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Review: 10 JavaScript editors and IDEs put to the test

Martin Heller | Feb. 7, 2014
WebStorm and Sublime Text lead a field of diverse and capable tools for JavaScript programming

JavaScript is used for many different kinds of applications today. Most often, it's partnered with HTML5 and CSS to build Web front ends, but it's also used for mobile applications, and it's even finding a place on the back end in the form of Node.js servers. Fortunately, JavaScript development tools — at least some of them — are rising to meet the new challenges.

In this roundup, I look at 10 different editors and IDEs (integrated development environments) of interest to JavaScript programmers. Six of these — ActiveState's Komodo IDE, Eclipse with JSDT (JavaScript Development Tools), Microsoft's Visual Studio 2013, NetBeans, Sublime Text, and JetBrains' WebStorm — could serve as the primary JavaScript tool for serious developers. I've given these six products full, scored evaluations.

The other four tools — Alpha Anywhere, Komodo Edit, Notepad++, and TextMate — don't rank with the above group, and I didn't give them full evaluations. Still, they're worth knowing about, so I've included them in the discussion.

Most of the tools reviewed here run on Windows, OS X, and Linux. A few run on only one or two of these platforms. Many are full-featured integrated development environments, and some are code editors with smarts about JavaScript.

Which should you pick? I have to give you the consultant's answer: It depends on what you need, like, and can afford.

If you want a flexible, powerful, extensible, and lightning-fast programming text editor, look no further than Sublime Text. For bonus points, it's also cross-platform. And while Sublime Text is definitely not an IDE, it can be beefed up using plug-ins to take on some of the features of an IDE.

For integrated development focused exclusively on JavaScript, HTML5, and CSS, consider WebStorm. It's an incredibly productive and capable professional IDE for Web development that comes at a very reasonable price. I recommend WebStorm for serious JavaScript developers.

For integrated development that goes further afield, consider Visual Studio 2013, NetBeans, or Komodo IDE.

For Windows-based development, Visual Studio 2013 offers a good JavaScript IDE, with good code editing and navigation, syntax highlighting, code folding, debugging, and JavaScript function timing. Support for ALM, specifically Git and TFS, is very good.

NetBeans is a quite capable and complete IDE, and version 7.4 adds welcome support for Android and iOS mobile Web development based on Cordova/PhoneGap. On the downside, it can be frustratingly slow, especially at startup.

Komodo IDE is a professional cross-platform IDE for major Web languages, including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It comes with a JavaScript debugger and advanced JavaScript editing, including refactoring. And it supports syntax highlighting for dozens of programming and markup languages, with emphasis on Perl, Python, PHP, Ruby, Tcl, and XSLT.


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