What would you expect from a basic text editor? Let’s create a list of features:
- Support for plain text
- Limited auto-complete
- Ability to connect to multiple FTP servers at once
- Ability to upload, download, rename and delete files.
- Line numbering
Now what if this was all available in a web-based application? Enter WorkSpace.
WorkSpace — which currently is currently in limited beta testing — is an online text editing environment with an eye towards web development. You can create documents and save them in your hosted sandbox, or directly to your server via FTP.
Uploading files, creating new files and editing existing files is an easy, intuitive process. Copying files is a little bit trickier. You can’t, for example, copy a file to the same folder. You must select the file, choose to copy it, then paste it in a new directory. Compare this to, say, Transmit which will automatically save the duplicate file in the same directory as “filename copy.extension.”
Moving a file takes some creative thinking as well. Much like the *nix command line, WorkSpace does not allow you to move files, per se. Instead, you have two options:
- Copy the file to a new directory, then delete the original.
- Use the ‘Rename’ command and prepend the new path to the file name.
For example, to move “colors.css” from the root directory to “styles/,” for example, you can just rename the file “styles/colors.css.” A better interface, in my opinion, would include “Move” as an option for managing files, and handle the how behind the scenes.
WorkSpace also doesn’t yet offer version control or (to my knowledge) integration with a versioning system. You also can’t share access to a particular workspace, which makes this app fine for individual developers, but not for teams. Another “would be nice to have”: some sort of debugging or error-checking interface. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, to see these features in a final release version, or in WorkSpace 2.0.
Let’s not forget the big, honking issue with WorkSpace: security. I don’t mean to state that the site is insecure. But it does raise some basic questions of trust and protection. Are you willing to give a third party the user names and passwords of your servers? What kind of encryption do they use to connect to your FTP server? Where’s the indication that the communications between your browser and their servers are encrypted? Are their servers well-protected against intrusion? If you delete a remote WorkSpace, what happens to that user name and password data? Those are questions that aren’t answered anywhere on their web site.
I do like the idea behind WorkSpace. It gives users the ability to code from any computer with a browser and an internet connection, but without requiring extra software. The downside is that you’re trusting a company with all of your web site data. I’m not sure the slight gain in the ability to work remotely is worth the trade-off of giving WorkSpace server access.
I’d really like to see some clarity about what WorkSpace is doing to protect user data. Show me that you’re at least trying to keep my FTP user name and password from getting jacked in transmission. Or alternatively, offer a self-hosted option for those who don’t trust third parties with their sensitive server data.
If you’d like to give WorkSpace a test drive, you can sign up for a beta testing account on their web site.