The Great Windows Code Editor Hunt: Komodo Edit

Komodo edit logo
Komodo edit logo
Komodo edit logo

Second up on my list of code editors to review is Komodo Edit. No we’re not talking about the paid IDE but the free version.

The Good

Komodo Edit is developed on the Mozilla platform which means it’s a cross-platform code editor just like Firefox is a cross-platform web browser. As I said when I started there is an extra point for any editor that is cross-platform since I do end up spending some time each week on Mac and Linux. Add that to the price tag of FREE and you’ve got a decent editor to try.

Editing code in Komodo Edit
Editing code in Komodo Edit

Komodo has lots of options for configuration. Prefer a different colours scheme? Yeah you’re only a few clicks away from having a multitude of choices. Need to change how indentation works on files? Again a click or two and you’re all changed up. Use Emacs key bindings evidently Komodo Edit supports that as well, though I don’t use them so I have no clue on how well it supports them.

Another point in for Komodo Edit is the amazing extensions. When I needed proper colour coding for HAML in a project I just opened up the extension manager typed in HAML installed, and restarted Komodo Edit and I was ready to go. Need jQuery support, no problem search your extensions.

pick your poison with addons
pick your poison with addons

When I started this whole quest I also made a project browser a requirement for a code editor to be considered. Komodo Edit has a great project browser. It’s easy to navigate and clear.

The Bad

Edit: Checkout the response from ActiveState in the comments to some of my ‘Bad’ points.

While building on the Mozilla platform gave Komodo edit a leg up by making it easy for developers to extend it, there are also some downsides. Who hasn’t given up on Firefox after you’ve been using it for a year or so and it just takes forever to get up and running? I mean my 95-year-old grandmother has done three laps around the walking track before Firefox has loaded. Komodo suffers from this as well. It seems to me that Komodo Edit is just as slow to start as Firefox is on a given system. I have Komodo Edit installed on two systems. One is a bit new and Firefox is still snappy and so is Komodo Edit. The other systems is pretty powerful but has been around on the same install of Windows for a bit and both Firefox and Komodo Edit give you enough time to go get groceries while they start. Never seems to matter if it’s warm or cold, they’re just slow.

komodo is slower than dreamweaver
komodo is slower than dreamweaver

While I said this is a code editor hunt I know some people might take issue with including Komodo Edit here. Really Komodo Edit is an IDE. Start a new Ruby on Rails project from within Komodo and you get a bunch of extra ‘helper’ files and stuff it thinks you need. While this might help a new developer it also hinders them long-term. So the extra crap is a point against Komodo Edit.

Again in the beginning I said that I gave points to an editor that was cross-platform and while Komod Edit is the Linux install is less than desireable. I was never able to get the launch icon to show up properly in my Ubutnu Netbook Remix properly. Sure there is probably some place I need to put the .desktop file but as I said last week it should just work. I should have to go hunt around for how to make it work. Komodo Edit needs to work on their install process in Linux.

While the project browser is great on Komodo Edit it also sucks. At different times I’ve had issues creating new files in the project window. This has happened while working on both WordPress and Ruby on Rails projects. I was also never able to find a way to open and close the project browser from the keyboard. While this isn’t really an issue on my dual 22′ screen desktop it is annoying on my 10′ netbook. You can close it from a button at the top of the tool bar but that is less than desireable.

Komodo Edit also adds a project file to each project. If this was it’s only fault then it would hardly be a big one but combine that with some of the others above and it’s just a pain in the ass to add yet another thing to my .gitignore file.


The biggest point here is how long it takes to open. Cold or warm even Dreamweaver would win a start-up race and be on its second beer by the time Komodo Edit gets to the finish line. The slowness is something I’m just not willing to suffer.

The few other big things are the fact that working on projects in Komodo can separate you from your code as it throws all it’s IDE features at a project. The the lack of a great keyboard navigation so you always have to go back to your mouse, and the less than desirable install on other platforms just put the whole package over the top. It’s something to try if you’re looking for a code editor but it’s on my list of products I wish were a bit better, then I could use them regularly.

The Great Windows Code Editor Hunt: Dreamweaver

Dreamweaver CS4 icon
Dreamweaver CS4 icon
Dreamweaver CS4 icon

This is the second post in The Great Windows Code Editor Hunt series. Today we’ll look at Dreamweaver as a code editor.

