Though the code collapsing is a feature that Coda desperately needs.

  • http://www.m7abib.com Muhammad Habib

    I already replaced Coda for it. It is really a very good one just as CSSEdit used to be.

  • http://andrewpossehl.com Andrew Possehl

    I love this app. While I tried to give Coda a chance, I just had to switch back to Espresso. This may be because I didn’t really use Coda before Espresso (sadly I was on Dreamweaver, not really sure how I survived that). Many people are saying that they cannot make the switch from Coda, probably because they are so used to the way Coda handles things. While the apps seem quite similar on the surface, they are actually quite different. Coda just seems so bulky to me compared to Espresso. Espresso has saved me so much time by just working in the background for me. Coda seemed to auto-complete tags when I did not need to, and this just bothered me. Other things that I really like about Espresso are of course the folding tags, Quick Publish (which publishes on save instead of at the press of a button like Coda), and Sugars. I would definately recommend Espresso for someone who has not used Coda before and wants a simple text editor that will work for you rather than against you.

  • http://www.thejewellershop.com Schmuck

    Will be hard without Coda, but maybe i’ll have to try something new to get used to it fast, we will see, il’ll give it a try.

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  • Oscar

    one try for Espresso giveaway:)
    my all time favorite: Photoshop

  • http://dreadedkilla.deviantart.com DreadedKilla

    A few days ago, MacRabbit released Espresso 1.1. I’d like to see a review of the updated version please.

  • Adam

    I too would love to see an updated review using Espresso 1.1!

    Thanks.

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  • http://www.thomashs.com.br Thomás Sieczkowski

    Awesome post. After reading a lot here and everywhere, I`m purchasing Espresso today. Along with CSSEdit !! I`ll post soon my review about it.

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