in Mac apps, review, web design

Cultured Code comments

A friend emailed me last night to ask if I had tried ‘Things‘ from Cultured Code. I have — this is one of the GTD-based task management applications I will review in the coming weeks. So far, I’ve written about iGTD and OmniFocus, both excellent applications. The View from the Dock ‘Getting Things Done’ task manager series is taking more time than I anticipated, mainly because it takes a while to understand and fully evaluate each application.

But that’s not really what I want to talk about. In this same email, I was also asked if I had tried Cultured Code’s other product, Xyle scope. I thought I’d post a few thoughts on this.

I tried out the full-featured trial of Xyle scope this past summer. I think it’s is a really great application, especially if you’re learning HTML and CSS. What is it? I think of it as an all-in-one tool to dissect a web page. It offers a quick, clean and tidy way to view underlying code, which is very handy if you’re trying to figure out ‘how’d they do that?’ for a particular website that you like. It’s also great if you’re trying to match selectors with elements on a really complex page, or if you’re trying to locate a bug.

I really like how Xyle scope displays HTML in a hierarchical view (a tree structure). It’s much easier to grasp the structure of a page with this handy view. And if you click on any element on the page, you can readily see the code for just that element in the HTML pane. It’s a very well-ordered, visual way to present code. The CSS views built into this tool are also very well designed, easy to navigate and powerful.

What strikes me most about Xyle scope is how attractively it’s designed. I really like how it combines the ‘what you see’ on a given web page with the ‘what’s behind what you see’ in the code. It’s a real pleasure to use.

I almost bought this application but, in the end, I decided to stick with two free tools that perform most of the same feats as Xyle, even though I think they are much less elegant. I use Firefox when I’m working on websites, and have grown to rely on Chris Pederick’s Web Developer and Joe Hewitt’s Firebug.

Given that these two tools perform similar functions for free, I decided to stick with them. I also found that I preferred Firefox integration to opening up a separate stand-alone application when I want or need to quickly dissect a web page. It’s just easier, and I’m lazy.

What would convince me to reconsider? First, I should make it clear that I want Xyle scope in my toolbox for web development. I love it, I really do. Yet, I’m held back. It’s not really the price ($19.95). I think, rather, it’s that Xyle scope stops short of what could be a great all-in-one application. In other words, I want to use it to edit XHTML and CSS, too.

I would like to be able to use Xyle as an analysis tool with tight browser integration: I want all of Xyle’s power available within Firefox. Then, when I’m ready to edit, I’d like to flip a switch and start editing in a companion stand-alone application that integrates seamlessly with the analysis tools. Given the great design and sense of style of Xyle scope, I would love to see what Cultured Code could do if they took it to the next level. I would consider buying that — and I’d be willing to pay a higher price for it.

  1. I’ve played with both of Cultured Code’s apps a little bit now and am pretty impressed, so far, with the designs and relative simplicity. As I’m just beginning to poke around with CSS, I’m looking for a nice, simple tool to help me see the code and understand how it fits together. I spent some time with Xyle scope and while I loved the interface and how it presents the information, I still need that information translated into something that I can learn from. For that purpose I’m using Panic’s Coda where I’m given the capability of selecting code and cross referencing it in a manual.
    While Xyle isn’t for me right now, Cultured Code definitely has a couple of great apps brewing and I can’t wait to see what else they come out with. I’ll save my thoughts on Things until your review is posted!

  2. Yeah, I’ve heard great things about Panic’s Coda. Have you seen this“ rel=”nofollow”>review? I haven’t tried it yet, but plan to give it a spin to see what it’s all about. Given the time and effort (not to mention money) I’ve put out for CSSEdit, Textmate, and Transmit, I don’t see myself switching over to Coda. Still, it seems like a really good idea to put all the editing and file transfer stuff together in one app. The integration of the manuals and guides is a particularly brilliant idea.

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