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Cover image for I spent 48 Hours coding in Nova and forgot about VS Code

I spent 48 Hours coding in Nova and forgot about VS Code

steveblue profile image Steve Belovarich Updated on ・2 min read

I spent 48 hours with Nova, a new native IDE for MacOS released by Panic on September 14th.

Two days ago I downloaded the free trial of Nova, installed the TypeScript extension, snagged a theme, opened a TypeScript project and started coding.

Nova is fast. Files open with haste. Find in Project... delivers search results fast. There's no visible slowdown editing large files. When I open multiple text editor panes and terminals Nova doesn't skip a beat. The native IDE just works. Not everything is straight out of MacOS. According to Panic, their engineers coded the text editor from scratch after discovering some bugs in Apple’s text layout engine and ended up with a more performant experience.

Mind blown

Nova's text editor is delightful. There’s multiline editing, intuitive autocompletion, code hints. The TypeScript extension features some refactoring functionality for all those code smells. Panic found some novel uses for the MacBook Pro Touch Bar including running your npm script at the press of a button, as if typing npm run start took too long.

Open Project Pane

The design is clean and intuitive, very familiar to anyone using MacOS. Finding stuff is easy. When I click on the whimsical iconography there’s subtle user feedback. I open a dialog and find myself staring into the depths of outer space. Nova is honestly a little weird. Panic is the same company that released a handheld game device with a hand crank... because they could. It's part of the charm.

Nova has all the things you've come to expect from a modern IDE for JavaScript development. There’s extensions for TypeScript, Prettier and ESLint, Git integration, integrated terminal and development server. You can connect to a variety of servers including Amazon S3, Azure, and Rackspace, or via protocols like SSH, FTP, WebDAV HTTPS. I appreciate this feature for small projects. Panic syncs your server configurations across workstations. The nova command line tool opens files and workspaces from the MacOS Terminal.

Split Pane Layout in Nova displaying TypeScript and Terminal Output

VS Code definitely has some advantages over Nova including better Git integration, a robust debugging experience, large extension ecosystem. Despite all those wonderful features, VS Code pauses briefly before opening some files. VS Code doesn't tokenize large files because it bogs down the application. VS Code feels out of place on MacOS. Nova UI is snappy in comparison. Nova is a very capable JavaScript IDE. The performance of a native app alone is worth it, but the MacOS feel prompted me to switch.

At $99 ($49 yearly subscription after the first year), Nova is reasonably priced. If you have a serial number from Panic’s legacy IDE Coda, the initial price drops to $79. Nova is a ground up rewrite of Coda.

If you’re looking for an alternative to VS Code, download the free trial of Nova. You may be surprised how a native IDE can really improve developer experience.

Disclaimer: I’m not paid by or affiliated with Panic.

Discussion

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thefern profile image
Fernando B 🚀

Steep price imo. Especially being yearly subscription based. Good luck getting people to switch from free vscode.

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steveblue profile image
Steve Belovarich Author

What would you pay for an app distributed by a small company? Just curious.

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thefern profile image
Fernando B 🚀

Edit: Unsure if you were asking for engineers salaries or the app price.

I am not a fan of subscription based apps at all, but that's just me. I've paid for sublime txt, sketch and other cool tools one payment. As soon as they do subscription I'm out. I want to own the software. If I see an app I like most of the time I'm willing to pay whatever, but one time. If the app is fully functional I don't see why you need constant updates just to get people on subscription updates. Personally imo is better to sell X version one payment provide N amount of updates or updates at reduced price, than perpetual subscription. I'm not saying people won't pay for Nova just saying there are tons of free options.

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steveblue profile image
Steve Belovarich Author

Corrected for clarity.

I don't mind subscriptions as long as the software is continuously improved. Other IDEs are subscription based. Jetbrains reduces the subscription price for Webstorm after so many years.

I am curious what do others consider to be a fair price for an IDE? Software pricing is all over the place.

