Every frontend engineer needs to know CSS. Even if your profession doesn’t necessarily require you to write a lot of code, a solid understanding of CSS can give you a considerable advantage over your peers. If you’re a UX designer, for instance, a foundation in CSS can help you better visualize how your designs will work and more easily communicate with engineers and developers.
CSS is one of the most common style sheet languages. It’s relatively simple, so you can write CSS code without any special editor. However, even if you’re a seasoned professional, you’re bound to make mistakes from time to time. Finding and fixing mistakes in your code can take a lot of time and effort. That’s why engineers use a wide variety of editors to help them write good code right away without the need to check and recheck it afterward.
In this guide, we’ll zoom in on seven popular visual editors and break down their strengths and weaknesses to help you choose the most appropriate solution for your next project.
Why you should use a visual editor
HTML and CSS editors are very useful for both beginners and experienced developers. Visual editors make your code easier to read because they can highlight syntax, insert some common elements, and complete your code automatically. This way, you can put less effort into the writing process while also ensuring that your code is clean and functional. As a result, the whole process of coding becomes easier and less time-consuming.
There are two common types of editors: textual editors and what-you-see-is-what-you-get, or WYSIWYG. Many textual editors offer opportunities for personalization, and they can also help you optimize your webpages for search engines. They can help you make pages that meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), for instance.
WYSIWYG editors go even further and provide users with an interface that instantly displays what the final result will look like. Most editors of this type don’t require users to have any HTML knowledge at all, so they’re good for beginners. Experienced developers are more likely to appreciate textual editors because they leave much more space creativity. Some of these editors have a live preview as well.
Without further ado, let’s explore what the following seven visual editors have to offer.
1. Visual Studio Code
This editor has managed to become one of the most popular solutions in a relatively short period of time. Visual Studio Code is especially popular among web developers. One of the main advantages of this program is that it’s free. It’s a multicode solution that includes a smart autocomplete feature and responds to your syntax on the go. VS Code supports different platforms and languages so you can use it when writing CSS, HTML, Python, and a host of other common languages.
The IntelliSense technology enables this software to highlight your syntax, autocomplete pieces of code, and provide smart completion, depending on your modules, types, and functions. You can also customize it to your needs via various extensions. One of the main reasons why developers choose this program is that they can debug code in the editor. It also has built-in Git commands, and you can preview the final result in a Live Server extension.
Since Atom appeared in 2014, it has become incredibly popular among developers. It’s a free, open-source editor created by the GitHub team that includes many useful features and offers flexibility. This solution is maintained by the GitHub community, and you can customize it to suit your needs and preferences.
One of the main advantages of Atom is that it’s a hackable solution, which means developers can improve, share, and extend the source code. You can also create your own packages to improve this program and to tailor it to your needs. Atom comes with 81 packages, and you can install up to 8,700 additional packages.
Another great feature is that Atom supports Teletype so you can collaborate with others in real time. It also has a smart autocompletion feature that helps you write your code much faster.
One of the main reasons why developers choose this solution is that it’s customizable. You can add any features that you want, change the interface, and create packages from scratch. There is an active community that enables you to install existing themes and packages. Atom works on all operating systems so you can edit your projects on any platform. Finally, a live preview feature enables you to see all changes in action.
BlueGriffon is an open-source solution developed by the Mozilla team. A WYSIWYG editor, it was created based on the now-discontinued NVU, another solution from Mozilla. What makes BlueGriffon stand out among other NVU derivatives is that it supports all the necessary modern elements of CSS and HTML5. If you don’t want to write much code, you can use a simple drag-and-drop interface to work with different elements visually.
It also includes a dual view feature so you can see the code. This enables you to make the necessary adjustments or, if you’re a beginner to learn what your design looks like when written in code. BlueGriffon supports Linux, Windows, and Mac OS. It also supports the EPUB format so you can not only publish your content to the web but also enable others to download it.
5. Sublime Text
Sublime Text enables you to write code in CSS, HTML, and many other common languages. You can use this solution for free or buy a license to use premium features. It has great support and is updated on a regular basis. You can install plugins developed by the community or create your own plugins and add new features to the program.
Since it supports Python API, you can expand Sublime’s functionality, if you’re so inclined. Another great thing about Sublime is that developers can edit different parts of projects simultaneously. It’s a cross-platform solution, so you can use it on Windows, Linux, or OS X. If you want to purchase the premium version, you only need to buy one license to install it on all your computers.
Most developers choose this editor because it has a great package ecosystem and powerful API. All packages are open-source. You can explore thousands of packages created by members of the community or develop your own additions to the program. Split editing enables you to use several monitors to edit multiple areas of your code at once. The definition feature enables you to generate an index of all methods, classes, and functions for the entire project. The “anything” feature can also help you save a lot of time by opening files quickly and searching for the necessary words, symbols, or lines.
Also known as TextWrangler, BBEdit is a simple and lightweight code editor for macOS. It includes basic features such as syntax highlighting and code folding, supports various programming languages, and features an autocompletion function to help you write code faster. This solution comes with a GUI tool for HTML editing and supports SFTP/FTP. In addition, BBEdit seamlessly integrates with Automator, AppleScript, and Unix scripting.
7. Adobe Dreamweaver
Dreamweaver is one of the most popular WYSIWYG solutions on the market. It’s is a very versatile editor that enables you to work in textual mode as well, making it a good editor for frontend and backend development.
Dreamweaver is a premium tool that perfectly integrates with the Adobe ecosystem. It also supports multiple programming languages. Besides, Adobe provides constant support, additional features, and various plugins to improve your coding experience.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned developer, these editors can make your work much easier, save you a lot of time, and offer many useful features. Most importantly, they can help you make sure that your code is clean, functional, and easy to read.
Since many of these tools are free, you can experiment with different solutions and choose the one that meets your objectives. Feel free to share your favorite and least favorite editors in the comments!
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