Free, High-Quality Web Development Tools

Free, High-Quality Web Development Tools

Web design graphic When you are starting out as a novice web developer, or maybe even if you are pretty good at making websites, it can be difficult to afford some of the mainstream development tools out there. I was super surprised to find out there are a number of completely free (and high-quality) coding programs available.

Aptana Studio

This one is probably one of the richest free programs I’ve ever used. It supports a lot of different development environments, and there are many different customizable features. For instance, you can select from one of many different default profiles for text color in your documents, or you can customize the color of the code. If you are focusing on more than just HTML and CSS, this is a good one.


Netbeans Another good program for those focusing on many different languages is Netbeans. Really, though, it is best for applications built using JavaScript. If you are brand new to development programs, this one is not for you unless you are a fast learner. It has a big learning curve. One of the best parts about this software (other than it being free) is that the creators have a ton of support documentation and tutorials on the website. It’s really great when you can find a free application and lots of documentation to go with it. It’s also a good program if you are into HTML5 and CSS3.


Notepad++ Yes, I know, this is probably the most basic text editor out there, but I have to include it because sometimes less is a lot more. Notepad++ is a step up from the original notepad because you can actually get some development work done. It color-coordinates your code, lets you know when there are basic errors, and allows you to save in virtually any file format. If you are brand new to development, this one is great. It won’t tell you or suggest how to write anything, but there aren’t any confusing tools to learn or get in the way of basic programming. If you are learning the basics of any language, this is a good one to write it with.


HTML-kit This is another simple one. It’s like Notepad++, but a little more robust. The cool feature on this one is its search functionality. If you are at all familiar with web development, you know that scanning through lines of code is tedious as…well, it’s tedious. The search function in HTML-kit suggests lines of code in your document as you type. You can also use a drop down menu to select what kind of snippet you are looking for whether it be ids, classes, comments or whatever. The interface is also a bit more like a web development program instead of a text editor. Note that there is a free version and a more full paid version.


Alley-code This is a web editor with a twist. I like the features in this one, but there are some big drawbacks. The main thing that concerns me is that it hasn’t been updated in a while, so use it with caution. The reason I mention it here is that it has some cool and relevant features for web designers in today’s world. The most notable are the search engine optimization features. There are some built-in features that allow you to check architecture of your pages for SEO like meta descriptions and other meta tags, and also seeing your page rank on the Alleycode website. Another cool feature is that you can see your updates in real time on their website. I would investigate this one further before you go ahead and use it extensively, but it’s worth looking into.

Chrome Elements Panel

Chrome Yes, I know this isn’t an editing program, but I wanted to mention it as a very handy web development tool. In case you are not familiar with it, the Chrome browser (from Google) has an excellent web development tool called the Chrome Elements Panel. You can activate it either by right-clicking while looking at a web page in the Chrome browser, or by pushing F12 (also while viewing in Chrome browser). A panel will appear at the bottom of your screen showing the HTML code on the left that makes up the page and the corresponding CSS to the right.

As you hover your mouse over the HTML tags, you will see the sections highlight on the page above. You can expand and contract the contents of elements on the page by clicking on little arrows in the code. One of the coolest and most useful features is that you can make edits to the code and see how the changes will affect design right on the page!  Note that this is not really editing your code, and only you at that exact moment with that machine and that browser can see the changes. It’s a fantastic tool to figure out why something isn’t behaving like you want it to or to see how a change will affect something before you do it.

You can learn more about the elements panel here: Chrome Elements Panel


What free programs or tools have you found useful for web development? Join the conversation by commenting below.

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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