EasyTask Review: If Only

Recently I reviewed The Hit List and while it is a great application I found a number of areas that gave me pause in using it long term. Since then I’ve been using EasyTask which appealed because of it’s cross-platform nature and the offsite sync, not to mention the price which includes versions for both Mac and Windows. Today EasyTask gets it’s time under the microscope.

EasyTask Mac and Windows
EasyTask Mac and Windows

What’s Hot & What’s Not

Offsite Sync

One of the biggest things going for EasyTask is the offsite sync provided for free by the application. Setup consists of getting a free online account then entering the username and password into the EasyTask sync preference panel. Click Sync in the top menu and you’re done. It can also facilitate passing your TODO list between the Mac and Windows versions. In my opinion this setup is awesome and the single biggest thing that 90% of desktop applications fail on.

EasyTask manager Sync screen
EasyTask manager Sync screen

Web Interface Sucks

If you bothered to click the link above to the online account you’ll see that the design sucks. Just the intro buttons alone are terrible. While the web interface is better, it’s still pretty awful in it’s own right.

EasyTask's Ugly Web interface
EasyTask's Ugly Web interface

Having used Remember the Milk for a number of months as my online TODO list I know what a good web interface looks like and how it should function. EasyTask is not up to the challenge, so while it’s great that the web version is there I’d certainly never use it if there were any other option. Even sending myself an email with the relevant item is a better option than using the web interface provided.

iPhone/iPod Sync

In addition to the sync offsite EasyTask will let you sync with the iPhone/iPod touch application. This works like every other application sync. Get EasyTask running on your Mac and on your iPod and on the same wireless network. Then simply sync it.

EasyTask iPod/iPhone WIFI sync
EasyTask iPod/iPhone WIFI sync

An Extra Step

What baffles me about this sync is the fact that it isn’t automatic. Like so many things this is a half realized item on the application. To sync you need to scroll to the bottom of the iPhone application click on ‘Sync’ and then click ‘WIFI Sync’. Why do we have to waste our time doing this? I have a number of iPod/iPhone applications that sync automatically so there is obviously no reason EasyTask can’t do this.

LaunchBar & QuickSilver Integration

Yes EasyTask ships with a QuickSilver script that lets you add tasks directly from QuickSilver. I ported it to LaunchBar easily enough as well. While this is pretty awesome the fact is that the AppleScript support in EasyTask is sorely lacking.

EasyTask AppleScript Library
EasyTask AppleScript Library

You can’t add contexts, or due dates, or start dates, or have it go directly into a project. Unfortunately with the awesome scripts available for Things and Omnifocus this lack of support is really not acceptable.

Even the minor items that are supported work in such a way as to confuse you. When you use the script it puts your task into the ‘Someday’ category with no project or context. Yeah it should default to your Inbox, but it doesn’t

Quick Developer Response

One of the biggest issues I had with The Hit List is the fact that development has essentially died on the project and isn’t even responding to users. Over the last few weeks I’ve emailed the developer a few times about pricing and AppleScript support and guess what…they respond.

Development

While it’s awesome that the developer responds the future of the product is still in question. When you get on a product purchase page and it doesn’t even list the current version of the operating system for any platform you have to wonder what’s happening.

Secondly the Google Group for EasyTask hasn’t seen updates (outside my own two) since February 2009. On one hand this seems to show we’ve got a stable application but on the other hand it also shows that there isn’t a strong community of people using it. It also seems to indicate that there is no development since new features would spur questions.

Conclusion

The story of EasyTask is one that shows lots of promise and lots of “if only’s.” If only the web interface was useful. If only the development seemed to be ongoing. If only there was better support for AppleScript. If only iPod syncing was automatic.

While EasyTask has lots going for it the sad part is that all of these issues amount to an application that just doesn’t cut it for long term use. I would put it above The Hit List since it doesn’t have an expiry.

The Real Sad Part

The really sad part is that I’m going to recommend this application. If you’re on Windows and looking for a good task management application EasyTask is by far the best solution I’ve ever seen for Windows. I find it very unfortunate that Windows users get left out in the cold with solidly built TODO applications.

