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Web Development Pack

When I move to a new computer, I keep installing the same tools again and again. I always have problems finding them because they are spread out all over the net. This article is an attempt to gather the links to the important web development tools in one place, as a resource for beginners.

(Update 2009-02-16: This is an update to an old article, I can’t have old stuff polluting the site)

Browsers you need

For modern web development today it’s important to test in more than one browser. The current best practice is to first test in one that has good support for standards and then move on to the older ones and fix your site for them.

  • Mozilla Firefox is a great browser and a serious challenger to Internet Explorer. The best web development feature of Firefox is all its extensions that are available. I have made a special section about good extensions to use below.
  • IE Tester helps to test your site in Internet Explorer. It is the browser that is used by most people over the world (because it ships with Windows, not because it’s the best one). The good thing with IE Tester is that it lets you run multiple versions of IE at the same time. No need for virtual machines. Consider hard if you need support for IE6.
  • Safari / Chrome are two good browsers based on the webkit rendering engine. Webkit’s greatest merit is that it was one of the first browsers to complete the Acid2 test. Safari is also very popular on the Mac, so you probably you make sure it works.
  • Opera is another good browser with a little fewer users. The Opera team has put great effort to make any standards compliant site work in Opera so there’s no reason why your site shouldn’t work. There’s a few quirks though and it can therefore be worthwhile to test in it.

Firefox extensions

Firefox extension system has made it possible for thousands of developers to make little snippets of code that add useful features to Firefox. There are a lot of extensions out there and so I’m sure I’m missing many but here’s the list that I just can’t live without (related to web development):

  • Firebug is the best thing that has happened to front-end development. It lets you click elements in the browser, and shows what HTML and CSS is needed to render the element you clicked. Excellent! Makes everything so much easier. Allows manipulation that is updated in realtime
  • Web development toolbar is an extension for Firefox that enables all kinds of useful features. It can give you borders around all your elements, it allows you to edit CSS in a sidebar and see the changes instantly, it allows you to remove images just to name a few. I can’t work at all without this one.
  • HTML Validatior is the third must-have extension. It validates pages you visit on the fly, and shows a small red cross in the statusbar if you don’t validate. Great way to quickly discover errors in your HTML.
  • ColorZilla is extremely useful for finding out HTML color codes from images, something you will do a lot when coding graphic intensive pages.

Other programs you might need

You’re not only going to be surfing to your site, you’re also going to need a program to write your code in, a graphics editor, and a FTP program to send your files off to the server with.

  • I’ve always had problems finding a text editor that I liked. They either don’t allow me to use the windows shortcuts I’ve learned to love, don’t allow proper color coding of the languages I care about, don’t handle setting up project in an easy enough manner, or handle character encoding badly. So I’ve just resorted to using whatever editor that fits best with the environment I’m currently working in. Netbeans for Java, Visual Studio (non-free) for .NET, and Komodo Edit for Python and PHP.
  • Fireworks (non-free) is a graphics editor that lets me work with both vector and bitmap files. It allows filters that can be easily removed and tweaked without breaking the original. It also has a nice slice feature that let’s me export parts of design mock-ups quickly. There’s no free program worth its name.
  • FileZilla is a good open-source FTP program I keep coming back to. I fire it up and it just works every time. It’s fairly feature-rich but you don’t need to know all of it to get it going. If you do want to play with advanced stuff it’s there. Easy to use, fast, many features.

That’s it. All that is left is for you to either agree or disagree.

Friendly Bit is a blog by Emil Stenström, a Swedish interface developer and web strategist that blogs about the modern web and how to make best use of it.