Anyone who builds websites with any regularity will probably agree that there are some tools that are just crucial to being a productive web developer. Ultimately, all I really need is a text editor and an FTP program and I’m good to go. However, if you want speed and efficiency, I’m gonna need a few of my favorite tools.
1) The Web Developer Toolbar – I consider this one of the greatest inventions ever! If you have been building websites since the 90s, then you will probably agree that this browser add-on was a godsend. The CSS viewer/editor changed my life. Suddenly I was able to work on CSS live! I mean, I could actually see how a style affected the page or element without having to commit it to a live site. This right here finalized my transition from the old table-based layout mentality of the 90s to the pure CSS nirvana that came with the Web 2.0 movement. The amount of time saved by not having to edit, save, upload, view and repeat until correct was a wonderful gift.
2) MODx – I won’t get into an overview about MODx. There are plenty around the Net. I will tell you, however, that MODx is another tool that saves me lots of time in the long run. Yeah, most CMS’s can make that claim. It’s pretty much the main benefit of a CMS from a developer point of view. Time is crucial and any tool that can save you time is a great tool to have. I’ve been using MODx for about 6 years now. I’m not going to try and make a comparison to other CMS’s out there. I haven’t used any of them except for MODx. MODx is free and open source. Free is always good.
3) Photoshop – Image editing is a crucial part of being a web developer. All sites start with a design. Everywhere that I have ever worked, those designs came in the form of a PSD. PhotoShop is what I started with and it is what I continue to use. Heck, I don’t even claim to actually be good at PhotoShop. There are many things that I do in it that designers would giggle at. I’m sure there are faster and better ways to do the things I do in PhotoShop. I also realize that using PhotoShop for basic image editing for the web is slight overkill. It doesn’t really matter though. I’m comfortable in it and that’s all that matters.
4) Text Editor – Any web developer or site builder should be able to build a site using nothing but a text editor and FTP. No excuses. If you can’t code a site out in Notepad then you suck! Seriously, tools are nice when it comes to speed and efficiency, but if you don’t truly understand the code then you are too dependent on DreamWeaver or whatever WYSIWYG tool you might be using. WYSIWYG’s were not meant for people who build websites for a living. They are meant for people who don’t build websites for a living. Until they devise a WYSIWYG that doesn’t reformat my code then please, keep them away from me! I am quite happy using a text editor. By the way, I use TextMate on my Mac and Notepad++ on my work PC.
5) W3C’s HTML Validator – Another time saver. Of course, every site I build gets run through this before going live. But to me, the greatest asset of this service is for troubleshooting. One of the more frustrating things is trying to figure out why your page is acting all screwy in some browsers. Most of us have been there. You search and search, stare at your code, try to find where it all went wrong. The next thing you know, 45 minutes have gone by and you just now found a stray semi-colon or a missing slash. Annoying to say the least. This is where the validator comes in. It will tell you if there are issues with your code. It’s not exact all the time, but it still beats staring blankly at a screen for an hour. Sometimes a minor error can cause a domino effect across your page. This will help you find it.
These are the tools that are part of my everyday life. I would be interested in hearing about your preferred work environment. I realize that I can get set in my ways, but I am always open to a tool that will help save me time or make more efficient.