The Good

Dreamweaver has come a long way for coders since CS3. When I used the CS3 version it was barely tolerable as a code editor. I don’t remember why at this point but I do remember having to switch back to CS3 when the CS4 beta ran out and my employer at the time decided not to upgrade. I remember ranting for a few days about how the UI was crappy in CS3 and CS4 was way better.

Dreamweaver is highly configurable. Working in a language that requires a certain amount of tabs or spaces to work properly? Not a problem. Hop into the Preferences pane and under ‘code format’ adjust as you need. It doesn’t stop there though. Like your code hinting in a fashion other than default? Dreamweaver provides you with a few options and at least one should suit.

Dreamweaver CS4 preferences
Dreamweaver CS4 preferences

Another wonderful feature of Dreamweaver is the ability to connect to different servers on one project. I’ve used this feature a number of times to work on a WordPress theme locally then, with a simple dropdown, connect to my development server and upload the required files. When we’re ready to push to the client’s server simply open the drop down again and connect to the live environment and upload the files. A great thing they introduced in CS4 with the Files panel is that it is now dockable or can sit free-floating on another monitor if you wish.

Dreamweaver CS4 file browser
Dreamweaver CS4 file browser

The Bad

So what are the things that make Dreamweaver not my code editor of choice? It starts with the WYSIWYG editor. While it’s possible to enter full code view and not see the code editor somehow it always seems to sneak into view. I’ve never been able to stop the ‘Design View’ to disappear entirely. For some reason I was never able to track down some files would randomly open in the ‘Design View’ of Dreamweaver forcing me to go back to the top and click on the ‘Code View.’ I’ve just dug through the preferences panel again and don’t see any option that leads me to believe I can just shut down the design view permanently.

So one of my requirements was load time. Dreamweaver is a pig. I run Windows 7 on an AMD Athlon 2.6 with 8GB of RAM and a 1GB video card. It’s not a slow system but Dreamweaver seems to be the morning coffee hounds best friend as it takes forever to start-up. Yeah go get a coffee. Even on the 24″ iMac I used at my last job Dreamweaver was a pig to get running. To my very unscientific observations, it didn’t seem to matter if it was a cold or warm start. The green dialogue that shows during startup might as well say “Go Get a Coffee there’s lots of time”.

Dreamweaver CS4 coffee load screen
Dreamweaver CS4 coffee load screen

Another beef with Dreamweaver is the amount of crap files it introduces into your projects. It seems that in every folder you end up with an extra folder called _notes and an extra file called dwsync.xml. Sure they’re not big but they also don’t matter to the client’s website and are thus bloat. I think these files have something to do with FTP syncing with the server but whatever they’re actuall purpose removing them from a project is yet another step to take before packaging files up to send to a client at the end of a project.

Themes in Dreamweaver are a pain. For all the configuration options available there is no real way to quickly switch away from the original eye searing white theme. I’ve got big thanks for That Web Guy since he has great instructions on how to change the white theme out on Dreamweaver. It requires a change to an actual application file in Dreamweaver which is stupid but I suppose it’s not all that hard. I’m still astonished that Dreamweaver doesn’t have an easy way to switch between multiple colour themes though. Seems like every other code editor out there, even those in alpha have it as a default feature.

While Dreamweaver has a great project browser it really doesn’t do a good job or any job of tracking your files since the last upload. I can’t tell Dreamweaver to only pushed changed files. Sure I can sync the files but then we’re waiting while it figures out what that sync it. I see no real reason why it can’t mark the file state at last file upload and then only upload the files that have changed. We’ve got lots of other application bloat why not something useful.

A final point I’d like to put against Dreamweaver is the file type support. I work with Github more and more which means I need to edit README files. Dreamweaver has no clue what to do with the file nor does it offer me a good way to tell it what to do.


Really the only reason that Dreamweaver was included in the review is that it comes with many version of the CS4 suite of software. I really don’t think it would be a contender if it wasn’t included with other software I need to do my job (Photoshop and Illustrator). I certainly wouldn’t be forking out $400 bucks for Dreamweaver after working with it during the trial.

We can also add as a point against Dreamweaver the general distaste seen for it by prospective employers. Sure I wrote a while back that Dreamweaver is a fine tool but that doesn’t change the fact that you see daily job ads that say don’t apply if you use Dreamweaver.

