Chocolat: The New Mac Text Editor on the Block

The Mac text editor market is rapidly heating up. Hot off the heels of an awesome Espresso update, we’re all anxiously awaiting the arrival of the next Coda, Textmate and even a new Mac-friendly Sublime Text. With such important and revered players each on the verge of their next great achievement, it’s going to be difficult for any newcomers to make a name for themselves.

Despite this high barrier to entry, Chocolat is a new text editor currently in alpha that’s definitely making a solid statement. Read on to see why it may be just what you’ve been waiting for.

User Interface

Chocolat has a simple UI that feels nice and modern and fits right into the Lion ecosystem (fullscreen mode and all). Open the app, drag a folder to the icon and this is what you see:

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The Chocolat Interface

As you can see, the setup here is very familiar and closely mirrors that of Espresso and other editors. The app automatically recognizes the file hierarchy and gives you an overview of your project on the left. Moving right you have the line numbers and your code area.

As you can see, syntax highlighting seems to be perfectly functional in this early release. The previous image showcases an HTML file but Chocolat can handle a lot more than that, there’s a huge list of supported languages that you can choose from that includes everything from PHP and JavaScript to AppleScript and C++.

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A long list of language support

Themes

One of the things that immediately impressed me about Chocolat is its theming system, which is quite extensive. You can quickly choose between a bunch of pre-built but customizable themes or build your own on the fly using a simple color chooser.

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Chocolat has an awesome theming system

I’ve always been partial to a nice dark theme and Chocolat has a few good ones to choose from. The one shown above is called “Sidetracked.”

Split Screen Editing

One really nice feature that Chocolat shares with editors like Sublime Text is a split screen view that divides the code area evenly between two or more files. I absolutely love this view as it makes it super easy to work hit HTML and CSS at the same time.

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Split screen editing

To activate a split, you simply select two or more files in the sidebar with the Command key held down.

Live Web Previews

The split screen also works for the live preview mode, which lets you get a peek at how your site will look in the browser (it uses a Webkit rendering engine).

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Live Web Previews

A Powerful Feature Set

Despite the fact that Chocolat is currently in alpha, it’s overflowing with great features. For instance, you can validate your HTML and CSS right in the app. There’s also an autocomplete function and a bunch of built-in code snippets along with an awesome clipboard history function.

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Autocomplete

Each language comes with its own set of actions as well. For instance, in HTML you’ll find a way to look up the documentation individual tags and refresh running browsers and in JavaScript there’s an option for copying the selection as a bookmarklet.

An Awesome Start

It’s so early in the development of Chocolat, that a review really isn’t fair. However, I’m excited about the potential here and really wanted to share how it’s coming coming along.

There are definitely some shortcomings at the moment. For instance, the autocomplete is pretty weak in CSS and doesn’t seem to work at all in HTML. Also, some parts of the UX are quirky and take some getting used to (how do you take web preview out of split screen mode?). However, on the whole, this really doesn’t feel like an alpha release at all. It’s pretty stable and has lots of goodies to play with.

A Price Point to Beat

As I mentioned in the opening statement, this is a tough market to jump into. There are already a lot of really powerful players that users are pretty dedicated to using.

Among these, Chocolat doesn’t really stand out as something that will draw you away from your current editor (for now). One need only spend a few minutes with Sublime Text 2 to see a million different features that you won’t find in Chocolat.

“Sublime Text is $59, Espresso is $79 and Coda is a whopping $99. By comparison, Chocolat is available for preorder for only $34.”


However, I think Chocolat has a fundamentally different audience and personality. It’s setting itself up to be an awesome simple and approachable solution that has everything you need without overwhelming you with functionality. The key place that it is currently differentiating itself is on price. Sublime Text is $59, Espresso is $79 and Coda is a whopping $99. By comparison, Chocolat is available for preorder for only $34.

I just received an email the other day from a reader asking where one could find a good editor that is better than the free options and yet more affordable than the apps I just mentioned. I’m not sure how much the Chocolat developers will jack up the price after the preorder window is closed, but there’s definitely an opportunity here to occupy and even own the lower price niche in the web editor market.

What Do You Think?

Now that you’ve seen what Chocolat can do and browsed through my thoughts on the app, head over the the website and download the free alpha release.

Once you’ve given Chocolat a test-drive, leave a comment below and let us know what you think. Will Chocolat become another major player in this market or is it an unremarkable attempt to take on a few unbeatable giants?


Summary

A very interesting text editor in the early stages of development. It's quite enjoyable to use and has an impressive feature set for such an affordable option. It's still in alpha so this score is a completely unfair evaluation of the final product. We'll keep an eye on this one and let you know how it turns out.

7
  • Pelle

    It’s basically a modern textmate, but without the many quirks that (imho, of course) textmate has. They’ve done a good job with the single window mode, split screen component, in-document/window find/replace, function browser in the sidebar, word (not single char) undo and every other thing a modern text editor should have IMHO.
    Now, i already own a text mate license, so i might just upgrade to TM2 when it’s done, provided it’ll rock like chocolate surely will (judging from my preliminary testing).
    I must stress that this is an alpha, mind you. It’s NOT going to satisfy you in any form of production environment.

