3 Of The Best Web Development IDEs You Can Get (or Can’t Live Without)

Web developer using web development ide beside a open window overlooking downtown sarasota

These were the most popular IDEs of 2018 and 2019 for the speed, ease of use, and vast features. We’re going to cover these 3 crossplatform IDEs: Sublime, VSCode, and the IntelliJ offerings.

Before we jump in to the final ordered list, let’s talk about what is an IDE and what makes an IDE great.

What is an IDE? How is it useful for web dev?

IDE stands for Integrated Development Environment.

An IDE is what we web developers use to help us do our job well.

See, when we have to type seemingly random symbols into a notepad, the IDE does the hard work of making sure that copy pasta (e.g. the stackoverflow answer or question) is correctly formatted and complains before our compiler does.

So ultimately, a IDE for web dev saves you a lot of refreshing or unnecessary compiling. In 2019, it does much more.

Let’s talk about those features.

Which features make a great IDE?

What makes a great IDE? A great IDE steps out of your way when your feverishly typing away and you are in the zone.

It doesn’t slow you down waiting on type ahead completions.

It doesn’t get in your way with annoying, incorrect intellisense. It instead gives you the answer you exactly need, just one quick tab away.

And it’s PACKED with great tools that makes your life super easy.

A great IDE has these 3 items as it’s main focus:

  1. Ease of use
  2. Speed
  3. Great built in tools

Aren’t all IDEs easy to use?

I’m sure the creators of Atom aren’t seated in a meeting room discovering ways to make their editor less user friendly. (Right??)

So it’s not so much what makes an IDE easy to use, but it’s what makes an IDE hard to use.

Depending on your circumstances or your ‘editor upbringing’ is what helps determine IDE difficulty.

If you’ve never used an editor before, you are probably fine to use a more text based IDE, but you really benefit the most from using a full featured IDE. You’re not going to even notice that the IDE delays typing the 20ms when compared to notepad.

However, if you’ve used editors before, you are either accustomed to a certain level of features and or a certain typing speed. Any changes will either be frustrating. Speed is critical.

IDE speed?? What?!

Hey, let’s face it, semi truck is to truck driver as IDE is web developer. And no truck driver would be ok with replacing their 800HP diesel towing beast with a Honda Ridgeline.

For the best web development IDE, speed is considered in a few forms;

  1. Editor start up time
  2. Time to swap projects
  3. Intelli-sense response time
  4. Developer productivity time

The editor needs to be fast to start, fast to swap projects, fast to respond intelligently (Intelli-sense) and of course the developer needs to feel super productive with it.

Of course, that could all be forgiven if one editor has better features.

Features maketh the editor

Ok, we made it this far, let’s mention some of these IDEs by name.

VS Code, Sublime and IntelliJ (this could be WebStorm, PHPStorm, Pycharm, etc, they are all nearly the same).

Each of these editors intend to be fast and increase productivity, so which ones stand out on features?

Well, that depends, are you looking for best features out of the box? Or best open source add on features? Or both — maybe you just want the best experience from all of that.

The good news is, as far as features go, they are almost all on par. Eventually. Out of the box, you are going to do less configuration on the IntelliJ platform IDEs but it’s going to sometimes come at a loss of speed (if you don’t have a modern computer).

So for some people, that is the deciding factor. That, and some people don’t want a full-fledged IDE, they actually prefer a text editor. So here is a quick overview of all the editors and what we’ll be comparing them on:

Final Ordered List: The Best Web Development IDEs

1. IntelliJ (IDEA, Webstorm, PHPStorm, RubyMine, PyCharm, etc) [Best paid option]

Overview: 8.3 / 10
Speed: 8
Ease of use: 8
Features: 9

At Web Jarvis, we love IntelliJ and their offerings. The speed suffers a little bit by comparison, but if you have top of the line computers, the auto-completion and features offered by PHPStorm/etc make up for it.

Ease of use suffers, like we said, anybody can pick up an IDE and use it as a text editor, but to really get the full benefits of an IDE, follow a tutorial like How to be awesome in PHPStorm by Jeffery Way of Laracasts.

2. VS Code (Best free choice)

Overview: 8 / 10
Speed: 8
Ease of use: 8
Features: 8

For us, VS Code is a very close competitor. If we’re not using PHPStorm, we’re using VS Code. It’s getting better all the time too, so each time we open it, PHPStorm shutters.

With a few minor adjustments, we could probably ditch our monthly subscriptions to IntelliJ, but the features column on VS Code, and having to try 1000s of plugins and constantly tweaking our environment reminds us why we pay monthly versus the free option. As full time web developers, our productivity is super important, but if you can find it in VS Code, even better for you!

3. Sublime (Fastest and slimmest “IDE”)

Overview: 6.6 / 10
Speed: 10
Ease of use: 6
Features: 4

Sublime is another great contender, it comes with an EXTREME amount of speed and because of age, a lot of the plugins/features are very noteworthy. A lot of times you don’t need to try multiple. Only downside is, to get even 50% of the core features PHPStorm comes with, you could spend a week trying to configure it.

But hey, maybe that’s your cup of tea.

4. Vim (Fastest Editor, Period.)

Overview: 4 / 10
Speed: 10
Ease of use: 1
Features: 1

Speaking of cups of tea, I know we said 3 IDEs, but I had to throw the obligatory Vim mention in there. If the other editors were cups of tea, then someone telling you to use this editor is handing you a tea equivalent of a basket and telling you to hike to China to capture some leaves.

If you don’t already know about Vim, then learn the basics, and heck, if that’s what you are into, then go for it, some people swear by it. I’m just warning you now, yes the idea of your hands never leaving the home row on your keyboard is nice, but someone is going to have to tuck your kids into bed.

Have a suggestion?

Now, let us know what your favorite IDE is, in the comments below. And if you never wish to touch an IDE again after having read this article, get in touch with us and we’ll put our Sarasota web development company on your project.

About the Author:
Justin Reasoner
Justin is the Co-Founder and Senior Web Developer at Web Jarvis. He's a talented web developer, programmer, and dad to Ava. He has built numerous websites and applications from the ground up that not only look great, but perform exceptionally well. There's not a task or challenge he can't master or won't try.

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