Ultimately I’m not using Dreamweaver because it’s slow to open, doesn’t recognize a number of common files I’m working with, doesn’t integrate with Git at all, and I just can’t get that stupid ‘Design View’ to go away. Maybe minor things all but it amounts up to a code editor that just doesn’t suit my daily coding habits.

The Great Windows Code Editor Hunt

code editor article imag
code editor article imag
code editor article imag

I’m a web designer/programmer so I spend a good portion of a day in a code editor (at least if it’s a good day). I’m pretty particular about what code editor I use and what features it needs so I’m on a hunt for a great code editor for Windows. My plan is to use a code editor for at least 2 weeks to really get a handle on exactly how it works and to get as familiar as possible with all of the shortcuts.

The Requirements

So lets start by figuring out exactly what I’m looking for. I’m not going to list the normal things like syntax highlighting that are just required to even get into my list for testing.

  1. Code Completion of Some Fashion: I need code completion of some fashion. Whether that’s adding the end tag automagically upon completion of the beginning tag or if it’s hinting at the next tag to close. I’m not picky really on which way it works. Extra point for tab style tag and block code completion.
  2. Project Browser: The code editor needs to have a project browser (Sorry VI) even if it’s not included out of the box there needs to be a plugin to make it work.
  3. Dark Theme: It’s a personal preference but I need a darker theme to look at all day. My eyes hurt if I get stuck looking at something super white all day. Light greys or browns all work just can’t be white. And you need to make it easy to switch the theme with some template of some fashion. I’m not opposed to having to build a template if none exists already but it better be easy to do.
  4. Lite Weight: I don’t want to wait forever to open a file. I willing to wait on the first cold start of the day but after that you better be quick.
  5. Good Looking: If I have to look at and work with you all day you better be pretty, well pretty enough. I’ve seen a few editors that just look really freaking ugly. I’ll admit I’m a bit vain and I require a UI that looks good and works.

Nice to Have

  1. Snippet Management and Completion: I end up working across 3 different OS’s so while I like snippets built-in I find they’re never on the system I need them on. I’d like it but it’s not a deal breaker.
  2. No Project File: I’d love not to have a .whatever project file added to projects but if the rest of the application rocks then I’ll deal with adding it to my .gitignore file.
  3. Editing of Live Files: My workflow has me building all my sites locally and doing all my testing for browsers there. I don’t need to edit live files on a server often so I don’t have much call for publish on save but if you have it I’ll give you a point.
  4. Cross-platform: I end of doing a bit of work on Windows, Mac, and Linux so I’d love something I can learn and use across all platforms as my main development platform.
  5. Spell Checking: I write all my blog posts in a text editor so spell checking would be great but not a need. I use After the Deadline on by blog before posts go out and will continue to do so even if the editor has spell checking.

The Contenders

So I’ve got some contenders already. Some I’ve used and some I’m planning to try.

  1. Dreamweaver: I get it with CS4 Design Premium so I figure I’ll go over why I’m not using it (yeah that was a spoiler). Read Review
  2. Komodo Edit: Not the paid IDE but the free Komodo Edit. It appeals because it’s cross-platform and free is a good price. Read Review
  3. gedit: It’s the right price and on my two main platforms for development (Windows, Linux) so it’s in.
  4. InType: Heard lots about how it’s like Textmate for Windows. Textmate is the cat’s ass according to some programmers I know so I figured I’d be up for trying it. Read Review
  5. E Text Editor: Another Textmate for Windows I hear. I actually tried it a few months back and for some reason that escapes me right now I have no idea why I’m not using it still. So if I can get it running again on the trial I’ll review it.
  6. Notepad++: It’s a staple of any programmers “I’ve tried it” stable so now I’ll try to be its lover for a bit.
  7. PSPad: I’ve been told that real programmers on Windows are using Notepadd++ or PSPad so it’s in.
  8. Sublime: Suggested below and reviewed.

What’s Missing

Am I missing something in my list? Is there a code editor that you just love and hasn’t cropped up on my radar? Let me know. I don’t promise to use it but I promise to at least visit the site and see if it could be a contender.

Web Designer Needed: Don’t Apply if you use Dreamweaver

dw-iconWe’ve all seen job adds like the title. One that bascially discounts you as a coder on the basis of your tool of choice. Once that basically says “real web designers/developers don’t use Dreamweaver.”

I do use Dreamweaver. Oh yeah I also use Notepad++ and Textwrangler. I have tried coda (great by the way) and BBedit and Aptana and many other applications for web development.

