Creating a web site takes long hours of planning, lots of design iterations and of course, execution – which involves tons of code and even more coffee. You could almost compare writing code to painting. To create a painting, you need a color pallet, paper, and of course, a brush. In that analogy, the brush would be the developer’s code editor. Can you imagine a painter trying to create a piece of art without a brush? – Ok, yes, you can use your fingers and all, but that’s a topic for another post – same goes for a developer.
Having the right code editor will definitely improve your productivity, saving you time and coffee. Back in the day, web developers didn’t have many options when it came to code editors. The most popular, by far, were FrontPage and Dreamweaver – if you find a website today that has a certain “90’s” look, trust me, it was created using one of these two editors. Fortunately, the web evolved, and so did the code editors. Today there are many different options with many different functionalities suited for specific tasks/languages and project complexity.
Here are five that we love and recommend:
A free source code editorbased on the powerful editing component Scintilla, Notepad++ uses pure Win32 API and STL which ensures a higher execution speed and smaller program sizes. Notepad++ supports several languages – including markup languages – and has support for macros and plugins, but most importantly, it has support for auto completion (although limited to a few languages) and syntax highlighting and code folding. On top of all that, Notepad++ is also good for the environment! Because of its optimization in execution speed, Notepad++ allows the PC to reduce power consumption – how cool is that?
2. Sublime Text
Built by Jon Skinner, a former Google Software Engineer, Sublime is a beautiful lightweight editor with great features. Considered one of the best editors out there, Sublime offers full package control, is easily manageable and is cross platform. Sublime has a built in Python complier, which allows you to experiment with your code in real time. Most importantly though, Sublime is loved and supported by a big community with a repository containing all sorts of packages that can be easily found and installed.
3. PHP Storm
PHP Storm is a featured packed IDE (Integrated Development Environment) licensed by JetBrains. It has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years due to its version control system integration, support for remote deployment and support to all major PHP frameworks. Although not free, PHP Storm provides an extreme amount of time-saving shortcuts, refactoring tools and advanced syntax-highlighting that is better than anything you can get for free. It also allows developers to quickly navigate through the program flow and to integrate with Git, which by itself makes it worth the cost.
Netbeans is also a full packed IDE, recommended especially for professional software development. Although more robust than the other editors we’ve mentioned, Netbeans is perfect if you want to have as much control as possible over your project. With Netbeans you can easily create FTP connections, have framework management prior to the project creation, auto-reload pages on browsers upon save, and much more. It’s user friendly interface allow users to quickly interact and share code. Netbeans supports several languages and is free.
Created by Allan Odgard, TextMate features declarative customizations, tabs for open documents, recordable macros, folding sections, snippets, shell integration and extensible bundle system. Behind the scenes, TextMate is very well designed and coded. TextMate handles all the little details it features cleanly and smoothly. One of the biggest disadvantages – or advantages, depending on how you look at it – is that TextMate is only supported on Macs. So, if you are a PC user, it won’t be an option for you.
At the end of the day, the editor that will fit you best is the one you feel most comfortable with. I personally love Sublime Text but use Notepad++ on most of my projects, simply because Notepad++ is very lightweight and open source. When trying to decide which one is the best for you, I’d recommend just installing and “playing” a bit with different options. Stick with the one that is most applicable to the kind of project you are working on and you can’t go wrong!