Brackets, Coda, Sublime Text... Which Text Editor Should I Choose?
A great text editor is a must-have for any developer. As a result, there are dozens of text editors available. Some editors have awesome time-saving features, like auto-complete and syntax folding. Other editors support nearly all of the major languages, which can be handy if you decide to start learning some back-end languages. Since there are so many editors, how could you possibly pick just one? And does it really matter which one you choose?
When writing code, it's important to use a text editor and not a word processor, such as Microsoft word. A word processor formats text, so when you're typing, it's not just saving the text, it's also saving different kinds of formatting that happens behind the scenes. Code needs to be plain text, so a text editor is important.
A text editor can have 100 super awesome features, but if you're not going to use them, you probably don't need to pay for one that includes tons of extras. We've laid out some of the most popular editors available to help you find your perfect match.
Windows and Mac
Brackets is an open source code editor (so it's free) intended for front-end developers and web designers. It's clean and simple, yet powerful. One of its best features is that it's possible for you to design in the browser, meaning you can see your code change in the browser as you're typing. No saving necessary. It does, however, require the use of Chrome for live HTML Development. The "live preview" can be accessed by clicking a little yellow lightning bolt.
It's also extremely similar to Edge Code, which is part of Adobe's Creative Cloud. Edge Code is actually a distribution of Brackets. Brackets updates are usually available before the Edge Code updates, but Edge Code includes integration with Adobe Color CC (formerly known as Adobe Kuler), TypeKit fonts, and Edge Inspect.
It's super handy to be able to access your CSS directly through your HTML with the Quick Edit feature.
When you click on your image folder within Brackets, it's possible for you to see the images and their sizes from right there inside the text editor. If you hover over the image tag in your HTML, you'll also see a preview of the image. It also includes a color picker, which can be handy when choosing a new color.
No more Google searches for the specific values that are available for different properties in CSS! One of the best features for new designers is the ability for you to find out different values by just right-clicking on the property. A list of different options are presented to you with their definition.
It features a built in Code View, so that you can easily and quickly test and preview changes you've made to your site without needing to use the browser. MultiScreen preview makes it possible for you to see your site on different screen sizes (phones, tablets or PCs). Code-hinting or auto-completion as you type is helpful, as well as syntax validation.
Dreamweaver can be purchased a number of ways. It also happens to be one of the more expensive options on the list. You can still purchase the outdated CS6 version for $399, but the newest version is part of Adobe's Creative Cloud, so it must be purchased on a subscription basis. To access only Dreamweaver it's $19.99 a month. If you'd like to have access to the entire Suite (including Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, etc.) it will cost you $49.99 a month with an annual commitment.
This particular text editor can do so much, but it also happens to be rather complicated. If you decide Dreamweaver is the way you want to go, you should check out our course, Your First Day In Dreamweaver CC.
Windows, Mac, and LinuxSublime Text is a popular text editor for a number of reasons. Sublime has an exclusive feature called "Goto Anything" that can be used to show lines, functions, or simply words within a file. This feature is also helpful to quickly navigate between different files, so, for example, you can quickly get to your CSS file from your an HTML page. We all know how easy it is to be distracted by everything around us while coding. Sublime understands, and has included something called Distraction Free Mode, which shows only your code in a full-screen setting to cut out all the other stuff happening on your screen. You can also see a mini version of all of your code on the right side of the application with the part that you're viewing on the screen highlighted as a different color, which is super helpful if you've got a ton of code.
Sublime can be customized with easily accessible JSON files, making it simple to add other desired features other users have created. The features that are available are free and can be really helpful.
Sublime can be used for free as a trial, but there's no time limit for when the trial expires. If you continue to use it without purchase, every time you save your work a popup will appear, asking you to purchase the editor. If you can't handle the nag screen, then you can purchase a license for $70. Licenses are per-user, rather than per computer, so you can download and operate it on as many computers as you'd like. Sublime Text 3 is now in beta.
Operating System Specific Editors
There are dozens of text editors available for use, but many of them are specific to an operating system. These editors have great features and can be helpful. However, their biggest downfall is also that they're operating system specific. If you're a freelancer, that's really a non-issue. You can have the freedom to choose whatever editor is best for you personally. But if you're working in something more like an office environment, it's important to keep in mind that while you may have a Mac and absolutely love Coda and you rely heavily on its features, your future employer could only have Wind0ws computers. If that's the case, you should be flexible to learning a new text editor.
Mac onlyCoda is a powerful text editor created by Panic, packed with features and wrapped in a clean interface. In addition to auto-completion, code folding, validation and a code navigator, it also boasts a built-in MySQL editor, a list view for all of your sites and a full file browser (FTP, SFTP, S3 etc.). It can do a lot more than a simple text editor, but we still included it in this list because of its ease of use.
How cool would it be to make quick edits to your site on the go? Coda produces a text editor for iPad called Diet Coda. An extra feature that's available in Diet Coda is AirPreview. This means that you can use your iPad to live preview your code from Coda on your Mac. Diet Coda is an extra $20 and can be purchased at the Mac App Store.
The cost of download is $99, but they do have a 7 day free trial. A download from the Mac App Store will include iCloud support, or it can be purchased directly from Panic, but will not include iCloud.
Windows onlyNotepad++ has the ability for syntax highlighting and folding, which is especially helpful if you're working with seemingly endless amounts of code. Notepad++ supports several languages, but if it doesn't support the language you need it to, their User Language Define System allows you to define your language, meaning you can set up syntax highlighting keywords definitions, syntax folding, keywords and operators definitions, which is pretty awesome.
Notepad++ also includes auto-completion for word, function, and function parameters. Another helpful feature is the function list, which displays the different functions you've created. From there, you can double-click a specific function to access it quickly. The Document Map feature makes it simple to scroll through your code to find what you're looking for (this is also similar to Sublime's feature).
Notepad++ is free!
Any of these text editors can help you achieve your coding goals. If you're a heavy Adobe user, Dreamweaver could be for you, especially if it's already included in the Suite or Creative Cloud that you own. If being able to see your code live without saving, Brackets could be your new best friend. If you're into being able to customize your software, then you probably should give Sublime Text a look first, since there are lots of customization options available. If you're an Apple enthusiast, you'll love Coda's clean interface with added iCloud and iPad extras. Notepad++ would be great for you if you love Windows and free stuff.
Downloading and experimenting with the free trials that some of the text editors offer could help see what you might have been missing while you were using your previous editor. You might learn that you can't live without a specific feature and you'll never go back.