One year of COLT

A year ago we have released first public version of COLT (short for Code Orchestra Livecoding Tool). It’s about time for some kind of reflection post.

Like other livecoding tools, COLT is watching your source files for changes that you make in any IDE or text editor. Unlike other livecoding tools, COLT does not restart your application but updates it with new code, and it keeps running as if nothing happened. This is cool and unprecedented feature, but of course we pay the price – we have to transform original code for this to work, and this transformation occasionally stands in the way of, or even breaks some things in your code – which looks like yet another bug in COLT to the user.

COLT was initially released for flash platform (if you was not around back then, check this demo or presentation to get a picture). We have received a lot of positive feedback and decided to expand the technology into other languages, such as javascript.

While javascript normally does not have any “compile time” and you can refresh the browser to see your changes instantly, there is the same common problem – you want to tweak the application logic in specific state, but you have not added easy way to save and restore that state. Then, there is crappy android emulator that is times slower than actual device to work with, when you are developing phonegap apps. Finally, there is node that you have to restart for source changes to take effect when you work on nodejs server application. We thought COLT would help you with all of the above (see this nodejs video, for example).

However, even the most enthusiastic users would perceive COLT as some weekend toy, opting for time-tested workflow for their actual work. We had to find another way to make COLT useful, and in the twisted turn of evolution COLT has developed special powers, when it comes to extendable text editors such as Sublime or Webstorm. Leveraging COLT’s connection to your application, our plugins for those editors can improve their limited code completion with runtime information

COLT plugin for Sublime Text

or provide new useful features such as variables inspection, navigating to function declaration or rendering pretty documentation. People seem to appreciate it already, e.g. check out slides 77 to 84 of this EmpireJS talk by Kirill Cherkashin. Funny thing about these features is that we could do them with minimal non-invasive code transformations, not having to deal with source maps or aforementioned “bugs”, but then COLT had to be renamed to COT.

For those who were still not convinced to try COLT we have added angularjs support. I mean, our live html editing support was already really good, but for angular fans we made it even better. Since I have probably exhausted average reader attention span by now, I will just briefly mention few other things here, such as new runtime environment support, chromeless COLT version, or proxy mode – but you can learn more in COLT 2.0 blog post if you feel like. And if you want to learn even more, consult our docs page, or just ask someone in the forum.

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