JavaScript IDEs

Readers of and Keep an Open Eye know that this reviewer has been looking for a good JavaScript IDE. It has to go beyond being just a good color-coded editor and offer 3 capabilities:
1) true animated debugging through source code with watches and breakpoints;
2)true drag and drop visual layout of dialogs and windows/Web pages using the full range of UI widgets and components now available through various popular AJAX frameworks like YahooYui, Dojo, scriptaculous, Mootools, and others.
3)ability to run cross platform and deliver cross browser and cross platform.
Well lets see what the Spring and Summer announcements have brought the Web 2.0 development community.

Adobe Dreamweaver CS3

Dreamweaver and JavaScript are like Lucy holding the football for Charley Brown. For every new version of Dreamweaver there are rumors that Macromedia and now Adobe will deliver a true IDE for DHTML and JavaScript development; and every announcement snatches away that IDE. And Dreamweaver CS3 was no exception. Dreamweaver CS3 still lacks a debugger for JavaScript (and given FireBug the question is now “why bother?”). And of course its Behaviours and associated wizards and generation dialogs are far far from being a drag and drop IDE toolkit like say Matisse in NetBeans Java IDE or Instantiations Windows Builder Pro for Eclipse Java IDE.

At least Dreamweaver CS3 is committed to cross platform Windows and Mac .. but still not Linux. However, Dreamweaver CS3 does support most browsers and even has warnings if you are using non-W3C standard code. And the CSS support dialogs have improved for the third time – making creating CSS stylings easier again. But on the downside, Dreamweaver CS3 Design preview of HTML and CSS code is worse than IE6 in faithfully reproducing the look and feel of your Web page design. True, Dreamweaver comes with the Adobe Spry AJAX framework – but nlike others like Aptana (see below) that is the only AJAX library directly supported by Dreamweaver. In sum, it looks like momentum and innovation have passed by this once leading Web page design tool just as Net Fusion and then Front Page/development tool have also wained before it.


Hey you said the JavaScript IDE has to have a debugger and Visual, drag and drop layout tool. Whats up with NotePad++ ?? Well consider that NotePad++ is free of charge, runs on all versions of Windows(but not Linux and Mac as previously reported) and supports multiple open files with color coded, user customizable editing. And the number of free plugins that are available for NotePad++ continues to grow. Users can setup Notepad++ to run Web pages in any browser and it even has its own Macro language. NotePad++ is aware of C/C++, ASP, JSP, XML, SQL, Java, JavaScript, VB, VBScript and more than a dozen other languages. For Visual Notepad users this is truly a robust and plus+plus, free web development tool.


Aptana has been associated with AJAX and Web 2.0 development for 2-3 years. It supports out of the box 10 popular AJAX frameworks including Dojo, prototype, AFLAX and scriptaculous among others. Because it is Eclipsed based it runs in Linux, Mac and Windows platforms and supports just about any browser. Aptana also support Adobes AIR and Ruby on Rails while currently working on PHP support. Aptana also has a source debugger that can be linked up with the wonderful Firebug debugger that runs in FireFox. Code in Aptana can be previewed in a built-in browser. Outline and Project windows allow users to see in tree view any and all of the objects and classes used in an AJAX application.

But alas, Aptana does not have Visual Design tool on par with Java, C/C++ or C#/VB systems that allow standard components and UI widgets to be dragged and dropped on the screen for fast UI development. But that is the only missing ingredient in this system that also supports PHP, Ruby on Rails, and XML development. In short, Aptana is the closest tool since Borlands IntraBuilder to provide a true cross platform JavaScript/DHTML IDE.

However if you have a favorite tool that you think should be highlighted just drop a note to me – and I will give it a look see.

Updated August 23, 2007
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