At my fulltime job it simply comes down to cost. I use Dreamweaver because it is in CS3. There is no real break through feature that I could find to justify to my boss so that they would purchase Coda. At home I use Dreamweaver because there is no good alternative on a PC. Sure there is Notepad++ but no mater how many times I have tried I can’t get the code completion to work. Really why would I waste time to get an application working when Dreamweaver works out of the box? It’s just not good practical use of my limited time. Using Dreamweaver has no bearing on my code writing skills.

The problem with Dreamweaver is that a large number of people purchased it solely on the basis of the WYSIWYG view. Really these are the people that recruiters want eliminated from applying for jobs as web designer/developers not the ones that hand write code inside Dreamweaver.

So come on people that post jobs know what it is that you want. You want good web designers/developers. Let them use whatever tool they find most reliable and easy to use. If it’s Dreamweaver fine. Focus on the end product not the tool used.

Bring on the New: CS4 is out

A few weeks ago Adobe announced that Sept. 23 was the release day for CS4. Well today was the big day in the design industry…Adobe announced and is shipping CS4 starting now. I had opportunity to watch the live showing off of some of the new features of CS4 and wow. I answered my own question from a few weeks ago with a resounding yes. I’ll have to check the graphics card on my PC but I will own CS4 in a few weeks.

Lets take a tour of some of the new features. The one that really gets me is the content aware scaling of photos. You have to see it to really get the idea of what this is capable of for designers. Imaging having a picture that is landscape orientation for a magazine and strecthing it to portrait without affecting the quality of the image in the areas that really matter. Photoshop CS4 also improves greatly on the dodge and burn tools, it now protects the highlights and shadows as you use the tools. Effectively this takes some of the responsibility off the designer while dodging and burning photos and puts it on photoshop to only effect the correct areas. One of the final big things for Photoshop is the use of the GPU for rendering photos. By leveraging the power in the GPU Photoshop is able to zoom smoothly in and out of photos as well as render objects crisply at odd zoom number (33.3%). This should also make better use of your system resources and allow 32bit systems that can’t have huge amounts of RAM run the apps with less of a slow down if they upgrade their video card.

I am a web designer so I am most excited about Dreamweaver CS4. I have been using it since they released a preview version a few months back. I have used is as my only editor (reluctantly switching

Dreamweaver CS4 Interface
Dreamweaver CS4 Interface

back to CS3 now) and have had no stability problems. The interface is beautiful and easy to work in. Now the design view uses webkit as a rendering engine so what you see in the design view should render like it does in Safari and Chrome. Remember though this is still no substitute for actually checking your code in native installs of the browser.

Dreamweaver also comes bundled now with the .air plugin for application development. This really excites me as I move forward with my own plans for a .air app.

Code hinting now works for AJAX and JavaScript and the design view has support for Photoshop smart objects.

Another thing I am super excited about is the fact that Fireworks is now being bundled in the Design Premium version of CS4. I used to have to do without Fireworks because I do some print work and need InDesign. Well no more I can have my cake and eat it too. For those not familiar with Fireworks it allows you to draw both pixel and vector based objects. You can create hotspots on pages and essentially build yourself a working prototype of a site with no coding. Clients can see the site and critique it while your still working in a drawing program. Very cool. There is a great video on Adobe TV using Fireworks to prototype an .air app.

There are so many more things that are cool about the new CS4 release. To finish off here are some links to videos and other cool things in CS4

Upgrade to CS4?

So many of us have heard that Adobe has announced Sept. 23rd as the product launch date for CS4. I personally have been using DW CS4 since the private beta came out a few months ago and while I love it I still wonder if it is worth the expense of the upgrade to CS4.

Do we really need to spend the cash each time the Creative Suite is updated by Adobe? I’m not totally convinced that we do. Some releases of the software have been amazing (I think CS2 – CS3 was a huge jump) but some are not that great.

Now the suite we buy at work is used by both myself (web guy) and our print designer so the improvements are gauged by the two of us. The reality for me is that there are some cool improvements in DW CS4 but I think that I could be completely happy with Coda 1.5 as a coding tool.  Coda is only $99 USD so it’s a whole lot cheaper than CS4.

Ultimately I think that we have to be intelligent with our funds both for our workplace and as freelancers. I will evaluate all of the Creative Suite and see if the improvements are worth the upgrade cost. What are you going to do?