App Review: LiveReload

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Live Reload IconI linked LiveReload on Twitter the day I discovered it, but I haven’t given it a truly thorough test until tonight. Suffice to say I was impressed enough to take some time out to write it up.

LiveReload is a tool for web designers. It watches for changes in a given folder and–in a way similar to what Marked does for Markdown files–it updates your web browser(s) whenever files with certain extensions change. Yes, you can (and I have) script your way to something similar, but LiveReload brings a few extra refinements to the job.

You have the option of adding a JavaScript snippet to the head of your HTML files on your development server, or (far better) you can use browser extensions in Safari, Firefox and Chrome. With either of these options in place, the coolest part of LiveReload becomes available: any changes to images or CSS are reflected live–and instantly–on the page without a reload. It’s not quite as “live” as Espresso, but it brings instant-preview editing to any of your favorite editors. Just add the watch folder, turn on the browser extensions and start saving. It also makes it possible to see previews in Gecko and Webkit browsers simultaneously without manually refreshing.

LiveReload has some powerful customizable options. You start by telling it which folders to watch, but you can get specific about which filetypes to watch as well. You can have it automatically compile SASS, LESS, CoffeeScript and others and control the output location for every individual file (if you like). You can also specify any shell command to run after changes are processed but before the browser refreshes. There’s really not much you can’t do with a setup like this.

LiveReload is in beta right now, but the development schedule appears to be on track. It’s ultimately headed for the App Store, and I don’t know what it will cost. If the price is reasonable for an app that I consider to be very useful–but could live without–I’ll definitely be picking up a copy when the time comes. There’s also a Windows version in the works, which might even help me solve some IE testing conundrums. We’ll see. For now, check out the beta, grab the browser extensions and see what you think.