I’m a web developer by trade, but in recent years I’ve been mostly moonlighting as a technical manager… or is that the other way around? Anyway, its meant that the tools that I use have fallen a little out of step with current web technology developments.
Whilst I’m platform agnostic, I’m generally a Windows user. My principle with people in my team is that they should use whichever tools they are comfortable and most efficient with. For me that’s Windows – I’m simply more used to it, and thus more fluid when using it.
My editor of choice used to be Homesite. That suited my place of work too, it was their standard tool, and it worked fine with their technology stack. The problem is that nowadays Homesite is a dead product – no longer supported or developed by Adobe pretty much since their acquisition of Macromedia, but then Macromedia didn’t develop it a whole lot more after they did the same to Allaire. Its meant that its now quite behind the curve in terms of language support and long standing bugs are just not going to get fixed.
I find IDE’s too heavyweight for my liking, basically because I’m impatient and easily distracted, so that rules out Aptana/Eclipse, Visual Studio and to some degree DreamWeaver (a tool that IU’ve tried again and again to like, but never seem to warm to). I want a fast and simple editor. I’d like it to load quickly, do syntax colouring, have a good find/replace, a file explorer, tag/attribute prediction/competition and a live preview is definitely a bonus.
I purchased Topstyle 4, and Topstyle 3 before that. Its the closest I’ve come to an ideal match. Not surprisingly in part because it was originally developed by the developer of Homesite, and now development continues under a new owner. Topstyle isn’t bad, but its still missing a few niceties such as code drag and drop support and unfortunately one of its awesome features – the in-app preview in Webkit and/or Gecko – is made less useful by integration issues with those browser engines which often cause it to become unstable (although not the developers fault exactly). That’s something you really don’t need from an editor. I know a v5 is in the works for next year so I’m praying the developer will resolve a lot of these issues and add some of my missing feature bugbears.
Before someone points me in the direction of Textmate (or E for Windows), no need. I can use it, sure, but its just not the type of editor I’m most comfortable with – too starkly simplistic an interface, too heavily a reliance on cryptic keyboard short cuts and doesn’t tick enough of the feature boxes for me.
Its my frustration in not being truly happy with my main coding tool that’s making me think about possibly switching to a Mac for development. On a Mac there is Coda and CSSEdit, both of which look interesting – although to be honest do not ideally suit my needs either, and then there’s the ‘blip’ to my productivity in re-learning being a Mac user with all of its interface differences/foibles vs. Windows. If those apps were available for Windows I’d give them a go in a heartbeat.
But I have to say that this conundrum in itself surprises me. Most of these coding tools have been around for many years, and some have been actively redeveloped in that time to match with the new web technology developments, whilst others have been just been updated a little. Given that there are so many web developers these days, and the web and its technologies have been gearing up and up of late, I’m surprised there aren’t more new or dramatically redeveloped tools of this kind… or maybe I’m just too hard to please? Now where that moon on a stick I ordered?