If you’re new to coding (or even haven’t started yet), you may be wondering how you go about creating and editing your code. And may even be creating your code in some famous word processor. Well stop right there if you are and read this!
What not to use
… such as Adobe Dreamweaver and Serif Webplus. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with these programs for creating websites and I certainly don’t want Adobe or Serif sending their legal eagles around to beat me up! Professional looking websites can be achieved using these, but if you want to get down and dirty with your code and design your own site, learning how everything works, or you want to get a job in web development, then you will want to avoid these. They’re more geared towards those that are not interesting in coding but still want to design their own websites.
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Although this does allow you to edit your files, it’s best to steer clear of this program. There are no formatting options and no assistance with coding. Things just basically look a complete mess so this one is a no-go.
Word (or equivalent)
Definitely not. While you may feel more comfortable with Word (or whatever), word formats documents in a different way and things will break if you use programs like this even if you DO save with the correct extension. And again, there’s no coding help. Word for example, will think that nearly everything you type is incorrect. Can you imagine working with a page full of red underlined words? Aaaaargh!
What will help you code
Above are examples of programs that should not be used for coding. There are others, but I think you get the main gist of what won’t work for you. Now we can talk about what WILL work for you. And oh boy, is there a choice! Really. There’s a LOT of choice.
There are two types of programs that will be useful to you. The simple code editor, and the IDE (Integrated Development Environment). The cool thing about IDEs is that as well as allowing you to code, you can debug your code and do many, many other fancy things that probably at this stage will just scare you away (even now these programs blow my mind).
Above I mentioned not to use Notepad as a code editor due to its simplicity. Well this is like its big brother and more more useful with features such as:
- Document Map
Ideal for seeing where you are in your code. Great for when your files get very, very large.
- Code Highlighting
Essential for seeing the difference between the different types of functions and methods being used.
- Function List
Shows all the functions and methods in your file allowing you to quickly move to where you need to be.
This is a cross browser code editor (Windows, Apple and Linux) and is very powerful:
- Distraction Free Mode
Go full screen, hiding everything except the code that you are currently working on. Good for when you’re in the zone.
- Split Editing
Allows you to display two files next to each other allowing you to code with one and have the other for a reference. Or code both. (Or code neither and just leave it on the screen making you look uber cool!).
- Completely Customise
Change the colour of the background, functions, text, add macros to help you complete common code snippets and create key bindings.
The only downfall of this software really, is that it’s not free. You can evaluate it for free but it will cost you $70 (USD) for a license and you want to upgrade to version 4, you will have to pay for that too. But that is for a personal license and not a machine license so you can install it on all your computers at the same time.
This is a free code editor and there is also an IDE version which you have to pay for (unless you are a non-profit or non-organisation). However you are never forced or nagged about upgrading. The editor is without any limitations and is one of the most professional editors out there:
Never lose where you are again! Which can happen when you’re jumping from file to file.
- Multi-Language Editor
Covering more languages than you can shake a stick at (even non-web languages), it offers highlighting, auto-complete and calltips.
Store commands, code snippets and macros for easy access and re-use.
As I have already said, there are many, many other programs out there. Netbeans IDE for example is completely free and allows you to build everything from simple websites to complex projects. But if you’re just starting out, it will probably take you longer to learn how to navigate the program than create your first website.
It’s all down to personal choice however. So give a few a try and see how you get on with them. There are many tailored for individual preferences and for jobs. I myself use Atom (yet another code editor!). I found it easy to get started when I first began with it and it has lots of features which will keep me going for a long time before I need to consider upgrading to something more feature packed.
How about you? I’m interested to know what you as a website developer – whether new or experienced – use as an editor.