When I first started playing around with websites in the late nineties (wow, I feel old now) there wasn’t much in the way of choice for development IDE’s, there was really only Microsoft FrontPage and Macromedia (now Adobe) Dreamweaver. Being honest they weren’t great, Dreamweaver’s big claim to fame was that it generated cleaner html than FrontPage.
Both where poor by today’s standards, this was mainly because they where WYSIWYG editors, allowing even novices to create simple pages. When I went to college, my Web/HTML lecturer insisted that we write everything by hand, even for exams. I hated it at the time, but I now understand and appreciate why. It taught me to write cleaner, short and more efficient code. Gone were the random extra div, td and p elements, that where used to force formatting before CSS really took off. This minimalist methodology is something I strive for still to this day. I even still write more complex C/C#/PHP methods and logic out by hand in pseudo code to ensure I have it right in my head. I’ve brought that simplified process to my choice development IDE too, in fact gone are the WYSIWYG editors replaced by a simple, but very powerful text editor. All download links are at the bottom of this post
Notepad++ (N++) has been around for almost 10 years now, and has been a firm favorite of mine for most of that (I did play with Textpad for awhile too, but returned to N++). Out of the box, N++ has almost everything you need to get up and running. It has a basic FTP client, it allows you to create projects with folders and files, it even has a powerful spellchecker and syntax highlighter too. As I said, it has almost everything you could need, and what it doesn’t have there is more than likely a plugin available to provide that extra functionality.
Using the simple built in plugin manager, you can download plugins automatically. Some of my favorite ones are:
- Tidy2 – HTML formatting
- Tortoise SVN – Requires TortoiseSVN to be installed
- Task List – Looks for TODO entries and shows them in a list
- SolutionHub – Creates more complex project solutions
These additional plugins can really make life easier. Combined with the built in auto complete functionality and the fact that N++ supports over 50 different languages, you can have a very powerful, light weight IDE up and running in minutes.
There are of course other applications that can do some or all of this functionality, one such application is Filezilla
Filezilla is probably the best FTP client available, it is cross-platform and supports pretty much every FTP configuration you can imagine. It’s fast and reliable, it does it’s job very well, just like N++
TortoiseSVN is a feature complete SVN client that integrates with Windows Explorer to allow you to manage your SVN projects. It is self contained and doesn’t need a separate SVN client installed. It also provides a very good code diff tool, highlights code changes and gives you access to the full SVN logs and allows you to perform all of the SVN tasks you could wish for. One particular feature I quiet like is the fact that it changes the Explorer file icons to show you what files have changed or are in conflict. These visual cues really make managing a project quick and easy.
I’ve added all of the download links here in one place for ease of use. Please feel free to let me know of any other applications or plugins you find indispensable!