Ra - not just the Sun God, but a mighty fine programmers editor for Chrome for editing local files

By: (plus.google.com) +David Herron; Date: 2014-05-07 23:22

Tags: Chromebook » Chrome Apps

I like my Chromebook (an Acer C720) because it's lightweight, slim, the battery lasts forever, and the performance is great. It's a wonderful machine on which to browse the web, run Gmail, Google Docs, etc. But there are several things I do frequently that is keeping me using my Mac desktop computer. The potential for freedom using the Chromebook is beckoning, but these use cases keep me chained to the Mac.

One of those is a coders editor, editing plain text files in a variety of programming languages, either for local files or files stored on a remote server. I've found a couple editors for remotely located files, but don't have a good solution for local files.

Well, until now. The solution is - Ra - billed as a " (chrome.google.com) A text editor and file manager for your local file system."

What that means is it's a nice little text editor for programmers. It runs inside Chrome as a Chrome App, and can access files on the local file system.

You might be wondering - do Chromebooks have a local file system? Isn't everything stored in the Cloud? Why, yes, Chromebooks run Linux, and of course there's a file system. And while I'm focusing on Ra for use on my Chromebook, it works great in Chrome on my desktop Mac.

As an editor for programmers, Ra is fairly good but not great. It supports a long list of languages with rather good syntax coloring. The speed/performance/responsiveness is great. But the editing experience is rather basic.

The only mechanism for organizing a project, is that Ra gives you a file system browser sidebar. For most projects that's sufficient, but of course our brethren using full blown Java IDE's can browse projects by package and class name. And speaking of those full blown IDE's, Ra doesn't support any kind of automatic popups to help writing code.

Ra is a nice plain editor, and that's fine for a majority of uses.

For the file shown in the screenshot, I had edited that using Komodo on my Mac yesterday. It's a Markdown file, and Komodo got terribly confused by the section of indented code shown in the middle of the screen, and showed the rest of the file with the wrong coloring. As you can see, Ra got that perfect.

The only difficulty I see with Ra is the number of files you can effectively open at any one time. I like having lots of files open, and prefer the editor user interface to make it easy to manage the open files.

Ra organizes open files with a row of tabs along the top of the window. As you open more files the tabs shrink, and eventually the file names are unreadable. There is no attempt to provide a popup showing the file names.

I suppose that as long as you're ruthless about closing tabs when unneeded, the tabs will remain useful. But if you're like me and just open tab after tab, it'll quickly become unmanageable.

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