Web engineers are fortunate there are free options. The barrier to entry should be low for web development, in my opinion.

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thefern profile image
Fernando B 🚀

To me subscription based seems like milking the cow lol. Just sell me something good one time payment, if I can write, run, debug code I am happy. If vscode was subscription based I am sure you and I wouldn't be talking about it. At this point I don't think any text editor or ide can compete with vscode and visual studio market places.

Payment models are all over the place, i.e. stuff I've purchased:

  • sublime text 3 OTP
  • sketch OTP plus one year free updates ( At least the old version was, I think they switched to milking the cow)
  • scrivener OTP per version free updates until a new major version is out and then you can purchase for a discounted price if you own previous. I own a few other software with this same model.
  • I don't have any pay forever subscription unless I can't live without, and I've yet to find that software.
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tomhayes profile image
Tom Hayes

Nova is the same as the Sketch plan you mention, the subscription is optional. You can pay $99 and not subscribe but you don't get the updates after the first year. It's not forever subscription.

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janmpeterka profile image
Jan Peterka (he/him)

To me, a subscription means continuous improvements and support for the product I use. Which, in the fast moving genre like development, is really important for me. I don't want to find out that software I'm used to (and invested hours and hours into customizing, learning shortcuts and so) suddenly is not supported by my OS/hardware/is based on deprecated packages/is full of security holes/.. and I have to find a new one.

If I know my IDEs developer/s are getting money every month for this software, there's a better chance of them continuing development. If it's OTP, someday they will probably hit some maximum of users, and then what? No income. So, they either start working on something different completely (and abandoning this software), or they announce a new version I have to pay for - which is basically the same as a subscription, but with longer intervals and less security.

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calebeaires profile image
Calebe Aires

Amazing IDE but no VIM, no move!

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steveblue profile image
Steve Belovarich Author

Perfect opportunity for an extension.

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l3lackheart profile image
l3lackheart

but vscode is free :3 and Im in love with stack vscode + wsl2
also I dont like the setup you have, Im kinda fan with simple layout, like this

My favorite workspace

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NoMoreDeps

Zen mode powaaaaa

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l3lackheart profile image
l3lackheart

really useful when I become panic and need to focus 😂😂

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steveblue profile image
Steve Belovarich Author

From some of the comments in this thread and on Twitter I think Microsoft has done web engineers an amazing service by providing an IDE that is free and ubiquitous, but also possibly set an unreasonable expectation that software should be free.

$99 is not an unreasonable price for a JavaScript IDE.
Sublime Text $80
WebStorm $129, second year $103, $77 yearly subscription after that
IntelliJ $499 / year, second year $399, $299 onwards
Dreamweaver $20.99 / month
Visual Studio $45 / month

There are plenty of free alternatives including VS Code, Atom, Netbeans, and Komodo. You get what you pay for in my opinion. I would like to support Panic over large corporations like Microsoft. I don't share the opinion that a subscription is merely a way to milk developers for more money. It doesn’t make sense from a business perspective to sell a one-time license and I’m honestly surprised Sublime Text can operate under that model.

If you like VS Code that’s fine, use what works for you. The only reason I compared the two was because VS Code has been my IDE for 3 years. Alternatives exist and Panic has done an amazing job with Nova so far.

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wlcdesigns profile image
wLc

I upgraded from Coda. Love Nova so far.

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triptych profile image
Andrew Wooldridge

Thanks for the write up. Imagine it will appeal to mac developers who are looking for an alternative to VSCode.

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nomoredeps profile image
NoMoreDeps

Woooooo, for a minute I really thought there was a better IDE than Vs Code to deal with Typescript.... Then I realized you were on MacOs #Troll

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Ivan Jeremic

I like VSCode more

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wLc

The subscription is $49 a year after the initial purchase.

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Jon Randy

I've still found nothing to beat SublimeText

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Steve Belovarich Author

Sublime Text was a game changer. Such a simple, yet great IDE.