Our professional services team has the rare opportunity to work on a huge variety of top websites. As part of our work we get to refine our processes and prove them on both small and large-scale projects. I’d like to share a bit about the tools we use and why.

We use Sublime Text 2 as our main code editor for our HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and jQuery work. Sublime has become one of the most popular code editors for front-end developers because it’s fast and lightweight. In fact, it’s so lightweight you can run it on a USB stick, so whether you’re at work or borrowing your mate’s five year old laptop, you can code until you run out of coffee.

As well as being an awesome code editor, Sublime allows you to customise the colours in your UI. For example, I had a light background with dark text (because the opposite made me feel like I was locked away in a dark cupboard somewhere) but recently switched, because black on white isn’t great for my eyes.

CSS Guru Chris Coyier switched to Sublime Text 2 last year. 

On the downside, Sublime seems to have poor IntelliSense support compared to other editors (I even include Dreamweaver here). It’s pretty weak when adding classes and image URLs to HTML elements and CSS definitions. I find this annoying as I’m far too lazy to write long-hand.

Alongside Sublime, we use a number of very useful plugins, our favourite being Emmet (Formerly Zen Coding). These allow us to write shorthand HTML before the click of a button produces the full HTML – powerful stuff!

What about other editors?

As with a lot of my software, I try to keep my mind open for alternatives or new releases on the market which could improve my productivity.  In this case, the two alternatives I checked-out were Coda and Aptana Studio.

Coda is Mac-only and whilst it has useful features such as SVN and FTP integrations, these are features that we wouldn’t really use as pure front-end developers. If we needed to edit files directly on a staging server, we would opt for the Contensis Desktop Tool with WebDav integration.

Aptana Studio is available for Windows, and although it has a series of extra tools for back-end developers, it doesn’t offer the same number of plugins as Sublime Text 2.

One editor I am really excited about is Brackets by Adobe. This promises loads of handy features like the ability to update your website live as you edit the HTML/CSS and editing CSS without needing to open the complete file. This functionality is also possible with Sublime, although you need to install a plugin for both Sublime and Chrome. Brackets also provides integration with Chrome DEV tools and code hinting/IntelliSense for HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

That said, it'd take a lot to draw me away from Sublime Text 2. It is such an integral part of my process, like a favourite old chair, it'll be hard to get me to move on!

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Jon Moore

About the Author

Jon is a front-end developer and technical consultant here at Zengenti. He builds and customises complex websites, and comes up with technical answers to difficult business questions. He’s been building websites with Zengenti for over five years, and has extensive experience in front and back-end code.

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