Episode 3 – Frank Barrett

Welcome to the 3rd episode of Your Workflow, a podcast and blog on the tools you use to do your job and why you use them. Today we’re talking with Frank Barrett. Frank is an IT pro, and master beer brewer. He blogs at Frank Barrett’s Brain and cohosts a podcast called NextGenMedia Podcast which talks about all things tech and new media.

Applications

Get in Touch with Frank

The Great Windows Code Editor Hunt: Sublime

This is the fourth instalment in our search for a solid Windows Code Editor. You can find the other parts listed at the end of the post. While this editor wasn’t in my first list of editors to review it was suggested in the comments and I’m glad it was.

The Good

Sublime has awesome keyboard navigation. Want to divide the project window vertically and show two files, how about horizontally and show two files? Neither of those items is hard just hover over the buttons from the navigation menu and the keyboard commands will show.

Not something that I was originally looking for but the mini-map provided by Sublime is a great little feature. The min-map shows up on the left hand side of the file you’re working on and allows you to see exactly where in the document you are located. This is especially useful in a big file as a quick visual reference. I found that I’d turn it on of the file extended outside of the coding window and back off when it wasn’t needed.

Sublime Text Editor Mini-Map
Sublime Text Editor Mini-Map

While Sublime doesn’t have a project drawer it does have an awesome project file search. In fact I’ve pretty much decided that if the project file search works like this I don’t really need a project drawer to view my project files. Navigating files with a mouse removes your hands from the keyboard and slows down your coding process. So yeah I’m totally willing to give up the project drawer for something more efficient.

Sublime Text Editor Find in Project
Sublime Text Editor Find in Project

The Bad

As I’ve stated above Sublime has a ton of options but unfortunately the way to access those options is a bit kludgy. While the other code editors I’ve reviewed so far have nice GUI interfaces for working with the options Sublime just opens up an XML file with the options labelled. The labels are pretty descriptive but the reality is that it’s not a GUI interface which makes it more difficult to work with.

Sublime Options
Sublime Options

Sublime also makes a project file for the project. Again it’s something I wish I didn’t have to deal with but it seems that you can’t really have a project without some file that references and remembers where all the assets are stored. Not huge points against the tool but still something I could live without.

Conclusion

So far Sublime seems to be the best option I’ve found for Windows. It’s quick clean and pretty well-organized. I can see that people just really getting into coding could be a bit overwhelmed by the options provided but for someone willing to put the bit of effort in need to decode the options this is a killer code editor for Windows.

In all honesty if I hadn’t talked about reviewing some of the other editors I think I’d just stick with Sublime. It’s got the right blend of features and the few draw backs aren’t anywhere big enough to make the tool unusable.

The Other Parts

The Great Windows Code Editor Hunt: InType

InType Logo
InType Logo
InType Logo

We’re now on the third code editor in our epic hunt for a great windows editor. If you’d like to catch up and see where we’ve been:

The Great Windows Code Editor Hunt: Part 1

Dreamweaver

Komodo Edit

Now it’s on to InType.

InType is still in Alpha and is similar to Textmate for OSX. In fact it’s so similar that it even imports Textmate bundles with a bit of conversion. I just started using Textmate on my OSX installation (switching from Coda for HAML, SASS, and LESS highlighting) and the two do bear a number of similarities.

The Good

InType starts up super fast which is a far cry from the other two editors (Dreamweaver, Komodo Edit) that I’ve looked at so far. Even while rendering video in Handbrake, InType started up with little lag and remained responsive during the entire time used.

A second point for InType is the amazing code completion. With all of the bundles available for InType you’re pretty sure to find the language and code completion you’re looking for. Sure it doesn’t have some of the popular web app languages like Ruby but you shouldn’t be doing ROR dev on a Windows box anyway.

image of the InType bundle list
image of the InType bundle list

InType is also very configurable. While it doesn’t have the wealth of options that Dreamweaver has you also don’t spend an hour looking for an option. Really the most important ones are at your finger tips in the main editor window. Need to change your indentation for HAML to two spaces…go ahead it’s at the bottom of the editor window.

