Brackets – My New Favorite Code Editor

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Brackets IDE symbolA couple of months ago I started searching for “the best” code¬†editor for web development. I wanted to see what was out there and how it compared to what I have used and was currently using.

Since most of my co-workers live in the .NET world I have access to Visual Studio, which I actually like as an IDE. I’ve used it to do a good deal of development over the last couple of years. But I wanted to explore more of what was out there for code editors that might be more lightweight, fun and available wherever I might want to use it (work, home, on the road…).

For web and desktop work at home I’ve used Notepad, Notepad ++ and Aptana and have never been really happy.

Notepad ++ actually works really well but I hate the interface (it’s boring and ugly rolled into one). Besides, it would be nice to use something platform independent for portability. On the plus side (sorry), in Notepad ++ you can configure styles and keyboard mappings and there;s a lot you can do with the preferences to make things work the way you want them to.

That’s actually the story with the majority of editors and IDEs out there today. Most of them have customizable settings and functionality either built-in or available through plug-ins or extensions. Some of them are geared toward specific languages or uses but most of them seem to handle the most common languages.

No Magic Bullet

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no “best” editor. There are only ones with fewer annoyances than others. Out of the editors I have been trying lately there are a few I have only used for a few seconds (like Atom) and some I’ve done some heavy lifting with (like Sublime Text). My favorite so far has been Brackets, the open source project from Adobe.

Brackets

I really like the look and feel of Brackets. It has a nice flat design. It doesn’t overwhelm you with controls and menus. But that led me to pause and question – where are all the controls and menus? It turns out, a lot of your customizations are done directly through json files or through extensions.¬†That’s great because I love working in json.

Changing the keymap is not as straight-forward as most code editors and IDEs but it is intuitive and simple. You just have to override the default mappings in the keymap.json file. I set up my block and single line mappings because the defaults almost always annoy me.

I’ve been using Brackets both at work and at home. In my home setup I use the live preview feature all the time. It’s only available through Chrome which is not a problem for me. I usually like to debug my HTML, JavaScript and CSS in Firefox (Firebug) but the Chrome developer tools work just fine for most things. Live preview is great because the Chrome page refreshes automatically every time you save your HTML file. I have a different setup at work which doesn’t allow for the live preview to work but I might be changing that soon.

Brackets really shines with its extensions manager. This is where you can install/uninstall user created extensions or Brackets themes. You can also search Github for extension, download the zip file and drag the zip right into the extension manager. It only took a few minutes to search for and install a few extensions to make development easier. These included Grunt, indent guides, code folding and code beautification(formatting).

I have notices some of the extensions can slow Brackets way down so that’s something to watch as you’re loading new ones up. Now I’m just looking for a reason to create an extension of my own or some reason to hack Brackets itself.