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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 editors and IDEs: Visual Studio 2013
In my full review of Visual Studio 2013 I discussed the product as a whole, with only a few references to JavaScript. I'll reverse the emphasis here.

Overall, Visual Studio 2013 serves very well as a JavaScript IDE, though it is a better .Net IDE, and it is not as good as WebStorm for JavaScript. While it also serves very well as a JavaScript editor, it's a better C# editor, and it's not as good or as fast as Sublime Text for JavaScript.

Given that JavaScript is a platform-agnostic language, Visual Studio's restriction to Windows makes for an "impedance mismatch" to Macintosh and Linux hardware, which requires a Windows virtual machine to overcome. (I am writing this review on an iMac and running Visual Studio 2013 in a Windows 8.1 virtual machine in Parallels.)

As you can see in the screenshot below, Visual Studio 2013 does a good job with JavaScript syntax coloring and code folding. It also does a good job with JavaScript code navigation: Right-click on a function or member name, and you can easily jump to the definition or find all references. When you're done looking at the definition, you can press the back arrow at the top of the interface and return to where you were. The Peek Definition feature you can use with .Net languages isn't yet available to JavaScript.

You can easily insert snippets and surround your selection with appropriate code, such as HTML or URL encoding of string variables. Besides JavaScript, HTML, and CSS, you can edit Markdown files and see the rendered Markdown, and you can work with CoffeeScript. At least some of that functionality comes from the free Web Essentials plug-in, which also adds Minify and JSHint integration.

In addition, you can of course code in any .Net language, in C++, and in Python with a free plug-in. And as has been the case for Visual Studio for a long time, you can work with databases directly from the IDE. Visual Studio is especially strong when working with SQL Server databases. You can get away with using Visual Studio instead of SQL Server Management Studio for the majority of operations you'd want to do as a developer.

Depending on context, Visual Studio 2013's JavaScript code completion can be targeted and useful, or untargeted and not so useful. Fortunately, Visual Studio now puts up a small warning when it doesn't have a context and is showing you the kitchen sink. You can refine even the long untargeted completion list by typing a few letters.

Visual Studio has been good at debugging JavaScript for a long time, but was restricted to Internet Explorer for the most part until last year. Visual Studio 2013 supports debugging in pretty much any browser you care to throw at it, including browsers on mobile devices and in emulators. It also has two browsers of its own: the plain internal Web browser, which is (surprise!) a version of Internet Explorer, and the Page Inspector, which shows you the rendered page along with all the sources and styles. Although the Page Inspector does a lot of potentially time-consuming, reverse-engineering stuff to set itself up for a page, once you're in it you can stay there without having to juggle Visual Studio, the browser, and the browser's developer tools.


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