Intpye preferences panel
Intpye preferences panel

That also brings me to another great feature of InType, visualization of your tabs and spaces. I haven’t had an editor that has done this before so when I opened my projects in InType I was greeted by a cacophony of tab and space styles. Ultimately it made more work for me as I went through and changed everything to be 4 spaces but it means I’ve got cleaner code instead of the soup of indentation styles I unknowingly had before.

The Bad

I know InType is still in Alpha and it does show sometimes. One issue that kept cropping up for me would appear when starting InType up, for some reason it would forget it’s location and open with a small window in the upper left corner of my monitor. Now I normally use two monitors and have the code editor open in the bottom right of my second monitor…so InType would jump across my entire desktop on occasion.

InType forgot where it should be
InType forgot where it should be

Another point against InType is the fact that it adds a project file to your project. Not a huge issue but yet another file to declare in my .gitignore file. I’d prefer that we didn’t add a project file but I can live with it.

The code completion of InType could also throw off some users. Sure it’s similar to how Textmate works but it’s also very different from the way Komodo Edit or Dreamweaver does it. Both Komodo Edit and Dreamweaver start hinting while you’re typing while InType waits till you hit tab before providing options to complete you’re typing. So when working in CSS you’ll need to type “background” then press tab, which will present you with all of the options for background. It even shows you the properties that background can take. Again it works but depending on where your experience lies you may find it odd.

Intype's code completion
Intype's code completion

Finally, and probably the biggest point against InType is the fact that it doesn’t have access to remote files. If you’re working with InType you’re working locally. I honestly do this anyway so it’s not a huge issue for me to fire up a FTP client or SSH into the server and transfer the needed files when I’m putting up a project for final client sign-off. It would be nice though to be able to connect to multiple servers out of a project like Dreamweaver does.

The Conclusion

While InType is a bit rough around a few edges overall it’s a pretty solid editor. It has all of the little features like easy theme management, code completion and the few draw backs are hardly show stoppers. At the end of the day InType is happy to just melt into the background and let you interact with your code.

The Great Windows Code Editor Hunt: Dreamweaver

Dreamweaver CS4 icon
Dreamweaver CS4 icon
Dreamweaver CS4 icon

This is the second post in The Great Windows Code Editor Hunt series. Today we’ll look at Dreamweaver as a code editor.

The Good

Dreamweaver has come a long way for coders since CS3. When I used the CS3 version it was barely tolerable as a code editor. I don’t remember why at this point but I do remember having to switch back to CS3 when the CS4 beta ran out and my employer at the time decided not to upgrade. I remember ranting for a few days about how the UI was crappy in CS3 and CS4 was way better.

Dreamweaver is highly configurable. Working in a language that requires a certain amount of tabs or spaces to work properly? Not a problem. Hop into the Preferences pane and under ‘code format’ adjust as you need. It doesn’t stop there though. Like your code hinting in a fashion other than default? Dreamweaver provides you with a few options and at least one should suit.

Dreamweaver CS4 preferences
Dreamweaver CS4 preferences

Another wonderful feature of Dreamweaver is the ability to connect to different servers on one project. I’ve used this feature a number of times to work on a WordPress theme locally then, with a simple dropdown, connect to my development server and upload the required files. When we’re ready to push to the client’s server simply open the drop down again and connect to the live environment and upload the files. A great thing they introduced in CS4 with the Files panel is that it is now dockable or can sit free-floating on another monitor if you wish.

Dreamweaver CS4 file browser
Dreamweaver CS4 file browser

The Bad

So what are the things that make Dreamweaver not my code editor of choice? It starts with the WYSIWYG editor. While it’s possible to enter full code view and not see the code editor somehow it always seems to sneak into view. I’ve never been able to stop the ‘Design View’ to disappear entirely. For some reason I was never able to track down some files would randomly open in the ‘Design View’ of Dreamweaver forcing me to go back to the top and click on the ‘Code View.’ I’ve just dug through the preferences panel again and don’t see any option that leads me to believe I can just shut down the design view permanently.

