Kodiak JavaScript : An IDE made for the iPad

A week ago and I was going through my Twitter feed and found a Tweet mentioning about a JavaScript IDE application for the iPad.

s1The Tweet got me interested because I really wanted to use the iPad for things that are more than just reading, browsing and playing some games. I am not a heavy App user, though I write and teach how to write mobile Applications. JavaScript and related frameworks have been a focus area for a while now and so this looked like a great thing to compliment my travel or trips.

Come July 10 and Kodiak JavaScript IDE has been released to the world and it is there on my iPad. I am quite impressed with what I have seen so far and I can see how I could possibly use my time during travel to try out some coding.

Installation and Settings

The App installs straight from the App Store and the first thing was to go to Settings and set the Theme, Font and Font size. I loved the fact that one of the Themes was a simple one with a white background – I really have a problem with dark backgrounds.

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Folder Structure

The one thing at the back of my mind was the ability to organize the folders and files. Things could very quickly get out of control if this is not done from the start. So it was good to see that the folder structure was thought out well right from the start and the fact that they used conventional names for the directories. It was easy to make out that the libraries would belong in lib folder and so on. You can create your own folder and files by choosing the New Folder and New File as visible on the right sidebar. Note that you can maximize your main pane by hiding off the right sidebar.

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50+ JavaScript libraries

One neat feature is that the Application sets you up with most of the popular JavaScript libraries. The lib folder has all the libraries. This folder is locked at the moment and one cannot add things over here but it should be interesting to hear from the developers how they plan to use this folder, especially when newer libraries are available.

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Writing Code

I created my own Folder, a sample file in it and started to code out a simple example to get the feel for the editor. It seemed confusing to me at first about how to enter all the start tag, end tag symbols for HTML. The keyboard looked daunting with the top line of keys have keys with 5 symbols of them. But then I discovered the fun of enter tapping the key or swiping the key in the direction of the symbol. After about 5-10 minutes, you sort of get the feel of typing and where the keys are. In summary I found it reasonable but I would ideally look for more innovation to happen on typing code. Intellisense seemed missing — so keep those handy example code ready. You will need to copy – paste a bit.

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Once you have written the code, all you need to do is tap on the Live Preview to see the code in action. Sweet !

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File Operations

Finally I wanted to see how easy it is to move files around, copy them, rename them, delete them and most important push them to another system. The features are all there. Just tap on the icon for the file/folder and you get a host of options to perform these common operations.

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What I love so far

  • Preview of your code
  • Like the fact that a lot of common libraries (50+) have been packaged already with the app. This helps you code offline.
  • I love that they have enforced the convention for common folders like imglibexamples and so on. It is easy to remember where things will be.
  • The very fact that there are several other libraries and snippets of working examples shipped with the product, it might make me learn a new library or two, which is a great thing.
  • Options for Copy, Rename, Delete, Move and Share/Upload are there. This makes it easy to work with the folders/files and also move things out of the app.
  • The Track Bar. I had never used this in an application before and suddenly it feels like it should be there.
  • Tabbed File Browsing, which helps you to move around different files.

Things I would love to see

  • An ability to download my own library files and specific versions. It is not clear at this point if the application updates would include that. But seriously, at this point I do not see this as my primary development environment, so the libraries are fine but a little more control over what goes there would be nice.
  • I love the current keyboard. It took some time to get used to it but I quickly got the hang of it. But I would really like the team to keep innovating around this and see how else they could improve the speed that we can get the html in. Maybe some intelligent autocomplete or keyboard inspiration from Swift-Key?
  • Intellisense …. we are slaves to that. I believe it is there or not there. I have not been able to see it.
  • A tutorial of sorts … to show various features of the application. I am sure that there are some hidden gems somewhere but I have to discover them.
  • How it handles erroneous code ? I am yet to dig deeper into what happens when I get the code wrong and it cannot execute.
  • Some kind of import functionality.
  • New File and New Folder functionality could have gone right on top as first class citizens rather than being hidden in the side bar. Thats just a personal preference.
  • File Search by name

Overall I am really happy with what I am seeing here. I plan to see if this works out for the kids too since I have been taking them through HTML programming. Given that this is on the iPad, I believe it will be that much easier for the kids to get attracted more to Web programming 🙂 I see a lot of potential there.

In all fairness, this is a solid start in my opinion and the bar has been raised. I can only see it getting better and would love to get updates with new features on a regular basis.

The introductory price of $4.99 is great and lasts for a week. The quest to use Tablets as a primary coding environment is well and truly on and Kodiak JavaScript has pushed the envelope here.

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