Pro JavaScript – Editors

Pro JavaScript – IDEs

JavaScript has seen a rise in popularity in the last five years, from almost dying a death from incompatible browser versions.  Instead, modern web developers have a great arsenal of tools to help them create quality JavaScript for every web application.


Server-side developers have long enjoyed a great set of tools, which kept getting better every year.  JavaScript developers had traditionally been expected to code by hand, or perhaps (if they were lucky) have syntax highlighting (which often didn’t work correctly).  That’s changed over the past several years with a number of high-quality Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) catering to or at least supporting JavaScript.

Perhaps the first major IDE specifically written to cater to JavaScript developers, Aptana has become a staple with many developers of all stripes.  Aptana’s JavaScript support goes beyond syntax coloring, and includes bundled support for a dozen or so of the top JavaScript frameworks (including Dojo, jQuery, YUI, MochiKit and many more).  Aptana was one of the earlier IDEs to support “code completion” for the JavaScript libraries.  By typing just part of a JavaScript operation, and hitting a key, the IDE will show you various options on how to complete the code (saving typing and potentially hours of debugging because of one wrong keystroke!)

Eclipse is the granddaddy of extendible IDEs.  Long just for the Java platform, Eclipse has been extended to support multiple major languages, including JavaScript, through customization and plugins.  Aptana is itself a highly customized and focused version of Eclipse, but still Eclipse all the same.  For those already using Eclipse for web development, adding in a JavaScript plugin will net you some of the benefits of Aptana with none of the learning curve.

Long considered “past it”, NetBeans has seen a resurgence in recent years, with renewed development on the core platform, and extensive support for languages like PHP, Ruby and others, in addition to Java.  (Note – Aptana and Eclipse also offer support for multiple server side languages, although only Aptana and NetBeans provides good ‘out of the box’ experiences for anything beyond Java).  NetBeans is not based on Eclipse, but is its own program.  For those who don’t like the visual stylings of Eclipse may find NetBeans a welcome change.

Microsoft Visual Studio
Microsoft earlier announced that it would bundle and support jQuery in its Visual Studio lines.  While not offering extensive support for other languages like PHP yet, those developers who are already working in an MS environment would do well to look in to enabling jQuery support to get code completion and inline documentation help while developing.

Posted under JavaScript

Published on 29/03/2010

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