Helpful Coding Tools

Like any craft, coding involves the use of a range of different tools that make work easier for you in some way. There are text editors, online services, design frameworks, file formats and other miscellaneous software.

Using handy tools when you can, and knowing which tool to use when, is a skill that every new coder should master. If you simply write your code but don’t use any tools, things will take a lot longer and you won’t get very far.

Here’s a set of handy coding tools that you should think about using. It’s not an exhaustive set, but it’ll get you off to a good start.

Text Editors


Your text editor is the program you use to write your code, and it will be your primary tool as a coder. You’ll spend more time in your text editor than in any other place, so you want to make sure you’ve got one you like and know how to use.

Popular text editors include Notepad, TextEdit, Sublime Text, Notepad++ and Vim.

GitHub


GitHub is a website where you can host your projects for free. Any kind of file can be uploaded to GitHub, but it’s designed especially for code files and hugely popular.

To upload your code to GitHub, it needs to be inside a Git repository. Git is a system that tracks changes in your code through revision control. Git does have a learning curve, but GitHub provides free training to get you started.

There are many reasons why you might want to host your code on GitHub. It’s one of the best, if not the best, way to easily share your project with others so that they can collaborate with you if they wish. Plus, Git is useful for tracking changes in your code.

Heroku


If you have built a web application with technology like Ruby on Rails or PHP, you will need a server to host it online so that the public can use it. GitHub will host your code, but it won’t let people actually use your software. You could set up and manage your own server, but this involves a lot of work on your part. It’s especially hard with Rails since you need special hosting.

It is a cloud application platform, also called a Platform as a Service or PaaS. You can choose to host your app on Heroku instead of managing your own server.

The benefit of hosting your web app on Heroku is that it takes care of all the server maintenance so that you don’t have to. Plus, you can start small for free and only start paying when your traffic grows and you need more resources.

Stack Overflow


Stack Overflow is a popular coding Q&A forum, established by Jeff Atwood of the Coding Horror blog. Many coders rely on this forum when they get stuck and need help, and you can too.

Using Stack Overflow is simple. Post any kind of question about your code, wait a while, and with any luck, an experienced coder or two will soon jump onto your thread and help you out.

Again, Stack Overflow isn’t the only tool of its kind. However, it’s the best known and most highly-trafficked coding discussion forum, and therefore you’ll have the best chance of getting the help you need from this forum.

Markdown


It is a text format that comes in handy from time to time. It has similar formatting techniques to HTML, but many coders like to write in Markdown because it’s much easier to write and read.

HTML and CSS Validation


If you’re working with HTML and CSS, it’s good practice to validate your code to check whether it meets the W3C standards. If it doesn’t, nothing bad will happen – but there’s no harm in doing it. Plus, valid code is a good credibility booster.

The W3C provides free validation tools that you can run your HTML and CSS code through to detect any errors. Here are the links:

Twitter Bootstrap


If you’re working on a website or web application, you might want to consider using Twitter Bootstrap. Bootstrap is a front-end framework that gets its name because it ‘bootstraps’ your website by giving it a ready-made design similar to Twitter’s.

All the HTML structure, CSS styling and JavaScript functionality are done for you. You can tweak them as much as you like or leave them as they are. It’s a great tool if, like most coders, you’re not much of a designer. Best of all, it’s free.

Although we recommend Twitter Bootstrap, it’s only one of many front-end frameworks. You have the choice of many others too, such as Zurb Foundation.

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