How then do you choose the one text editor that lets you bring ideas to life without any difficulty? The following tips will inform your decision.
Your Operating System
Pretty obvious huh? The first thing you should but don’t think about when choosing a text editor is the operating system you use. You obviously don’t want to download (or purchase) a web editor that won’t work with your OS, do you?
Unless you’re willing and ready to change your computer when changing your code editor, choose a text editor that has been tested and found to work on your current operating system. Good news is the market is flooded with HTML editors for Microsoft Windows and Macintosh among other operating systems.
Before wrapping up this operating system business, we should probably mention a thing or two about the minimum system requirements of your choice text editor. While a majority of code editors are light in build and probably won’t tax your system, some editors are processor-intensive and will slow down (or crash) your system. Depending on the requirements and your computer abilities, some code editors won’t work for you at all. Go for a web editor that supports your OS and whose requirements won’t bog down your system.
Your Professional Experience
Your web design skills and experience should also influence the web editor you ultimately settle on. What do I mean? There is a code editor you definitely don’t want to touch (even with a 10-foot pole) until you understand the ins and outs of web development completely. Other code editors come with a user-friendly interface that is easy to use, meaning beginners can build websites in no time without any coding experience.
As a web design beginner or a small business owner without the skills or time to learn, you’re better off with a WYSIWYG code editor that comes with a familiar word-processor-ish interface. Something like what you see when you open MS Word. WYSIWYG code editors are super easy to learn and use plus they come with video tutorials and whatnot to get you started. By the way, WYSIWYG is acronym for “What You See Is What You Get”.
As a professional front-end developer, you can use either a WYSIWYG or plain text web editor. If you’ve been developing websites for a while, you must know your way around code, so manually editing your website’s code shouldn’t scare you. There are other times that you don’t feel like writing a single line of code but still want to design. You can take advantage of the WYSIWYG and visually develop your site.
On the other hand, a professional back-end developer will benefit greatly from a web editor that supports server-side scripts and database connectivity among other things.
In addition, you should keep in mind that every code editor has a learning curve. Some editors are simple to understand and use but others are a totally different ballpark.
You definitely don’t want to end up with a text editor that limits your skills or inhibits idea development. Get a code editor that compliments your skills and stimulate creativity. You will know it when you find it I promise!
What’s your skill level? What’s your professional web design experience? Of course, personal preference plays a role here, but you don’t want to bite more than you can chew. Choose a code editor you can understand from the get go to avoid frustration.
Specific Code Editor Features
Granted, you might have no idea what features you’re looking for in a code editor. Worry not though, we got your back. Here are a couple of things or rather features to keep in mind when making your decision.
We mentioned this earlier, whereby we established that a WYSIWYG-supported code editor is your best bet if you’re a beginner or like editing your pages visually without getting into the code. Just drag and drop your elements and the editor will generate the HTML code and CSS automatically.
On the other hand, if you love getting your hands dirty, feel free to choose a code editor that places emphasis on code. You know, things like tag auto-completion, line numbers, color schemes and all. You will get code editors that support:
- WYSIWYG exclusively
- Both WYSIWYG and plain text (manual) editing
- Support only plain text (manual) editing
Choose one that works for you.
CSS is an integral part of web design and development. Without the special styling abilities of CSS, websites would be a pain to look at. Heck, the World Wide Web in its entirety would be one ugly mess. Long live CSS!
Some code editors allow you to edit your CSS files manually while others provide stylesheet editors that make your work easier. Some website builders have the CSS files buried so deep it takes some work to find them (if you will find them). Some CSS files (especially the ones created by WYSIWYG-only editors) are challenging to edit manually since you don’t know the id or class selectors of most elements. Personally, I would go for a code editor that gives me the easiest access to my CSS files.
Server-sided Script Support
Programming languages such as PHP, JSP, ASP and ColdFusion among others are regarded as server-sided (meaning they only run on a server) scripts, and help you to add a whole lot of functionality to your website. If you work (or expect to work) with these scripts, choose a code editor that support editing of the same.
This goes hand in hand with our previous point on server-sided script support. Database connectivity is an important feature to have in your code editor as a back-end developer. Without a shred of doubt, you can always connect to a database manually, but if your web editor can make the work super easy for you, why bother doing it manually.
I recommend manipulating your graphical content using image editing software such as Adobe Photoshop or any other suitable alternative. However, if you would rather edit your graphics on the fly as you work on the code, consider choosing a web editor that comes with this feature. It can be a built-in feature, a plugin or an extension, so do your research.
Multiple Language Support
Will you write code in a language other than English? Your code editor of choice should support multiple languages or at least be translation-ready. If you’re writing code for a global audience, you want the multi-lingual feature with your code editor.
Code Editor Usage
How do you plan to use the code editor? Will you use it mostly for personal or professional projects? You can compromise on some features if you’re using the code editor for personal projects or as a learning tool.
On the other hand, you want a la carte features if you will use the web editor mainly for professional projects. This might mean investing money in a commercial code editor, which leads us straight to out final point.
The web editor market is saturated with open source (free to use as you will) and commercial (you must pay) web editors. You choice here will be guided mainly by personal preference, the features you see and, of course, the depth of your pockets.
The general misconception is exorbitantly-priced commercial web editors are better than their lowly-priced and free counterparts. Nothing could be further from the truth – some free code editors are awesome. Do some comparison shopping beforehand, and choose the code editor that works for you.
Favorite Code Editors
Here is a short list of web editors to make your work easier:
- Notepad++ (My personal favorite)
- Sublime Text
- Text Wrangler
- Adobe Dreamweaver
- CoffeeCup HTML Editor
- Adobe Creative Suite Standard
- Microsoft Expression Web
- Aptana Studio
- Komodo Edit
A web editor is a programmer’s most important tool. That’s why it is crucial to find the web editor that works for you in every possible way. We hope the tips above will speed up the process of choosing the best web editor for your projects. Happy designing!