Coda makes the iPad even more productive

Coda makes the iPad even more productive

People still think it's crazy that anyone would even consider using an iPad as a productivity device. But even in advance of iOS 9, which will arrive this fall with some major new iPad productivity features, using the iPad to get real work done isn't the computer equivalent of stuffing a dozen clowns in a Volkswaken Beetle. Real, deep, professional-level iPad apps are here today.

This week saw the launch of Coda 2 for iOS from Panic, a $10 app that I've been trying out for the last few days. (I also used its previous version, Diet Coda.)

If anyone ever wants to tell you that the iPad's not a professional tool, show them Coda. It's a full-featured development tool. Start with the code editor, which supports HTML, CSS, Perl, Go, Java, JavaScript, Lua, Markdown, Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby, and many more. If you think that editing code on a touchscreen keyboard seems insane (it's serviceable for touch-up work, in my experience, but not for anything in depth), just pair a Bluetooth keyboard with the iPad. Coda supports all the keyboard shortcuts you'd expect, including arrow keys, undo, save, and more--with presumably even better keybinding support on the way as a part of the iOS 9 upgrade.

Then there's the file-transfer engine, which is based on Panic's venerable Transmit FTP client that started on the Mac and also now runs on iOS. Transmit's been my FTP tool of choice for several years now, and it's rock solid, with support for FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, S3, and several other transport protocols.

And to top it all off, Coda integrates a terminal app, based on Panic's existing Prompt SSH app. I was very quickly able to call up a couple of files on my remote server in two tabs while keeping an SSH window open in a third. Coda also includes a JavaScript Playgrounds feature that lets you test JavaScript locally.

Then there's Editorial, a $10 app that looks like a generic text editor, but is actually much more. Editorial contains a full Python interpreter, allowing you to create insanely powerful scripted workflows to make it easy to write code, articles, or novels.

Editorial for iOS

Editorial's automation tools (which include pre-written blocks, so you don't have to teach yourself Python in order to use them) and custom text snippets feature are enhanced by an extension to the software keyboard that brings snippets and frequently used special characters to the foreground.

I know numerous creative professionals who swear by Editorial for all their iOS-based writing needs. I've been writing in the same text editor for nearly 20 years, and Editorial may be the first iOS app that I'd consider on par. I could turn to writing entirely on the iPad and have confidence that the scripts and shortcuts I've built on my Mac could be rebuilt easily inside Editorial.

The other iOS app I'd nominate for the productivity hall of fame is Omni Group's OmniFocus. This is a $40 app task management app that runs on iPad, iPhone, and Mac.

While the App Store is littered with cheap and free to-do list apps, OmniFocus is more than that. It's actually more of a life manager, with the power and flexibility to support anything from traditional GTD workflows to entirely idiosyncratic ones.

iPad productivity isn't for everyone--I enjoy my 27-inch Retina iMac, thank you very much--but the freedom and portability than an iPad can provide can be a compelling alternative for some, and a lifestyle for others. My colleague Federico Viticci needed a small device when he was hospitalized with cancer, and to this day leads a life so mobile--from couch to kitchen to cafe to car--that he can't imagine going back to a traditional laptop, let alone a desktop. But maybe you're just someone who's trying to get away for the weekend while still having the option to get some serious work done (or be on call in case something bad happens back at the office). The iPad can provide there, too.

So no, not everyone needs to chuck their PC and use an iPad full time. But don't go telling me it can't be a professional-level productivity tool. Because after seeing Coda 2 this week, I know for a fact that that's not true.

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