Nowadays, developers have to build websites and web applications that deliver optimal user experience across varied browsers, platforms, and devices. They need robust tools to deliver web applications that meet precise business requirements and deliver richer user experience. The tools provided by various integrated development environments (IDE) make it easier for web developers to build and test custom web applications rapidly. Most IDEs come with a source code editor, a debugger, and a compiler/interpreter. But the tools and services provided by individual IDEs differ.

Likewise, some of these IDEs are open source and free, whereas others are available as licensed software. The open source IDEs lack some of the robust tools and services provided by the commercial IDEs. But the developers can always use open source IDEs to speed up web application development without increasing project overheads. Also, they can easily customize and extend these IDEs according precise needs of each project.  It is always important for developers to compare the popular open source IDEs for web development.

7 Widely Used IDEs for Web Development which are Open Source and Free

1) Visual Studio Code

The open source IDE supports three major operating systems – Windows, Linux and macOS. Visual Studio Code even supports a widely used web programming technologies like HTML, XML, PHP, Python, Java, JavaScript, C#, Ruby, and TypeScript. The IDE provides smart completion based on variable types, imported modules, and function definition. It even allows developers to debug code directly from the editor, while debugging call stacks and break points. The developers can further take advantage of the built-in Git commands to monitor changes made to the code base and files directly from the editor. At the same time, they also have option to extend Visual Studio Code through a wide range of extensions.

2) Atom

Unlike other open source IDE for web development, Atom is designed as a text editor. But the web developers can extend and customize Atom according to precise project needs. They can use the IDE to edit code across three major platforms – Windows, Linux and macOS. They even have option to split Atom into multiple panes to compare and edit core more efficiently across files. Atom further provides useful features like smart autocompletion, option to find/replace/preview text while typing, and file system browser. At the same time, the built-in package manager provided by Atom enables web developers to create custom packages and install existing packages without putting extra time and effort.

3) NetBeans IDE

The tools provided by the open source IDE helps developers to accelerate development of desktop, web, and mobile applications. In addition to being cross-platform, NetBeans IDE further provides superior supports to PHP. It even allows developers to avail editors and tools for commonly used web technologies like HTML, XML, JavaScript, Java and PHP. The editor provided by NetBeans highlights source code of web applications both syntactically and semantically, while allowing users to refactor code through a number of tools. The developers can further use the editor and drag-and-drop tools provided by the robust IDE to design graphical user interfaces ((UIs) for web developers being developed with HTML5, PHP, and Java.  They can even extend NetBeans IDE to meet complex project requirements by using specific plug-ins.

4) Vim

Vim is designed as a configurable text editor based on Unix-based editor – Vi. Despite being designed as a lightweight tool, Vim runs on major operating systems and supports many programming languages and file formats. It even outperforms other IDEs by being designed as a text-based editor. However, Vim still provides a number of robust features provided by other open source IDEs for web development – autocompletion, modal paradigm for text editing, powerful search and replace option, and multi-level undo tree. At the same time, the web developers can extend and customize Vim by adding specific plug-ins or integrating with popular tools. However, the beginners have to learn VimScript to write custom plug-ins and extend Vim more efficiently.

5) Brackets

The open source text editor comes with features to make web designers and frontend developers more productive. Brackets even helps web programmers to write high quality code by integrating visual tools into its editor. The live preview feature provided by Brackets enable users to make changes to the HTML/CSS code and see the impact of changes made to the code instantaneously on the screen. At the same time, the inline edition options provided by the IDE help programmers to open a window directly into the specific code and edit code side by side. The developers can even take advantage of the features provided by Brackets to work with pre-processors more efficiently.

6) Light Table

Light Table is designed as a modern and customizable text editor. The web developers can run the open source IDE on three major operating systems – Windows, macOS and Linux. Likewise, they can use Light Table to write high quality code in HTML, JavaScript, CSS, Python, Clojure, and ClojureScript. They can even embed a wide variety of code and applications in Light Table. Light Table even provides instant feedback and displays data value flow across the code. The web developers can further extend the IDE using a number of extensions. However, Light Table is yet to support some of the widely used web technologies including PHP, Java, C# and Ruby.

7) Aptana Studio

The open source IDE for web development supports widely used web technologies like HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, PHP, Python, Ruby, and Ruby on Rails. Aptana Studio even helps programmers to write high quality code in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, and Ruby. The developers can even use the integrated debugger to inspect variables, set breakpoints, and control code execution. Aptana Studio further makes it easier for programmers to access remote code repository and facilitate git-based deployment. It even provides a command line interface to make it easier for programmers to work with language utilities. The developers can even extend and customize Aptana Studio by executing custom commands.

On the whole, the programmers have option to choose from a wide range of open source IDE for web development. They can even opt for open source IDEs or community edition of commercial IDEs to accelerate web application development and testing without increasing project overheads. But they must remember that each of these widely used IDEs has its own pros and cons. Hence, they need to compare these open source IDEs for web development according to precise needs of each project.