Getting Started: The Text Editor

I love helping out new web developers to find their path. As an active member of a few alumni chapters, I’m often asked for advice by recent graduates (or people switching careers) on what they should be doing to get a head start on their web development career. In the first part of my “Getting Started” series, I’d like to talk about the text editor – the first thing a fledgling web developer needs to start on their coding journey.

The first question most new developers ask is where do I actually code? When I first started out the beginner’s code editor was Dreamweaver – an editor with a panel on the left for code that would instantly render on a panel to the right. The problem with Dreamweaver is that it is a massive resource hog on your computer, has a confusing user-interface, and requires a bit of setup to configure with your code. Similar to learning to type with all 10 of your fingers versus with just your two index fingers, you will want to upgrade to a true editor once to increase your effectiveness and programming speed. There are a million of these out there and there will always be stalwarts and flavor of the month editors. Here are just a few options:

Notepad++ Logo Notepad++ – One of the stalwarts. A lot of developers use this from many levels of programming experience. This text editor can handle just about every language out there, is lightweight, and completely open source! The downside is that it’s not that easy to customize yourself, but there are a ton of plugins and themes out there that you can download to customize your experience.

Sublime Text LogoSublime Text – Another stalwart. This provides a similar language support to Notepad++, but its main advantage is it provides a very easy way to install themes and plugins for customization in the form a Package Control addon. This is one of my favorite editors and one I would highly recommend. Sublime is also relatively cheap at $70 with an (in theory) unlimited trial.

Brackets – A sort of new kid on the block that had a great following when it was first released, but has seen a diminished user base in the past couple of years. This editor was created by Adobe with the vision that it would integrate with other Adobe products in a seamless manner – in particular, it could import a Photoshop PSD and would translate the design into code. I personally used this as my main text editor for about 3 months and the results of the PSD import were buggy at best. Adobe has since discontinued support for that feature, but stil supports the overall editor. This editor has my personal favorite color scheme and layout.

Atom Logo Atom –  The newest kid on the block and quickly becoming a stalwart. I use this for everything nowadays. Like most text editors it supports almost all code languages out there. Where Atom shines is it’s built in plugin editor, easy to use interface and seemless integration with Git. To cap it off this is entirely free and has a Brackets color scheme theme (That may or may not have been the first plugin I installed).

In the end, your text editor preference is a personal choice and I would suggest road testing a few out before making a final decision. Honestly, there’s not a whole lot of difference between them all. I’ve seen people get rabid about their editor of choice. When it comes down to it they all pretty much do the same thing and the editor of choice could come down to what editor other developers you are working with are already using.


About the Author

Joe has worked as a web designer and developer with experience working on a multitude of eclectic projects ranging in size and industry. After graduating from Longwood University, he went straight to work and followed his passion by re-branding the Virginia Department of Elections and launched the first mobile-friendly site in Virginia State government. After serving as the lead UX/UI developer and designer on a number of projects for companies up and down the east coast, he co-founded Pixelstrike Creative - to continue his passion for telling companies stories through branding, development, and marketing.