Visor 12.06.2008

Alex recently wrote about some of the different ways he uses Textmate.

I don’t know too many people who use Visor, so I figured I’d illustrate some of the different ways that Visor plays into my workflow.

At my job at Threespot, I spend a fair amount of time working with front-end code. Typically, I’ll have Textmate, Photoshop, and any number of browsers open. I started using Visor a couple years ago, after the Ars Technica thread that first introduced the idea managed to get some impetus after the developer behind Quicksilver whipped up a prototype. Even since then, it has gradually taken an ever more prominent space in my short cuts list.

Last year, it finally stole the prime Command-Space shortcut from Spotlight. Currently, my Mac has Spotlight regulated to Control-Space.

So without further ado, a series of annotated screenshots. Click on them for larger versions.

This is Visor. I press Command-Space, and a terminal drops down over my screen. I’ve turned off all the superfluous transitions, so it appears almost instantly. In this case, you can see that I’ve just started working on a project in Textmate.

The pretty colors are courtesy of Ciarán’s SIMBL hack. I find it makes extensive use of OS X’s terminal much more visually pleasing.

There are three tabs. Since Visor essentially drops down an inline terminal window, the window has all of the functionality associated with a normal terminal window. In this case, I have three tabs, each with its own purpose.

I’ll get to the other two in a bit.

To switch between the tabs, you can use the standard Command-Shift-{ or Command-Shift-}. But if you install Ciarán’s tab switching SIMBL hack, you can also switch tabs via Command-1, Command-2, etc. a la Textmate or Firefox.

Textmate. I’m not going go into too many details about the plugins I use, as that’s covered amply elsewhere. Suffice to say that ReMate is a necessity if you do any kind of editing over network drives of dubious latency.

I use the IR_Black theme. I’ve used VibrantInk, among others, in the past, but settled on IR_Black as it provided just the right amount of vibrancy and muted austerity.

I do have my Textmate highlight color set to an eye-burning red, however. It’s too difficult to pinpoint the locations of find results, otherwise.

I work on a multitude of projects at various points during the day, and I’ve been too lazy to set up a proper hosts file to route Apache virtual hosts to the right folders. However, several of the projets are pure static templates, with only HTML, CSS and javascript. For those, I’ve found that using Python’s simple server works admirably.

I merely navigate to the directory in question, and start up the server.

The Python server sets itself up by default on port 8000. I usually have Firefox, Safari and a bunch of other browsers in a multitude of virtual machines for testing. When I’m doing my initial pass of the code, however, I tend to stay in Firefox.

The beauty of Visor is that it doesn’t steal focus. As such, I can switch back and forth between Textmat and Firefox via Command-Tab all day long. And then, whenever I need to do something with the terminal, I bring up Visor, do my thing, and then close it. All without interrupting my windows’ stack order.

With such easy access to the terminal, I’ve started doing things that I would normally do in the finder via the command line. A simple open /path/to/file will typically be much faster and accurate than opening up windows via the GUI. Using grep or find makes searching files simple, and I’ve actually stopped using Textmate’s git or svn bundles in favor of the command line executables.