Choosing The Best Text Editor For Web Development

For doing any kind of coding or programming work, having a robust and capable text editor is hands down the most important component of your workflow. Even for regular writing projects, note-taking, etc., a quality text editor can make a huge difference in productivity, efficiency and overall stability of your work environment.

All of the editors listed below are available for OS X, Windows and Linux, unless otherwise noted, and with the exception of Sublime Text, all of them are available completely for free.

Brackets

Best Text Editor For Web Development

For the beginning developer, Brackets would be a go-to recommendation, in its balance of usability as well as a large amount of advanced features included in the default installation.

Brackets was built using just HTML, CSS and JavaScript, so if you have skills in those languages, then you already know everything you need to extend and customize the editor to your liking.

This editor was also only designed for writing HTML, CSS and JavaScript, so while it is great and feature-rich for the Front-End Developer, coders needing support for other languages (such as language-specific linters, syntax highlighting, etc.) may need to look elsewhere.

Atom

Best Text Editor For Web Development

Another good choice for beginners and advanced users alike is Atom. Developed by the GitHub team using Electron (their framework for building cross-platform apps, all with just HTML/CSS/JavaScript), is a powerful editor right out of the box. Just about every feature you may need comes pre-installed, but if it doesn’t, the large development community surrounding the editor is constantly contributing useful plugins and themes to extend and customize it as much as you want.

Also similar to Brackets, if you know HTML/CSS/JavaScript, then you can easily edit the program itself or write plugins for it, without having to learn an obscure or low-level programming language.

One drawback of Atom is that since it’s built on Electron (which itself is essentially a web browser container), it can be a bit sluggish when working on larger files. However, the stability and responsiveness of Atom is constantly improving. For large projects, though, a native application such as Sublime Text or Vim would be more appropriate.

Sublime Text

Best Text Editor For Web Development

If you’ve used or taken a look at Atom, then you will probably immediately notice the clear resemblance to Sublime Text. This is because the overall design (and many of the features) of Atom were taken directly from Sublime Text.

Sublime Text has been a developer favorite since its initial release in 2008, and for good reason. It offered stability, a clean interface, as well as extensibility via its package manager. A favorite feature of the editor that has been ported over to others is its “zoomed out” preview of the entire file you’re currently editing, which immediately gives you an idea of where you’re at in the code, just at a glance.

The primary drawback of Sublime Text is that a registered copy requires purchase of a license for $70. In the opinion of many of its users, though, it is worth the cost.

Vim

Best Text Editor For Web Development

If you’ve been involved in development for a while, or have more experienced programmer friends, chances are you have heard of Vim (and the ongoing nerd-debate as to whether Vim or Emacs is the best text editor in existence).

Originally released in 1991 (and really just an updated version of the vi editor from 1976), Vim is a program that has had a long period of gestation and maturation. It is a go-to choice for the seasoned programmer, and while it has certain drawbacks, most who choose to pick it up rarely have a need for any other text editor.

Vim is an entirely text-based interface

Vim is an entirely text-based interface, typically via the command line (although there are some GUI versions available). This means that all editing functions and keyboard shortcuts are designed to completely remove the need for using the mouse. This significantly reduces friction moving between tasks and editing modes, keeping you focused on the work at hand.

Vim comes pre-installed on every Unix or Unix-like (Linux) system, and can easily be installed onto Windows, guaranteeing that it will be available to you regardless of your development setup. This is especially a huge advantage for Sysadmins and Backend developers, as pretty much any modern server is going to have Vim on it.

Command Line text editor

Since Vim is a command line text editor, it can work over SSH via the terminal, allowing you to access remote development environments anywhere with an internet connection.

Vim has a reputation of being notoriously difficult for beginners to pick up, but this is not entirely true. While the basic interface is completely foreign to those familiar with typical GUIs, the absolute basics of editing a file can be picked up in under an hour or so. Learning the more advanced features offered, though, can take a lifetime.

While Vim is an extremely powerful editor, many of the features that other text editors have (such as color pickers, autocomplete, etc.) aren’t included with Vim right out of the box. This may be a deterrent to the novice, but any of these features can be added via the wide array of plugins available for Vim.

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