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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

Eclipse has usable JavaScript support if you are willing to overlook the incorrect code diagnostics, lack of code folding, and slow IDE startup. I can't recommend Eclipse for serious JavaScript development. If you have no budget, you're better off with NetBeans for an IDE or any of the free editors discussed in this article.

Finally, Komodo Edit, Notepad++, and TextMate are lighter-weight alternatives that may work well for more casual JavaScript coding. And Alpha Anywhere is a horse of a very different color: a visual tool that allows you to create Web, mobile Web, and mobile hybrid applications with a minimum of manual coding.

JavaScript editors and IDEs: Eclipse with JSDT
I rarely take an active dislike to an IDE. In the context of JavaScript development, however, I have to say Eclipse is an exception.

Back in the days when Java Swing was new and exciting, I enjoyed using Eclipse for Java development. Even last year, when I did some Android development with Eclipse, I found the experience OK. In attempting to use the Kepler build (SR1 4.3.1) of the Eclipse IDE for Java EE Developers for JavaScript development, I was constantly disappointed.

On a positive note, Eclipse is at this point fairly mature. There's a plug-in for any open source project, programming language, or popular ALM product you can imagine.

The project to support JavaScript editing in Eclipse is called JSDT (JavaScript Developer Tools). As of the middle of last year, JSDT is part of the WTP (Web Tools Platform) project. I tested JSDT 1.5.1.

JSDT has lofty goals:

If it were only so — alas, Eclipse with JSDT is not fast compared to any of the other JavaScript IDEs in this review, nor is it accurate. For that matter, it's not stable, either: It throws a number of runtime errors.

The AST (abstract syntax tree) is itself buggy, and this is reflected in errors in the "smart error detection and correction." This isn't a hopeless situation, however. The JBoss Tools Team posted at Planet Eclipse on Jan. 27 that it had started to contribute to the JSDT project to fix the important bugs and overcome the important limitations. The results of its work are already reflected in the Git repository, but not in any current releases.

JSDT is supposed to have the following key features:

  • Syntax highlighting
  • Full outlining showing classes, functions, and fields
  • Highlighting and checking of matching bracket and parentheses
  • Auto-completion of brackets, parentheses, and indentation
  • Marking of occurrences
  • Generation of element JSDoc
  • Smart code completion based on a real-time JavaScript model
  • Hover help that displays element declaration with JSDoc or error message
  • Configurable error/warning checking, including full-language syntax and type/class structure resolution
  • Flow analysis showing unreachable code, unused variables, and variable hiding
  • Quick fixes
  • Completion templates
  • Extensible and customizable code formatting
  • Full search
  • Refactoring — renaming, moving, member extraction
  • Support for user-defined and browser libraries


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