Although it has been decades since the first web designer opened up a text editor to create the very first HTML document, the tools of the trade haven’t really changed a whole lot.
Sure, websites are now powered by blog platforms like WordPress, or WYSIWYG editors like Kompozer, but the bottom line is that most hard core web designers will always find it necessary to pop open a text editor to tweak the style a little bit here, or to realign the template a bit more there.
I think that text editors are going to be around in the world of web design for a very long time, at least for those web programmers that are always neck-deep into improving and optimizing professional websites. So, it stands to reason that text editing tools would evolve that are more powerful and smarter; Tools created specifically for the needs of those hard-core web designers and web programmers.
Bluefish – The Text Editor for Programmers
For years, I was very adamant about sticking with Notepad, no matter what everyone else started using. In my opinion, WYSIWYG editors just padding way too much garbage into the code (particularly MS Word’s silly save-as-HTML feature).
I was very tempted to try Notepad++ when I first heard about it. Then, after reading Simon’s article on Sublime Text, I was tempted yet again. I’ve always been hesitant to jump on any bandwagon until a good, solid winner takes root.
This year, I have to confess that I’ve finally found a code editor that I can’t resist – it’s called Bluefish.
When you first setup Bluefish, you’ll see the first reason I like it so much – it is designed to handle a huge assortment of programming languages, from straight HTML and PHP to Java, VB and even ASP. The kind of flexibility is a nice thing to have in a code editor, especially if you often have your hands into many different programming languages.
And Bluefish does programming well. But before we get to that, I wanted to just show you how cool this program looks. Up to this point I haven’t found a coder’s editor with this kind of aesthetic coolness on the front end – with the most important, easy-to-find tools and tabs right at your fingertips on the main screen, depending what code you’re focused on at the moment.
As you can see, file navigation is right there on the left – no need to flip back and forth between Windows Explorer and your editor. Do all of your file exploring from right within the application itself.
That includes all of the usual things you can do with a file explorer, like moving or renaming folders and files.
When you launch a new document from the file menu, if you choose template you’ll see that Bluefish has a few pre-built program templates available. This is especially useful if you write a lot of web pages, for example, and don’t want to recreate the same generic XHTML or PHP structure. Instead, just launch Bluefish’s template and you can immediately get into creating the content.
The pic below is the standard HTML template with the header, title and body tags pre-built for you. As you can see, lines are numbered, and while you’re typing the application has a feature where it will auto-complete tags for you.
As you can see in the menu bar, there are also pre-built code snippets available under each program language. For example, HTML has standard code for web forms, and PHP has standard code snippets for how to connect to an ODBC or MySQL database.
This can save a lot of time if you’re the kind of person (like me) that often forgets the exact syntax to do some of the most basic things. To complete the code snippet for you, the program will ask you for the details. In the case of making database connections, it’ll ask you for the data source and the login details. Then it’ll basically write the code for you.
The same is true for a whole list of HTML tasks – making this app a web designers dream. You can code the same web page in half the time using Bluefish. Just tap the element that you want, provide the dialog box with a few details, and the code gets typed up and inserted for you.
It isn’t WYSIWYG, but in my opinion it’s ten times better. You know what you want to do in the code, you just don’t have time to keep checking your reference book for the right syntax – so Bluefish lets you cut the headache.
More programming aids are available from the top menu as well. If you have an HTML file open, click the “Tags” menu and you’ll see dozens of quick code functions available to choose from. Create a web form with a fraction of the effort.
As though the programming aids and tools weren’t enough, don’t forget to check out the “Tools” menu where you’ll find the ability to organize your code by joining/splitting lines, indenting, or using a filter to strip all empty lines from your code.
At the bottom of the main window, you’ll also find an output variable area for coding in languages like PHP or C++, useful to see whether your code is really doing what you want it to do.
I think it’s safe to say that Bluefish has won over my heart when it comes to “intelligent coding” rather than just hacking away in Notepad. So, give Bluefish a try and let us know whether it simplified your programming experience at all. what do you like about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.