Editing HTML and CSS code can be done without any specific tools. In fact, if you have a simple text editor, you are good to go. However, just because you can do something doesn’t mean it is the best way to do it – and that applies to web development as well. All Mac and Windows machines have basic text editors, but Text Edit and Notepad aren’t sufficient for serious web developers. Fortunately, there is no shortage of alternatives. Finding the best code editor can have a big impact on your productivity and workflow. Whether you are new to the world of programming or an old hand, you’ll need a great code editor to help you perform your magic.
The best code editors will make you more efficient at coding and writing, assist you in examining and editing your code, and be customization to meet your needs. They will also create a more comfortable user experience, which should not be underestimated, as you’ll be looking at your code editor for potentially hours every day.
Below is a roundup of the best text editors, including free and premium options
The most fully featured, well-rounded code editor
Price: Free | Stability: High | Speed: Medium | UI/UX: High | Customisability: Medium
Visual Studio Code is a code editor developed by Microsoft, and surprisingly, is an open-source software. VS Code is perhaps the closest code editor in this list to being an IDE. It is very robust, and is also one of the slower programs when starting up. However, while using it, VS Code is quick and able to handle quite a few interesting tasks, such as quick Git commits or opening and sorting through multiple folders’ worth of content.
VS Code has seen a meteoric rise in popularity – it is continually growing its user base and attracting developers away from other editors. VS Code has a built-in terminal, as well as built-in Git support, both of which are big winners for fans of this program. Its ‘IntelliSense’ feature offers autocompletion of code as well as information on the parameters of functions and known variable names.
The best code editor all-round – but you’ll have to pay for it
Price: $80 (free indefinite preview) | Stability: High | Speed: High | UI/UX: Medium | Customisability: High
Sublime Text is the editor that really changed the way code editors worked. It is lightweight, open and ready to edit your file almost as soon as you have managed to click the button. This responsiveness is one of the things that makes Sublime Text the best code editor in its class. If you want to open a file and make a quick edit, waiting for a few seconds for loading may not sound like much, but the delay can grow tedious.
Another big benefit of Sublime Text is that it is crazily extensible, with a huge and ever-growing list of plugins available to install via the package manager. Options include themes with which to customise the editor’s appearance, code linters (which can assist with more quickly locating any errors in your code), Git plugins, colour pickers, and more.
Sublime Text is free to download and start using, but for extended use you’ll need to shell out $80 for a licence – and the programme will remind you fairly regularly about payment until you cough up. If you decide to pay, the same licence key can be used by you for any computer that you use, so you can enter the same code on all your machines to make the payment reminder popup go away. The paid licence, however, is perhaps Sublime Text’s biggest downside – there are a number of competitive products available to developers for no cost.
Atom comes pre-installed with four UI and eight syntax themes in a variety of colors. The rich and supportive community also creates cool themes for everybody to use so you might find what you’re looking for there.
Here are some of the Atom’s best features:
- It works across different operating systems such as OS X, Windows, or Linux
- Find, preview, and replace text as you type in a file or across all your projects.
- Easily browse and open a single file, a whole project, or multiple projects in one window.
The best code editor for new users
Price: Free | Stability: Medium | Speed: Medium | UI/UX: High | Customisability: Medium
Brackets is Adobe’s open-source editor, and seems to be a very well rounded software. It doesn’t natively support as many languages for syntax highlighting as some of the others (but it still has quite a few). Because of its focus on front end technologies, it also supports CSS preprocessors like Less and Sass.
Brackets doesn’t come out on top on many of the usual speed and reliability metrics, but it does have several unique features worth investigating. It is mostly configurable via its menus, whereas most of the other editors in this list require you to edit configuration files (you can also edit the configuration file in Brackets if you prefer). There’s also an interesting feature for quick CSS editing. You can use a hotkey to pop out a small section on an HTML page, then edit any CSS rules that are currently affecting the element that you have selected. This means you can quickly locate a styling problem and fix it without having to waste time searching around.
An interesting design decision is that Brackets doesn’t use tabs at all for showing open files. Rather, there is an open files menu in the top left, above the file tree. If you’re using the split-window view, this open tabs list also splits ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ for easier location of the file you’re looking for. VS Code uses a similar open files menu, for example, but also uses tabs. In Brackets, this enables maximum screen real estate, but could be a jarring experience if you’re used to tab navigation.
- Compatible with Windows, Linux, and Mac OS
- Intelligent Code Completion
- Multi-line todos
- Automated refactoring of code
- Syntax error detection
- Unit testing
- Convert to variables with arrow functions
- Integration with VCS
- Cross-platform features
- Powerful navigation
- Parameter hints
- Seamless tool integration
- Git integration
WebStorm also gives you one place within the IDE where you can run Grunt, Gulp, and NPM tasks. It takes advantage of intelligent support and increases your productivity with its automation.
Additionally, it has a cool feature called secret service or Spy.js, where you don’t have logs to trace, debug, and profile. The feature triggers a node.js server into running a proxy that will intercept all browser traffic and enable you to edit a JS file as you go.