The ultimate web development editor
written by craig, 17 October 2007
I started coding websites in 1995 and the first thing I did was hunt around for a WYSIWYG HTML editor. I was amazed to discover that there wasn’t one. Hand-coding HTML seemed ridiculous for what was obviously a visual medium like Desktop Publishing.
It soon became apparent that web pages weren’t comparable with DTP. You can’t depend on fixed dimensions, known fonts, or colour schemes – especially back then. So, I had to learn HTML – and it’s probably been the best technology decision of my career.
Whilst it takes a little experience, hand-coding soon becomes quicker than using a WYSIWYG editor. Notepad is all you need! Well, that’s not quite true. Notepad is far too basic for anything but the simplest of pages.
Great web editor features
So what should a decent web development editor provide? Here’s my list of essentials:
- It’s got to be fast
The editor must open in a fraction of a second and remain stable and responsive.
- Support for multiple languages
- Multiple files / MDI
It’s essential to open more than one file at a time. Personally, I prefer tabs to navigate the files, and definitely need middle-click closing! A configurable window interface is good too.
- Configurable colour-coding
A missing quote or closing tag can cause havoc, so colour-coding is essential. I also want to use colours that I’m used to, rather than someone else’s scheme.
- Session and state storing
When I start in the morning, I want the files that I’m working on to appear immediately. If it can restore bookmarks as well, then that’s great.
At the very least, the editor should automatically close HTML and XML tags. Intellisence-like functionality is nice, but it’s got to be good and not get in the way.
- Line numbering and line-wrapping
Absolutely essential. Code collapsing and expanding is also useful.
- File explorer
Being able to open files in the current folder saves a lot of time.
- Code explorer
- Good font support
I prefer proportional fonts, and am still yet to find anything I prefer to MS San Serif. Whilst I’m a big fan of the Dina programming font, I don’t want to be forced into using a monospace font.
- Shortcuts, plugins, and macros
Nice to have it built in, but I generally use AutoHotKey anyway.
- Good value for money
Open-source or freeware is a bonus, and there are so many to choose from.
And the bad ones…
Here’s the features that I don’t want:
- WYSIWYG design view
I just want a text editor. I certainly don’t want an IDE that reformats my code if I accidentally hit a ‘design’ button.
- Project management
I’ll manage it myself, thanks. I don’t mind if it’s there, but don’t force me to set up a project just so I can open a file.
No thanks – I’d prefer to control which files are uploaded and downloaded.
- Silly HTML-generating toolbars and widgets
This really bugs me. I don’t need a toolbar icon to insert a <p> tag. And I certainly don’t need icons that insist on adding deprecated <b> tags or generating tables!
Does anyone have any other essential or non-essential features?
Coming soon – my top 10 list of the best web development editors.