    Speaking about standing out in an already crowded market – i don’t think that’s going to be a problem. There can never be too many text editors. People have wildly different tastes and preferences. Just speaking for myself, there’s only one editor i can stand – textmate – and perhaps chocolate when it’s out, out of all the admiteddly great alternatives we have in OSX.
    They only need to cater to a certain group of people, with clear guidelines of what they offer. Take sublime text for example, that editor may offer more features than text mate/chocolat, but it’s not fully native. There’s quite a few mac osx heads out there that refuse running not fully cocoa mac apps, me included. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing! It’s just what they cater to people preferring features to OS integration.
    Also, to differentiate chocolate from say textmate, i’d say that they have already done so. Chocolat is predominantly a single-window mode application, while textmate does things with multiple windows (for the most part). Perhaps the best outcome would be if textmate continued being a multiple window application even in the 2.x series, to cater to people that like that.

  • Ralf Hortt

    I’ll stay with Textmate2 atm… I just can’t switch, I’ve even tried to use Coda or Sublime, but TM2 feels so much better…

  • http://www.petshopboxstudio.com Kuswanto

    Looks promising. But switching into different text editor makes my head and wallet hurts. I will stay using Espresso, since I am not a real programmer.

  • Tony Djukic

    The look of it reminds me of Smultron, which is free. I’ve actually dabbled in using other text editors and while I do accept that they come with a great deal of benefits, the adjustment period is just something I keep dreading. I’m not an advanced enough user for some of the bigger apps but I am still busy enough that I can’t afford the time it would take to readjust.

    I really wish Smultron would get a bit more press from some sites, it deserves it.

  • http://tcelestino.com.br Tiago Celestino

    I like user interface. This TextMate is beautiful, I am user ever. I dont like Coda, cause the bad interface today.

  • http://modernisten.co.vu/ Robin Lundgren

    I’ve swiched. This is my main texteditor, it’s pretty amazing!

  • defawlt

    This has a couple of nice features to get excited about like full screen mode and split screen editing but the fact that it’s alpha(still needs to iron out some bugs) i can’t see myself switching from Espresso for it.

  • http://butenas.com Ignas

    Get used to VIM and you will never worry about changing editor or paying for it. I’ve used TextMate, but switched to VIM… Still have TextMate for some simple file editing.

  • Liam

    Sublime Text outshines the competition: it’s fast, it’s cross-platform, and it’s extendable. ST2′s plugin API is extremely powerful. That way, you have have a text editor that fits your needs, and not the other way around. http://www.sublimetext.com/dev

  • http://www.bramjetten.nl Bram Jetten

    I’ve used pretty much every editor out there and must say that Chocolat looks incredibly promising. I’ve pre-ordered it and the alpha-version (!) has already replaced TextMate.

    I’d buy Chocolat even it were the most expensive editor.

  • James Rankin

    I’m not so impressed with Chocolat. It looks okay, but it doesn’t look to have any of the potential of Sublime Text.

    In fact, the one thing this article has impressed upon me is to have a 2nd look at Espresso, and I am impressed — but only up to a point.

    It would be nice if you could have the power of Xyle Scope with a split-screen feature on an Espresso-type editor. Or, is there something like that already?

    Btw, in-order to get a split-screen to work with Sublime Text, you choose any 2 files and then go to the View Menu > Layout >> Columns 2, and just drag one of the tagged files over to the empty 2nd column. :)

    MacRankin

  • http://www.fallingupmedia.com Casey

    We just bought Coda for the whole office here, awesome system, just set us back a bit of cash. Will definitely keep this in mind for any new hires or interns!

  • Frank Leigh

    I was using textmate with a plugin to show folders on top for PHP web development. I liked using project files to quickly open my projects. I have now purchased Chololat and it does all this out of the box. OK some features are missing but I got used to it very quickly and now use it all the time. Textmate2 for me was a dissapointment and I miss the project files. Hopefully release version will be better. For me its about the pace of developement and Chocolat wins hands down in that area. I love the ease of setting up theme’s in chocolat, my theme is identical to the one I was using in textmate. Chocolat has my seal of approval and I am most impressed.

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  • http://ruby-journal.com/ Trung LE

    I’ve been coding with TextMate 1 for years and it has never failed me. It is in fact TextMate that has inspired many other late-born text editors. It is very interesting to see a new comer to this editor war game. After using Chocolat for few days, I come to love the neat and clean interface and its similarities to TextMate. But being a Mac only app, it concerns me that Chocolat would face a tough competition from Sublime Text Editor 2 which could be run on cross-platforms. However for $34, this app is a bargain, I’d recommend this TextEditor for all beginners to Mac-based Dev.

  • suprnova

    Only be a matter of time before yet another competitor comes to out do Chocolat and then another and then another. Non-Original Developers are a dime a dozen, they can’t think up anything on their own so they have to try and copy someone elses idea. The next one will be $30 then 20 then some new student developer will come out with one that is 15 just to out do all the others lol

  • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

    It’s worth mentioning that Chocolat is $49 now…

  • Phil

    I don’t think Sublime Text 2 has a builtin web preview browser. Other than that, it’s pretty impressive. Even more so than TextMate 2, I think … (Still just trying out Sublime.) From the reviews, I’m quite unsure what Chocolat brings that’s unique. (Except maybe the GUI theme/color scheme thingy.) Haven’t tried it yet, though. I’m too impressed by Sublime at the moment …

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