So one of my requirements was load time. Dreamweaver is a pig. I run Windows 7 on an AMD Athlon 2.6 with 8GB of RAM and a 1GB video card. It’s not a slow system but Dreamweaver seems to be the morning coffee hounds best friend as it takes forever to start-up. Yeah go get a coffee. Even on the 24″ iMac I used at my last job Dreamweaver was a pig to get running. To my very unscientific observations, it didn’t seem to matter if it was a cold or warm start. The green dialogue that shows during startup might as well say “Go Get a Coffee there’s lots of time”.

Dreamweaver CS4 coffee load screen
Dreamweaver CS4 coffee load screen

Another beef with Dreamweaver is the amount of crap files it introduces into your projects. It seems that in every folder you end up with an extra folder called _notes and an extra file called dwsync.xml. Sure they’re not big but they also don’t matter to the client’s website and are thus bloat. I think these files have something to do with FTP syncing with the server but whatever they’re actuall purpose removing them from a project is yet another step to take before packaging files up to send to a client at the end of a project.

Themes in Dreamweaver are a pain. For all the configuration options available there is no real way to quickly switch away from the original eye searing white theme. I’ve got big thanks for That Web Guy since he has great instructions on how to change the white theme out on Dreamweaver. It requires a change to an actual application file in Dreamweaver which is stupid but I suppose it’s not all that hard. I’m still astonished that Dreamweaver doesn’t have an easy way to switch between multiple colour themes though. Seems like every other code editor out there, even those in alpha have it as a default feature.

While Dreamweaver has a great project browser it really doesn’t do a good job or any job of tracking your files since the last upload. I can’t tell Dreamweaver to only pushed changed files. Sure I can sync the files but then we’re waiting while it figures out what that sync it. I see no real reason why it can’t mark the file state at last file upload and then only upload the files that have changed. We’ve got lots of other application bloat why not something useful.

A final point I’d like to put against Dreamweaver is the file type support. I work with Github more and more which means I need to edit README files. Dreamweaver has no clue what to do with the file nor does it offer me a good way to tell it what to do.

Conclusion

Really the only reason that Dreamweaver was included in the review is that it comes with many version of the CS4 suite of software. I really don’t think it would be a contender if it wasn’t included with other software I need to do my job (Photoshop and Illustrator). I certainly wouldn’t be forking out $400 bucks for Dreamweaver after working with it during the trial.

We can also add as a point against Dreamweaver the general distaste seen for it by prospective employers. Sure I wrote a while back that Dreamweaver is a fine tool but that doesn’t change the fact that you see daily job ads that say don’t apply if you use Dreamweaver.

Ultimately I’m not using Dreamweaver because it’s slow to open, doesn’t recognize a number of common files I’m working with, doesn’t integrate with Git at all, and I just can’t get that stupid ‘Design View’ to go away. Maybe minor things all but it amounts up to a code editor that just doesn’t suit my daily coding habits.

The Great Windows Code Editor Hunt

code editor article imag
code editor article imag
code editor article imag

I’m a web designer/programmer so I spend a good portion of a day in a code editor (at least if it’s a good day). I’m pretty particular about what code editor I use and what features it needs so I’m on a hunt for a great code editor for Windows. My plan is to use a code editor for at least 2 weeks to really get a handle on exactly how it works and to get as familiar as possible with all of the shortcuts.

The Requirements

So lets start by figuring out exactly what I’m looking for. I’m not going to list the normal things like syntax highlighting that are just required to even get into my list for testing.

