Coding on the web

I ceased to be a professional developer a number of years ago but I have still continued to dabble either when things needed doing at work or for my own amusement. I started out working on COBOL projects and the obscure FOCUS before I retrained to the wonderful PowerBuilder. Nowadays it is almost predominately PHP and a little bit of mobile development with Rhodes. I have never really been one for dedicated IDEs preferring to use a rich text editor such as Notepad++ on Windows and TextWrangler on Mac.

Recently I have been working across a number of machines and have found that keeping control of ensuring that the latest version is in all places has become a bit of a bind. As is so often the case these days it’s the web to the rescue. There are several competing browser based code editors including Code Anywhere and ShiftEdit. I was able to quickly reject Code Anywhere as even though it offers the ability to edit code on the go with mobile apps I wasn’t able to test the one feature I needed without signing up for a paid plan – SFTP. So this pointed me towards ShiftEdit who offer a free plan with a single server that allows SFTP access, perfect.

The service is pretty simple to use – once you sign up you can add a new server choosing from FTP, SFTP and Dropbox access. You are then presented with a tree view of the remote server on the left hand side and a large area on the right for the code itself. Double clicking a file will load it into the editor if it is a supported type (PHP, Ruby, Python, Perl, Java, HTML, CSS and JavaScript) otherwise ShiftEdit will try and load the file in a new browser window. I am not convinced by this approach as, for example, trying to open the Apache configuration file causes “http://etc/apache2/apache2.conf” to be loaded which clearly cannot be rendered. Would be neat if the file was opened as plain text for editing. That’s a minor niggle though. Once the code is loaded you then get syntax highlighting and checking. The latter I have found particularly useful and it is remarkably quick to pick up my mistakes! The interface also offers split and design views which I have yet to make use of.

All in all ShiftEdit is a very polished offering, which is not surprising since the editor is based on the Ace project. It is certainly a very viable alternative to the many desktop editors that exist. For me it is a huge step forward as it enables me to make changes to me websites pretty much anywhere I am. Also the inclusion of syntax checking means that I can iron out many issues in the editor before hitting the site. I don’t think I will be going back to a desktop editor.

Is there anything that I am missing with a desktop IDE? Let me know in the comments.