Whats your code editor toolset?

Code Editing Software

What’s your main code editor? (Image from tablexi.com)

For web developers the code editor is an essential everyday tool, but they vary massively. Which one or ones do you use and why? Lets review the type and their benefits..

The huge amount of code editor platforms tells you everything you need to know about different people working in the industry. They are varied in scale, detail, presentation and workflow, much like the massive number of websites out there, but which one do you chose? Often it’s easy to stick with one setup that’s comfortable long after it’s outdated, should we all use a combination for experimenting, building, testing and debugging specifically? Most fall into one of the following types, all with their own flaws and benefits..

Notepad –  only for the brave

Not an ideal for most situations, unless you’re remarkably good at viewing code cleanly, a notepad type program is an unformatted text editor that delivers the simple no frills code. Sometimes ideal for making quick changes to copy or styles if you know the line or character to search for, knowing no accidental automation or clever widget will update any other part of your file. But beyond those few occasions, using a notepad file for building a larger project is a bit tedious.

The beast – your heavy software

The opposite to a simple notepad program, the large web editing platform. These are the software most begin learning in and  then stick with for life, and usually contain code hinting, templates, site managers and other complex features. At SSA our work in .NET platforms makes Visual Studio the best candidate, and though largely hated many creatives stick with Dreamweaver. The complexity of a larger website with many files, perhaps even CMS or database means the kitchen sink approach to features becomes essential for a full project build.

The slick kids

The alternatives to the established software are the cool new minimal programs emerging in recent years. Quick editors like sublime text and Adobe’s brackets are open source, have awesome autocomplete, search and live view features, making for a fast and slick user experience that is a joy to use. For working on simple webpages or making single edits to projects, these are a great option, but the danger of getting used to one set of features is the errors made in switching back. These tools show major platforms the way to go and could one day take a much larger share of usage.

The cloud editors

There is one other set, and that is the inline browser editors that are faster and easier than any others. Google’s code playground, jsFiddle and codepen are just a few examples, letting you quickly load libraries like jQuery and create demos that save instantly for sharing. These are perfect for sharing ideas and collaboration on projects, or for debugging and testing, developers may prefer to keep a mini library of code snippets for future use than bookmarked download links. Watch this space..

Which to use

So which one to use, there is of course no straight answer. As mentioned above, there will likely be different benefits depending on your project and style, and different editors will suit at different stages of a website project. The key may be just to stay aware of the code structure itself and finding the best platform to implement it; getting cosy with one software’s preprocessors and automated widgets will make life easier in the short term, but could blind you to innovative new options available long term. Ultimately we will all find a system that suits us individually, but the key is staying open to new developments..


One thought on “Whats your code editor toolset?

  1. I use NotePad++ in Windows and vi in Linux – because I’ve been doing this kind of editing of web pages and code since the days of TECO when vi was a big step up. Something no-frills is available on every OS, it pays to know the nuts-and-bolt way when no better IDE is available. I use NetBeans, Code::Blocks, VisualStudio, or other IDE when available and useful for the language I am working in. I do not have a “favorite”, just as I don’t have a favorite language to code in. I use the language most suited for the problem domain, and the IDE geared for the language that project. E.g;., Eclipse is really geared for Java, But NetBeans does better at C++ than Eclipse does. VS is geared for C# and VB but does OK for C++ and C. For JavaScript and PHP, Perl and Python, either Notepad++ or Sublime does just fine. And I haven’t met a bash script yet that needed more than vi. 😉 I guess that puts me in the esoteric-mechanic category, not the artistic-visionary category. ;-D I agree about staying open to new developments. Here’s a guideline: If the code you wrote last year doesn’t look like crap compared to the code you are writing this year, then you aren’t growing fast enough to keep up with the industry. Stay curious! Learn a new language every year! Keep that brain flexible and growing!

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