Phind review


I found Phind via Marginal Revolution and Tyler Cowen's recommendation. Overall, I found it to be close to ChatGPT 4, if not slightly better — and free!

I decided to try it out because the moment last year when it seemed like OpenAI might implode reminded me again how reliant I am on ChatGPT, especially for programming.

As I've written before, I don't really program. Instead, I scope and test. My typical workflow looks something like this:

  • Overall project definition: I start by asking ChatGPT: I want to build a search feature for my blog that finds the best posts for a given query. What components would go into that?
  • Based on what I get back, I ask questions or refine the scope. Frequently there are features I can remove or requirements I've forgotten.
  • Eventually we end up with a set of components we need to build: A search bar in the UI, a results page, an API that takes the query and searches the database (I don't know what actually goes here, I haven't done this yet).
  • Building begins. I ask ChatGPT to get very specific: write the API that is going to query my database of blogposts for me. Often in this step I give ChatGPT context from other parts of my app (e.g., here is my database schema).
  • I then take the code as ChatGPT has written it and begin to test it. If ChatGPT asks me to install a library, I check that it exists and seems legit first, but beyond that, I use the code ChatGPT has given me.
  • It never works the first time! In the process, I do a lot of debugging with ChatGPT, copying and pasting in error messages and seeing what I get back.
  • Eventually it works; in the process, 95% or more of the keystrokes in the code have come from ChatGPT.

This morning, I tried doing this with Phind.

In terms of overall quality, I found Phind to be in line with ChatGPT 4. I didn't side by side test it, but in the past I've been able to feel pretty quickly when I'm accidentally working with ChatGPT 3.5. I didn't feel this difference working with Phind; if anything, it seemed to have slightly higher quality results for coding tasks.

Here are some of the things I liked:

  • They have an extra place where you can add context. I found this to be super useful, especially bringing Phind in to a project that I've already been coding on for sometime.
  • The model is also willing to ask you for extra context where it might be helpful in a way that seems like it improves my overall performance.
  • Their model responses are more skimmable than the ChatGPT equivalent. Little things like giving some styling to filenames help me move quickly through what I'm getting back.
  • When their model searches for contextual data, it's much less intrusive than when ChatGPT does the same thing. Once ChatGPT starts searching the internet, it seems to only focus on what it finds there and the extra time / context often doesn't improve what I get back; in fact, I find myself turning it off. With Phind, I didn't even notice that it was seeking out extra information from places like Stackoverflow at first - it just incorporated it into the results.

So why do I say they haven't quite nailed it? It's not clear to me as a user how I'm supposed to use these various fields. I can tell that they're useful and I'm fine with guessing as I go, but I wish they gave me more of a model for how to help them. It would also be helpful to be able to pin or save context (e.g., my directory structure).

So my final verdict, at least after one morning: Pfind is a credible peer for ChatGPT4 for coding tasks.