Here’s a short and sweet list of some of my most frequently used freeware web-development tools, along with a description of what they do, and how I find them useful. In this first part, I’ll be focussing on off-line software. I realise that there’s loads of these lists about – but I’ve tried to keep mine limited to those programs I haven’t seen consistently in other people’s. Also includes sparkly pictures, for increased visual stimulation!
I realise that this hasn’t got a great accompanying picture.
It doesn’t really inspire excitement. Maybe I should have just left it out. UPDATE : I’ve improved the picture by adding a picture of a snail. This is a truly great suite of programs which will allow you to run an Apache, Mysql and Php stack on your local Windows based machine. Put simply, this means that you have pretty much all of the development capabilities of a web-server, but running from a directory on your disk drive. For instance, there’s no need to upload changes to your Php based CMS to an external server before seeing them in action – you can do it all from your PC, independent of external connections.
Web Developer Server Suite comes with working copies of WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, MediaWiki and PhpBB bundled in. PHPMyAdmin is also included, so you can manage and create MySql databases with great ease.
Personally, this program has helped me to learn the ins and outs of Php & Mysql much more quickly than otherwise would have been possible. I’ve been able to develop much more complicated themes for WordPress and attempt more involved projects than I would otherwise ever have attempted. I loves it! If you haven’t already, download it! : )
It rather goes against all I stand for to include IE 6.0 as one of the best freeware web development tools I use, but I definitely feel it should be mentioned. With IE 6.0 users still making up around 30% of internet site traffic (source: W3 Browser Statistics), we still can’t afford not to take them into account when designing sites. Designs which might be perfectly valid and workable in later Mozilla, IE or Opera browsers will quite probably look like they were put together by a madman with spades for hands on IE 6.0, so that’s why we have to still give it our attention. Evolt.org provides standalone downloads of IE 6 and lower, so instead of having to mess around with your operating system to get it going, you can just download, unzip and fire it up : )
This is a great freeware replacement for the ghastly Notepad.exe. It features code highlighting for many languages, better search and replace funtions, macros, and it won’t mess up formatting if you need to upload the files for use on a web-server. Its functions are expandable by a good selection of plugins, which include colour pickers, FTP synchronizer and spell checker.
There’s little that one can say about an FTP client that will provoke excitement in a reader, so I’ve accompanied this entry with a picture of a lovely old cow. Filezilla is well featured, open source and best of all, free. It includes file resume, drag and drop support, and is cross-platform compatible.
CSS Tidy is a quick and straightforward way of compressing, cleaning up and formatting stylesheets. It will merge classes with the same properties, and convert long hex values to their shorter counterparts. Smaller CSS files are of course quicker for the visitor to load, and less prone to causing errors. This tool doesn’t validate your CSS or point out problems with it, so make sure that you back-up or validate any CSS that you pass through it before committing changes it has made. Asides from the online version of the tool, It’s also available as a PHP script, and a command-line based .exe.
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