  1. Code Completion of Some Fashion: I need code completion of some fashion. Whether that’s adding the end tag automagically upon completion of the beginning tag or if it’s hinting at the next tag to close. I’m not picky really on which way it works. Extra point for tab style tag and block code completion.
  2. Project Browser: The code editor needs to have a project browser (Sorry VI) even if it’s not included out of the box there needs to be a plugin to make it work.
  3. Dark Theme: It’s a personal preference but I need a darker theme to look at all day. My eyes hurt if I get stuck looking at something super white all day. Light greys or browns all work just can’t be white. And you need to make it easy to switch the theme with some template of some fashion. I’m not opposed to having to build a template if none exists already but it better be easy to do.
  4. Lite Weight: I don’t want to wait forever to open a file. I willing to wait on the first cold start of the day but after that you better be quick.
  5. Good Looking: If I have to look at and work with you all day you better be pretty, well pretty enough. I’ve seen a few editors that just look really freaking ugly. I’ll admit I’m a bit vain and I require a UI that looks good and works.

Nice to Have

  1. Snippet Management and Completion: I end up working across 3 different OS’s so while I like snippets built-in I find they’re never on the system I need them on. I’d like it but it’s not a deal breaker.
  2. No Project File: I’d love not to have a .whatever project file added to projects but if the rest of the application rocks then I’ll deal with adding it to my .gitignore file.
  3. Editing of Live Files: My workflow has me building all my sites locally and doing all my testing for browsers there. I don’t need to edit live files on a server often so I don’t have much call for publish on save but if you have it I’ll give you a point.
  4. Cross-platform: I end of doing a bit of work on Windows, Mac, and Linux so I’d love something I can learn and use across all platforms as my main development platform.
  5. Spell Checking: I write all my blog posts in a text editor so spell checking would be great but not a need. I use After the Deadline on by blog before posts go out and will continue to do so even if the editor has spell checking.

The Contenders

So I’ve got some contenders already. Some I’ve used and some I’m planning to try.

  1. Dreamweaver: I get it with CS4 Design Premium so I figure I’ll go over why I’m not using it (yeah that was a spoiler). Read Review
  2. Komodo Edit: Not the paid IDE but the free Komodo Edit. It appeals because it’s cross-platform and free is a good price. Read Review
  3. gedit: It’s the right price and on my two main platforms for development (Windows, Linux) so it’s in.
  4. InType: Heard lots about how it’s like Textmate for Windows. Textmate is the cat’s ass according to some programmers I know so I figured I’d be up for trying it. Read Review
  5. E Text Editor: Another Textmate for Windows I hear. I actually tried it a few months back and for some reason that escapes me right now I have no idea why I’m not using it still. So if I can get it running again on the trial I’ll review it.
  6. Notepad++: It’s a staple of any programmers “I’ve tried it” stable so now I’ll try to be its lover for a bit.
  7. PSPad: I’ve been told that real programmers on Windows are using Notepadd++ or PSPad so it’s in.
  8. Sublime: Suggested below and reviewed.

What’s Missing

Am I missing something in my list? Is there a code editor that you just love and hasn’t cropped up on my radar? Let me know. I don’t promise to use it but I promise to at least visit the site and see if it could be a contender.

The Best Windows Ruby on Rails Setup Part 2

Episode 2 - The Best Windows Ruby on Rails Setup, Part 2
Episode 2 - The Best Windows Ruby on Rails Setup, Part 2

This is the second part to getting a Windows machine set up for Ruby on Rails Development by having Ubuntu running inside Virtualbox. View Part 1 here. Today’s screencast will walk through installing Ruby, rubygems 1.3.5 and Rails with rubygems, and SqLite3 as well as installing my preferred code editor Komodo Edit. Watch the screencast or read below for the written instructions.

Edit

This same procedure has now been tested on Ubuntu 9.10 and works fine.

Play

View Part 1

Installing Ruby

To install Ruby in Ubuntu we can simply install from the built in repository in Ubuntu. You don’t need to compile this from source if you don’t want to.

[bash]sudo apt-get install ruby-full build-essential[/bash]

Now let’s see what version of Ruby we have.

[bash]ruby -v[/bash]

This should return something along the lines of:

[bash]ruby 1.8.7p5000 (2009-02-22) [i686-linux][/bash]

And finally let’s check to make sure the Ruby library is working.

