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iPad Review: Source Code Editors

In playing with my iPad, I determined that editing code in vi via SSH just wasn't going to be possible (the on screen keyboard just doesn't work well for vi keyboard commands). That meant I had to look at AppStore alternatives. I came across two that advertised what I wanted to do; for i ($9.99) and Monkey Wrench ($6.99). Given that I'm used to Komodo IDE, which has a price tag of $245 I wasn't expecting much.

I decided to play with for i first and was impressed with a number of things. One of which was the addition of an extra row to the keyboard with most of the commonly used programming characters. This meant I wouldn't have to switch to numeric and then to symbols. It also included a tab key which was useful, since I work primarily with Python.  I wrote out a few lines of code and was happy with the speed. I couldn't type as quickly as I can on a keyboard, but I was quicker than some people I've seen attempt to write Python. Syntax highlighting, a built in web server (for file sharing), and some settings were all nice to have, along with the exceptional language support.

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After I wrote out my quick demo script, I switched over to Monkey Wrench to do a comparison. The first thing I noticed was that it didn't look quite as nice. I'm not sure what it was, but it looked outdated.  What I did like about Monkey Wrench was the line numbering, however it was mostly a viewer and it felt like code editing was added as an after thought. I also didn't like that Monkey Wrench was written primarily for use with FTP and then local files were thrown in afterward. There was no need to select a language as I had in for i, I simply typed... syntax formatting need not apply right now (but it is listed as a planned future improvement). The keyboard, while it added extra characters, didn't had enough of them and coding was almost a pain (keys like = / ( and ) were missing ).

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for i Pros

  • Syntax Highlighting for numerous languages
  • Attractive Interface
  • Enhanced Keyboard
  • Wifi File Sharing

for i Cons

  • Lack of Line Numbering
  • No SFTP support
  • Copy/Paste support was extremely poor and inaccurate

Monkey Wrench Pros

  • Line Numbering

Monkey Wrench Cons

  • UI felt more like a viewer than an editor
  • Lacking certain enhanced keyboard functionality
  • No Syntax Highlighting
  • Had to enter typing mode
  • Wedged in a viewer and an editor instead of sharing the space for a single window.

In the end, I'll use for i for now but I'll keep both up-to-date and see what happens with them in the future. Either way, it's nice to see this type of app available... now if only Python was in the AppStore.

  1. March 26th, 2011 at 23:41 | #1

    If you’re still looking for a great code editor, check out Textastic. Has all those necessary features one looks for in a text editor… just, you know, on the iPad. Had to really dig for it, though… but I’m glad I found it.


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