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HTML/CSS/PHP development and IDE’s

Lately I’ve been trying to learn a number of new programming languages, or at least get better with what I already know. To that end I’ve created an iPhone application (iCalc RPN) and Mac App (Aspect Ratio Calculator) in Objective-C using Xcode.

I really love how Xcode handles code hinting and code completion, and wanted the same code hinting for HTML/CSS and PHP.

So in my quest to get code hinting in other parts of my life (web development), I started looking to various IDE’s available for HTML/CSS, JavaScript and PHP. I first started looking at the free IDE’s available including Aptana, Eclipse, NetBeans, and a few commercial programs.  I posted on Twitter asking other people’s opinions, and a number of my followers recommended Komodo IDE.  So, I went to their website and took a look at what they had.

Komodo IDE is commercial program which costs $382 for the program and the 1st year of support and upgrades.  It’s one of the more expensive IDE’s I was able to find, but it came highly recommended by a number of programmers, so I decided to give it a shot.

Komodo has support for lessCSS, HTML, HTML5, JavaScript, CSS and PHP (among others).  It offers code completion, code hinting, debugging, project management, git integration,  and more. But, was Komodo IDE worth $382; or, put another way, with Komodo IDE worth $382 more than NetBeans, eclipse, or any of the other free IDE’s available. Other programmers claimed it was.

Remember, my decision to get a new IDE was directly influenced by Xcode. If the new IDE didn’t do what I wanted to do, no matter how pretty it was, it was not going to work. Both NetBeans and Aptana are Java-based IDE’s; they’re quite nice but with even small-ish projects, in my opinion, the slowness was evident. Up to this point I’ve been using TextMate to hand code HTML and CSS, so I was not willing to compromise on speed to gain code hinting and code completion.

Komodo is built on top of Mozilla Firefox, which seems odd, but it does have the benefit of allowing Komodo to be available for Windows, Mac, and Linux without being Java-based. It also means that it has a Firefox style extension system for finding and installing add-ons.

Overall Komodo seems reasonably easy to use, works quickly, and works well. I haven’t yet used it long enough to see if there’s any features that it’s missing, but with good plug-in support, and powerful scripting and macro function, it would be hard to imagine a task that Komodo would be utterly incapable of doing. Although, I do wish that it had some of the more powerful text editing capabilities of TextMate baked directly into Komodo. I miss features like ”wrap each line in an HTML element”, but, that’s not a show-stopper for me.

So far I’m happy with my choice of IDE. However, to be honest, I’d love for Dreamweaver to have more powerful IDE features and debugging, that might give you the best of both worlds where one could have a powerful IDE for backend development, any powerful UI editor for front-end design.

For the purpose of full disclosure, I was given a substantial discount on Komodo IDE in exchange for reviewing the application and blogging about it. Frankly, even without the discount, Komodo would’ve been in my short list of IDE’s to consider. With the discount, it was a complete no-brainer. In my opinion, Komodo is definitely worth money; the question is, whether at $382, Komodo represents a good value for money. My decision, for most business related software purchases comes down to simple economics: If Komodo is able to save just a few hours a year, allowing me to increase my billable time by just a few hours a year, then Komodo is worth the cost. So far, I’m happy to report the Komodo is saving time and increasing productivity. So is it worth the cost? In my case, definitely yes.