[bash]ruby -ropenssl -rzlib -rreadline -e ‘puts :Hello'[/bash]

Should return

[bash]Hello[/bash]

Installing Ruby Gems

Ruby Gems should be compiled from source using the latest version of Ruby Gems. The first line of bash I run just runs two commands one after the other.

[bash]
mkdir src
cd src
wget http://rubyforge.org/frs/download.php/57643/rubygems-1.3.4.tgz
tar -xzvf rubygems-1.3.4.tgz
cd rubygems-1.3.4
sudo ruby setup.rb
sudo ln -s /usr/bin/gem1.8 /usr/bin/gem
[/bash]

Nothing shows as output form the last command. It creates a symbolic link.

Installing Rails

Now that we have Ruby Gems installed Rails is a very simple thing to install. You should think of Rails to Ruby as you think of jQuery to Javascript. Rails is simply a set of assumptions about how you want to use Ruby that is bundled into a Gem. Install Rails through Ruby Gems with a single line.

[bash]sudo gem install rails[/bash]

Testing Your Rails Installation

Now that we have Ruby on Rails installed properly we should test it just to be sure.

[bash]
cd ~/
mkdir sandbox
cd sandbox
rails test-app
cd test-app
script/server
[/bash]

Now open up Firefox and enter “localhost:3000” into your url bar. You should see the standard Ruby on Rails starting app page.

Edit

As you’ll notice in the screencast Rails works but gives a warning and I wasn’t sure what it was. Thanks to Brian Mayle who helpfully points out the answer in the comments. We still need to install the sqlite3 connector. So run the following two lines and you’ll be right as rain.

[bash]
sudo apt-get install libsqlite3-dev
sudo gem install sqlite3-ruby
[/bash]

Installing Komodo

Finally we’re going to install Komodo Edit which is my preferred code editor for Ruby on Rails projects. I have tried Bluefish, Netbeans and many other but just keep coming back to Komodo Edit as superior for how I work.

Start by downloading Komodo Edit and just directly opening it in the Archive Manager. Drag the resulting folder onto your desktop and jump back into the terminal and run the commands below.

[bash]
cd ~/Desktop/Komodo-Edit-5.2.0-4075-linux-libcpp6-x86
sh install.sh
[/bash]

Now it’s going to ask where you want to install your software. I like to keep things organized so I install all of the custom apps inside my Home folder in a folder called software. Run the following commands to accomplish this.

[bash]
/home/myuser/software/Komodo-Edit-5
[/bash]

Next we have to insert the executable in our PATH variable with the command below.

[bash]
sudo ln -s ‘/home/myuser/Software/Komodo-Edit-5/bin/komodo’ /usr/local/bin/komodo
[/bash]

Now you’ll have a new ‘icon’ on your desktop that says ‘komodo-edit-5.desktop. This is the actual icon to launch the application but first we need to right click on it select ‘Properties/Permission” and check the box that allows executing as a program. You should now see the proper Komodo Edit Icon.

I like to drag this icon into the software folder we created and then from there drag it into the top bar in my Ubuntu installation so I can launch the application easily.

Conclusion

Now we have a working Ruby on Rails development environment with a working code editor. If you have any questions let me know in the comments.

Links used

Play

The Best Windows Ruby on Rails Setup Part 1

I recently purchased a new computer and had to get Ruby on Rails installed on it. Up to this point I’ve been using my wife’s Macbook for ROR development on weekends. It was time to make the jump to a dedicated environment that didn’t interfere with the Facebook cravings of the wife.

Instead of just diving blindly into setting it up I tapped the knowledge of one of the guys I know who works at Engine Yard and worked on Windows.

Update: Wayne E. Seguin of RVM now has a Rails Windows Installer so you can really install Ruby on Rails in Windows easily.

Update: I have now installed Karmic Koala in Virtualbox in Windows 7 and the process is exactly the same.

His answer to me was…the best way to install Ruby on Rails in Windows is to get Linux. So watch the screencast as I install Ubuntu in Virtual Box on my Vista PC.

Play

View Part 2

Download Links

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