Code writing tools range greatly – from the standard Notepad that comes with Windows to complex platform emulation tools. And then there is a vast land of what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) tools which provide fancy graphical user interfaces and drag-and-drop features to ease creation of code.
It may seem odd to many that a bunch of webmasters, myself included, prefer to code without the aid of a WYSISYG editor, but as they say, different strokes for different folks. Below are some reliable choices:
- Notepad++ – This is my personal choice and a fantastic free program with lots of great features with useful plugins available as well.
- TextPad (http://www.textpad.com/) – this used to be free but now is shareware.
- NoteTab Pro (http://www.softpedia.com/get/Office-tools/Text-editors/Notepad-Pro.shtml) – for an excellent review, read Software Review: NoteTab Pro.
WYSIWYG editors are the choice for most beginner to intermediate (and some advanced) webmasters. One major advantage of these editors are their ability to speed up your coding process by offering drag and drop features, form creation tools, shortcuts for common code needs and real-time viewing of what your code will look like. One thing to consider when using such an editor is whether it uses any kind of proprietary code snippets or techniques which might not play well in all standards-compliant browsers. This used to be a big problem with MS Frontpage, but I don’t know if it still is. Anyway, since I don’t use these editors, I can only list the ones I have heard are popular:
- MS FrontPage – http://www.microsoft.com/frontpage/
- Macromedia DreamWeaver – http://www.adobe.com/products/dreamweaver/
- Nvu – http://www.nvu.com/
Nvu (pronounced N-view, for a “new view”) bills itself as a complete Web Authoring System to rival programs like FrontPage and Dreamweaver. Open source.
- NuSphere PhpED – http://www.nusphere.com/
Simulated Platforms / Integrated Development Environments (IDEs)
I have never personally used an IDE so I can’t actually recommend any of the tools below but they either look promising or I have heard of others using them successfully.
- Dev-PHP IDE – http://devphp.sourceforge.net/
- Maguma Open Studio – http://sourceforge.net/projects/openstudio
- eclipse (http://www.eclipse.org/php/) and PHPeclipse (http://sourceforge.net/projects/phpeclipse)
- Zend Studio – http://www.zend.com/products/zend_studio
- NuSphere PhpDock – http://www.nusphere.com/
- Komodo – http://www.activestate.com/Products/Komodo/ (check out the article, Debug PHP applications with Xdebug and Komodo by Vincent Danen in TechRepublic)
As for a simulated platform, for Windows I recommend XAMPP, which creates an Apache, PHP, MySQL and Perl environment on your personal computer. This is especially useful if you prefer to code offline and upload only after you are satisfied with your work. For example, if you chose to build a site using WordPress as the underlying CMS, you could install XAMPP and WordPress on your PC to do all modifications locally. I have even written an article on setting up a development version of a WordPress site using XAMPP that you might find helpful. An alternative to XAMPP is Wamp, but I have never used it myself.