The market for text editors is quite overwhelming, as there are tons of apps out there with all sorts of features and a broad range of prices. There’s markdown apps for writers, code editors for developers, simple apps to just jot text down, and everything in between. For a newcomer app to break into this market successfully is perhaps harder than with any other app market, as it would need to be exceptionally good in order to really catch our attention.
We came across such an app last year, that despite being in an alpha stage, showed a lot of promise and even made it in our top apps to keep an eye on in 2012. It’s called Chocolat, and now that it has gotten an official stable release, we thought we’d check back on it and see what has changed since the last time we reviewed it.
Chocolat is a beautiful, simple, and yet very functional text editor. We did a review of it back when it was in alpha, and as such it was in early stages of development but still seemed like a very promising app. Chocolat recently saw a final stable release in which many things have been added and improved.
In our previous review we’ve already covered the major details of the app, so here we’re just going to give you a quick glance at them and focus on what’s new and what has changed with the app.
Chocolat has all the major features that you would expect from any text editor: syntax highlighting, multiple coding language support, customizable themes, split-screen editing, VIM mode, code folding, etc. While most of these features are pretty common and will hardly differentiate it from other popular text editors, the way in which they are implemented is what makes the app shine.
Take the themes, for example. Chocolat comes with a list of around twenty beautiful pre-defined themes, and you can even play around with them and set visual styles for very specific things, like whether comments should be underlined or if numbers should be displayed in a bold font.
Just as with the themes, every feature that you will find in Chocolat is well-thought, extremely customizable and very useful.
So, what’s new with Chocolat? What has been redone and improved? Here’s a rundown of the new features you can find in the final release.
In our previous review of Chocolat we mentioned how auto-complete was not always quite functional. In the final release auto-complete now works well for the most part, especially if you’re coding in HTML or CSS. Other languages have the feature enabled, but it might not always work as you expect it to.
Chocolat feels most at home with Mac OS, as it is a native Cocoa application. Not only is its interface simplistic and beautiful, but it also supports full-screen mode, auto-saving, tabbed navigation and a useful navigation bar for exploring folders and jumping between documents, that make Chocolat feel like a true native app.
Multi-cursor Editing (Blockedit)
Blockedit lets you write code simultaneously in different lines of code. You can set multiple cursors by holding the Alt key and clicking over where you want each of them to be set. Everything you type while you have multiple cursors activated will be written everywhere you have selected simultaneously.
Online documentation for the active language is now easily available inside the app. You can bring it up by going to View->Documentation, or if you want to look up something specifically, you can select the text and hit CMD+Shift+J to automatically jump to it.
Templates and Snippets
When you start a blank document, you will notice that a small button called “Template” becomes active on the top bar. This button can help you quickly get a basic template for starting your project, and it’s specific for each language. In Objective-C, for example, you can get a template for creating a class or a category, and in HTML you can get an HTML5 template that contains doctype, meta data, a CSS stylesheet link, and head and body declarations.
If you want to get a little more specific, there are also small default snippets of code for declaring certain things. Under the “Actions” menu, you can find these language-specific snippets for declaring all kinds of things, like basic cycle declarations or more complex stuff like conditional comments for specific browsers in HTML.
Build and Preview
Chocolat comes with a very useful Webkit-based live web preview for immediately checking out how your end result is looking if you are coding a webpage, and you can as well validate your code with the click of a button. With certain other languages, you can as well run your code in the Terminal right from the app.
It would be really hard to put Chocolat against all the options out there for text editing, just because there are so many of them and they all offer their own unique experience. Despite its impressive set of features, probably what will mark a difference for Chocolat is its price. Comparing to apps like Coda 2 ($99), Sublime Text ($59), TextMate ($52) and Espresso ($75), Chocolat’s price of $50 not only seems reasonable, but it might also be a decisive factor for anyone looking for a new text editor.
Chocolat is kind of right in the middle in terms of pricing between free alternatives like TextWrangler and paid ones like Sublime Text or Coda. Before using it, I worked with TextWrangler, because it’s a free alternative and it does pretty much just what I need even though it doesn’t feel glamorous or cool at all. Just with a few days that I’ve spent with Chocolat I’ve seen just how concentrating it is to have a clean, good-looking UI is and how useful having features like split-screen editing and live web previews is.
As one of our wise readers put it in a comment in the previous Chocolat review we did, “switching into a different text editor makes my head and wallet hurt”. If you are already set in your ways with a text editor, Chocolat is hardly going to convince you to switch to it. Although it has a strong set of features and its minimalistic UI certainly makes it stand out, there’s still not enough of an incentive to make you go migrating your whole workflow to a new text editor.
However, if you’re in the market for a new editor, Chocolat might just have enough to fill your necessities, and for a moderate price that’s hard to match in a market like that of text editors. For such a minimalistic-looking app, I ended up being more than impressed with everything it can do, and I intend to keep using it instead of my old text editor, which is about as good of a recommendation as I can make.
What about you?