Chocolat: The New Mac Text Editor on the Block

Posted by | December 16, 2011 | Apps | No Comments

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?