When you're constantly writing code, whether it be for a living or just as a hobby, having the right IDE (Integrated Development Environment) is important. I've gone through several in the last few months before settling on Aptana Studio 3. It has all the features I consider crucial including:
- Built in file explorer
- Preview for HTML and CSS
- Switchable tab view for open files
- Tons of extensions and plugins through built in download manager
All of these components are critical to my workflow and keep my code from becoming an absolute mess. Here's what my workflow looks like inside of Aptana.
Start organized, stay organized
One of the best features of Aptana is that I can manage my project folders and files directly from inside the editor. I don't have to jump in and out of the finder, or worse- throw random folders all over my desktop. Everything is accessible from this sidebar:
Most other IDEs have a similar view, but they usually only display the open files you're working on. That can get incredibly frustrating when you bounce between multiple projects on the fly.
Preview, Compile, Enjoy, Repeat
When you write content for the web, it's crucial to have a live preview to see what all that code looks like to normal people. That's what used to make a program like Adobe's Dreamweaver worth the money. But now days, it's amazing what free can get you. Aptana has a built-in preview tab:
Gimme' a Tab
"I can't give you a tab unless you order something!" Sorry, that was a necessary Back to the Future reference.
I usually work on more than one file at a time. At a minimum, I prefer to keep the .html, .css and .js files all open together. Call me needy, but I also want a convenient way to switch between them:
Instead of looking at my file sidebar, I can do everything from these tabs. I can click and drag to reorder them, or close the ones I don't need. And because Aptana is smart, I can use ctrl + TAB and ctrl + Shift + TAB to shuffle backwards and forwards through my open tabs- just like a web browser!
Make it yours!
Saying Aptana offers add-ons doesn't do it any justice. Between the available plugins, extensions and themes, you have an endless array of choices in how you want to set it up. Even small things, like what I've done with the indentation of my vertical lines:
This was one of the things I was missing when I switched to Aptana. But a quick search through the add-on store led to a plugin that gave me just that; viola! They're back where I want them. Again, that's just one small element, but it gives you an idea of just how granular the custom options can get.
Did you say free?
The best part of Aptana isn't that it's free, but it doesn't hurt. Some of the more robust IDEs (Dreamweaver, Coda by Panic, Microsoft Visual Studio, etc.) can get pricey. And while they may have some standout features that justify the cost, I say give Aptana a whirl first. You'll be surprised how much free can get you.