Tools of the trade: Text editors and IDEs

The people on our technology team here at Imaginuity Interactive are more than just programmers; we are craftsmen. Just like blacksmiths or carpenters, we rely heavily on our favorite tools to get our work done. We don’t use hammers or forges in our work; we use text editors and integrated development environments (IDEs) to handcraft our code.

I talked with some of the other web developers on our team to find out their favorite tools and to give you a little insight into how we work.

Steven uses Notepad++ for most code editing. It’s a lightweight, open-source editor with good syntax highlighting for PHP, CSS, XML, and other languages. He prefers not to edit CSS in a textarea on a web form, an interface offered by one of the content management systems we often use.

I don’t think Justin has ever stopped loving HomeSite. (Macromedia acquired the company behind it in 2001, and Adobe acquired Macromedia in 2005. In 2009, Adobe finally discontinued HomeSite.) Justin now uses Dreamweaver. We give him grief because Dreamweaver is known for its Design View tools for people who can’t write code, but its Code View is a pretty powerful editor tool with syntax highlighting, autocompletion, remote editing, snippets and more.

Bo does Flash development, and he prefers the open-source Flash Develop over the development tools offered by Adobe. It can handle more than just Flash code; Bo has used it for JavaScript, CSS and HTML, as well. Recently, though, he has started using Notepad++ for non-Flash code based on the recommendation of other members of the team.

Cindy uses Microsoft’s Visual Studio for doing C# and ASP.NET development. She relies on the IntelliSense autcompletion features and syntax highlighting. When she needs to edit files remotely or needs something lighter than Visual Studio, she’ll fall back to Notepad++.

Our fearless leader Nathan Z. is quite comfortable working in vi. He tunnels out to our Linux servers and types arcane commands in this command-line editor because it is very fast and very productive (it’s a bit of a black art). If he needs to do anything too robust (like multi-line copy and paste), he’ll download the files and edit them in Notepad++.

John’s favorite editor is Zend Studio, a commercial product built on top of Eclipse. He has recently been trying out the free NetBeans IDE, which has some nice features. For example, he can CTRL+click on a class name or an ID in an HTML file to open the corresponding CSS file and move the cursor to the appropriate styles.

I (Randy) have been using Aptana Studio for a number of years, which has good syntax highlighting, autocompletion, and remote editing over SFTP. It is based on Eclipse, which means it consumes a good chunk of memory and does takes a while to load initially. (I launch it first thing in the morning and let it load while I get something to drink.) I’m now planning to give some of the other tools a try.

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