5 Useful (and Free) Tools for Web Developers

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

5 Useful (and Free) Tools for Web Developers

In addition to understanding the languages and best practices, knowing what external tools are available is important for a developer. These are a few tools of which every web developer should be aware. They won’t all apply to every project, but they should certainly be in your arsenal.

1. jQuery

The “Write Less, Do More, JavaScript Library.” jQuery is a JavaScript library that allows much simpler and quicker selection and manipulation of the DOM tree, provides advanced event handling, and does quite a bit to mitigate the differences in implementation between browsers. Many useful tasks are built-in as simple function calls. Elements can be located via CSS-style selectors and manipulated in multiple ways all on the same line. e.g. $(‘div.special’).removeClass(‘special’).addClass(‘normal’); It also provides a nice wrapper for Ajax and a great interface for custom plugins. If your site uses much DOM manipulation or event listening, jQuery will make your life much easier.

2. Modernizr

Modernizr is an incredibly useful JavaScript library if you want to build your sites in HTML5 but still support non-compliant browsers. It detects which HTML5 and CSS3 features the user’s browser supports, and makes it simple for you to include fallbacks for those that don’t, both in CSS and JavaScript. It also allows styling of HTML5 semantic elements in browsers that don’t recognize them.

3. SWFObject

SWFObject is another JavaScript library. It provides an standards-compliant way of embedding Flash movies in pages that adapts to the user’s browser. If you’ve used Flash on a web page, you probably know that different browsers expect different methods for embedding.

4. Eclipse

The Eclipse IDE is an open-source development environment supporting numerous languages, including Java, PHP, JavaScript, HTML, Ruby, Perl, Python, and many more. It provides code hinting and project management, and has a hugely extensible plugin framework which allows all manner of features to be added. In fact, a plugin is available from the Android team that provides templates, samples, and tools for development of applications for the Android platform. I recommend it for every type of web coding except ASP (for which I recommend Visual Studio) and Flash (See #5).

5. FlashDevelop

FlashDevelop is an open-source code editor primarily designed for editing ActionScript for Flash and Adobe AIR. It provides more useful code-hinting and syntax highlighting than Adobe’s own Flash editor, including custom class code hints and automatic package includes. It can also integrate directly with Flash, allowing a Ctrl-Enter from FlashDevelop to compile and run the project in Adobe Flash, making it really easy to edit code in FlashDevelop, and do the graphical work directly in Flash. I highly recommend working on two separate monitors in this case, but it works with one as well.

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