Nova: long-term review

I’ve posted previously about my experiences with Panic Nova, an IDE I want to love from a company I’ve loved ever since I complained about timezone support in v1 of Transmit and Cabel wrote back to me personally and fixed the issue in the next version. Unfortunately, I’ve now been forced to go back to VS Code and it reminds me of a line from the much under-rated movie Tetris:

Never underestimate the power of BASIC Javascript

As I see it, Nova offers a few key selling points over VS Code:

  • Everything in one window development…
    • Multiple Projects ★★★★☆
    • Code ★★☆☆☆
    • Terminal ★★★★☆
    • Git ★★★★★
    • Browser ★★★☆☆
  • Native look and feel ★★★★★
  • Faster “native” performance ★★★☆☆
Code quality stuff just doesn't seem to work properly in Nova. None of this stuff is perfect but it's much less perfect in Nova.
The problem is, it does exist and my goal is to always have zero warnings and zero noise in my code. So this kind of crap is like fingernails on a blackboard.
Again, VS Code can find the declaration of log and also correctly infers the parameters for onRequest.

Out of the starting gate, VS Code offers terminal and code in a Window. While VS Code’s browser extension sucks, Nova’s is just limited enough to be a problem (e.g. it won’t let me sign-in via Google).

Merging multiple project windows into a single window is and remains great, but why, once you’ve done it, isn’t it just the default until you turn it off. E.g. if I open or create another project, why not have it automatically merge into the Window? And if I quit and relaunch, restore everything?

But the big deal for me all centers on the code editing experience. Basically, nothing works properly. Syntax hilighting doesn’t quite work, nor does auto-complete, nor does integration with linters. It’s all just a little off. I could never figure out how to do language extensions and I have to type in boilerplate code like an animal—in VS Code I have macro commands that just add TextMate-style boilerplate templates that just work.

And the advertised speed is bogus too… Both VS Code and Nova are perfectly fine on my M1 Max-powered MacBook Pro, but on my old 2015 MacBook Pro, I can literally see the syntax hiliting failing to keep up when I scroll, and the syntax-highlighting isn’t as sophisticated as VS Code’s because I can’t tell Nova that, for example, comments in /*! */ are markdown.

The upshot is Nova looks great, the multiple-projects stuff, terminal, and git integration are more than solid (for simple stuff, the git integration actually beats both GitHub Desktop (which these days is pretty great) and Sublime Merge (which is indispensable for anything complicated). Unfortunately, the code editing stuff just kills it. That’s the most important job and I just don’t see my issues being addressed any time soon.

So I’m back to VS Code.