Code editing is a critical skill for web developers in today’s digital economy. Web developers write code to create the websites and applications we all use every single day. To do so, these professionals use source code editors such as GitHub or VSStudio, and many others. In the quest to learn how to develop software, a source code editor is one of the most important tools you have at your disposal.
If you’re on the path toward learning to code, it’s important to remember code editing is done on many different types of code editors: free code editors, open-source code editors, and code editors for Mac or windows. Choosing a platform to write code that suits you is a critical first step in your journey to becoming a software developer.
In this article, we will highlight five important code editors you need to be able to work with as you make your way toward a tech career. Kenzie Academy from Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is ready to provide all the knowledge, skills, and tools you will need to master any source code editor.
What is Software Development?
Before we take a closer look at code editors, we need to know why we need them — code editing is the backbone of web development.
Nathan Holt, a Kenzie Academy program facilitator who works in the CBD software engineering back-end development course, provided an overview of software development in a recent Zoom presentation. He explained that software development begins with the idea for a web page, it runs all the way through designing, programming, documenting, and testing phases, and culminates with the act of fixing any bugs that have crept in at the end of the process.
What Role Do Code Editors Play?
A code editor is a text editor program for editing the source code of computer programs according to the language. This is the program that you open on your laptop when you’re ready to do the actual coding work. This is the space where web developers create, and where the magic happens.
Code editors provide features like syntax highlighting, auto suggestions, and auto indenting to make your code more readable. Some advanced code editors come with lots of plugins and are integrated with terminal, git, debugger, and more.
“Programming is a language, like any other language you would go to school to learn,” explains Holt. “And just like all the other languages, there are rules that have to be in place for your programming sentences to be syntactically complete and to make sense. But with software development, just a little tiny mistake, for example, using a semicolon instead of a colon or vice versa, could cause your entire program to shut down if it’s put in the wrong place. You may miss it, but good code editors will instantly pick up a problem like that and highlight it.”
Not All Code Editors Are Built The Same
There are three basic categories of code editors that you need to know about before you select the code editor that you’re going to use to write code.
- INTEGRATED DEVELOPMENT EDITORS (IDE): These are very powerful, yet bulky editing environments. Typically, an IDE will bring all the basic tools that are required to write and edit the software into one application, including a code editor, a compiler or interpreter, and a debugger. You can access them through one graphical user interface. That makes them great for experienced editors, but they can be a bit daunting and off-putting for novices.
- LIGHTWEIGHT CODE EDITORS: As the name suggests, a lightweight code editor contains fewer features and less functionality than a full IDE. That means that they run a lot smoother on less powerful machines. They are also fast, super clean, and contain very little clutter. If you need to build extra features, you can leverage the large plugin communities to encourage customization.
- ONLINE CODE EDITORS: These small lightweight, cloud-based editors are great for quick experiments and for tasks such as practicing, learning, sharing, and portability. With an online code editor, Github for example, Internet access is required. While they have fewer editor features, they are great for collaboration.
Remember that one is not necessarily better than the others, it just depends on what you need to do at that particular moment.
Five of the Most Useful Code Editors
Here’s a selection of code editors that you will come across as you begin your software development journey.