Web Development
7 Essential Tools for Front-End Development

7 Essential Tools for Front-End Development

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Web development tools have come a long way in just a few short years. Thanks to this progress, we can harness the power of highly tested libraries to improve our workflow and benefit from greater possibilities when it comes to responsive design. Not only that, we can build things together thanks to ever-improving version control systems. From browser add-ons and plugins, to processors that streamline your code, there have never been more possibilities for creating awesome web applications.

But with the number of web dev tools increasing almost daily, finding the best software to get the job done can sometimes feel daunting. To help you out, we’ve created a list of essential tools for front end development to get you started.

7 Great Web Development Tools

1. Sublime Text

Let’s start with the basics: a first-rate code editor – one that features a well-designed, super efficient, and ultra speedy user interface. There are several that do this well, but arguably the best (and most popular) is Sublime Text.

Artfully run by a one-man development team, the secret to Sublime’s success lies in the program’s vast array of keyboard shortcuts - such as the ability to perform simultaneous editing (making the same interactive changes to multiple selected areas) as well as quick navigation to files, symbols, and lines. And when you’re spending 8+ hours with your editor each day, those precious few seconds saved for each process really do add up…

 

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2. Chrome Developer Tools

Wouldn’t it be great if you could edit your HTML and CSS in real-time, or debug your JavaScript, all while viewing a thorough performance analysis of your website?

Google’s built-in Chrome Developer Tools let you do just that. Bundled and available in both Chrome and Safari, they allow developers access into the internals of their web application. On top of this, a palette of network tools can help optimize your loading flows, while a timeline gives you a deeper understanding of what the browser is doing at any given moment.

Google release an update every six weeks – so check out their website as well as the Google DevelopersYouTube channel to keep your skillset up-to date.


3. jQuery

JavaScript has long been considered an essential front-end language by developers, although it’s not without its problems: riddled with browser inconsistencies, its somewhat complicated and unapproachable syntax meant that functionality often suffered.

That was until 2006, when jQuery – a fast, small, cross-platform JavaScript library aimed at simplifying the front-end process – appeared on the scene. By abstracting a lot of the functionality usually left for developers to solve on their own, jQuery allowed greater scope for creating animations, adding plug-ins, or even just navigating documents.

And it’s clearly successful – jQuery was by far the most popular JavaScript library in existence in 2015, with installation on 65% of the top 10 million highest-trafficked sites on the Web.


4. GitHub

It’s every developer’s worst nightmare – you’re working on a new project feature and you screw up. Enter version control systems (VCS) – and more specifically, GitHub.

By rolling out your project with the service, you can view any changes you’ve made or even go back to your previous state (making pesky mistakes a thing of the past). The repository hosting service also boasts a rich open-source development community (making collaboration between teams as easy as pie), as well as providing several other components such as bug tracking, feature requests, task management, and wikis for every project.

Many employers will look for finely honed Git skills, so now’s the perfect time to sign up – plus it’s a great way to get involved and learn from the best with a wide array of open-source projects to work on.


5. Twitter Bootstrap

Getting tired of typing in that same styling for a container? How about that button that keeps cropping up? Once you start building front-end applications regularly, you’ll start to notice the same patterns emerging.

UI frameworks are an attempt to solve these problems by abstracting the common elements into reusable modules - meaning developers can scaffold the elements of new applications with speed and ease.

The most widely used of these frameworks is Bootstrap, a comprehensive UI package developed by the team at Twitter. Complete with tools to normalize stylesheets, build modal objects, add JavaScript plugins, and a plethora of other features, Bootstrap can dramatically cut down on the amount of code (and time) needed to build your project.


6. Angular.js

HTML is usually the cornerstone of any front-end developer’s toolbox, but it has what many perceive to be a serious flaw: it wasn’t designed to manage dynamic views.

This is where AngularJS, an open-source web application framework, comes in. Developed by Google, AngularJS lets you extend your application’s HTML syntax, resulting in a more expressive, readable, and quick to develop environment that could otherwise not have been built with HTML alone.

The project is not without its critics: some feel that this sort of data binding makes for a messy, non-separated code, but we still think it’s an invaluable skill to have in your front-end kit.


7. Sass

Web dev tools that save time are your best friend and one of the first things you’ll learn about code is that it needs to be DRY (“Don’t Repeat Yourself”). The second thing you’ll probably learn is that CSS is usually not very DRY.

Enter the world of the CSS preprocessor, a tool that will help you write maintainable, future-proof code, all while reducing the amount of CSS you have to write (keeping it DRY).

Perhaps most popular among them is Sass, an eight-year-old open-source project which pretty much defined the genre of modern CSS preprocessors. Although a little tricky to get to grips with initially, Sass’s combination of variables, nesting, and mixins will render simple CSS when compiled, meaning your stylesheets will be more readable and (most importantly) DRY.

What You Should Do Now

  1. If you’d like a step-by-step intro to find out if web dev is right for you - sign up here for our free 7-day web dev short course.
  2. If you are interested in becoming a Web Developer check out our web development course (you'll learn the essential skills employers need).
  3. If you’d like to speak to an expert Career Advisor for free about how you can really get a new job in tech - connect with us here.

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Careerfoundry

Liz Mowforth

Contributer to the CareerFoundry Blog

Liz Mowforth is currently studying Web Development with CareerFoundry. Based in London and Toronto, she trained as a composer, worked in public affairs, and is now happily re-training as a developer.