If you’re a web developer, you very likely have a dev environment set up locally on your workstation. You have installed your favourite code editor, the best packages added in, extension loaded, and the entire IDE [Integrated Development Environment] works exactly as you need it. But what if you’re not at your normal machine? What if you’re traveling or have been displaced or even working from home without a laptop? What then? That’s when knowing what online code editors are out there can really save the day. And more than that, maybe even be kept in your back pocket as a way to enhance your normal coding routine.
Why Online Code Editors?
There are several reasons to consider using online code editors. The truth, however, is that using an online IDE is (most likely) not going to replace your locally installed one. While many online environments are amazingly robust and capable of handling most of the work you throw at them, they just aren’t as robust and capable as desktop installations. That said, however, there are multiple reasons to consider using one.
- You’re traveling and need access to your code anywhere.
- You need to share snippets and interactive sections of code.
- Your time is limited, and you need a solution with nearly zero setup.
- Your budget is limited. Online code editors may have more power behind them than the workstation you have access to.
- Your team needs to collaborate in real-time. Many online IDEs have collaboration tools built-in that work without setup.
Regardless of the why you want to or need to use an online IDE, there are tons out there for you to choose from, each with different strengths and weaknesses and that serve different functions for web developers.
PlayCode is a nice, all-purpose online code editor. With it, you can open multiple files that run together in a single project, just like you would with multiple files in a typical directory structure using Sublime Text or VS Code. PlayCode has pre-made templates for users, as well as real-time results and built-in console debugging right in the browser. Users can edit and work without being signed in for quick fixes and whatnot, but also sign in to save the work and use PlayCode across machines.
CodePen is likely considered to be the online code editor of online code editors. Not only does it give you the tools for collaboration, experimentation, and sharing, but you also get live results and the ability to search through their database and repository of snippets that other authors put up so you can experiment and learn from their work, too. It’s also a fun place to see what some people are doing with code in new and fun ways. Plus, CodePen snippets get indexed by Google, and many times you will end up here when you’re looking for a solution before you head to Stack Overflow — and sometimes after because that’s where people often write up and share real-time solutions.
Plus, and we can’t let this go without saying, it is based on VS Code. So you’re basically running the most popular IDE and code editor in your browser, and each project gets its own server space.
4. AWS Cloud9
As an early adopter of Cloud9 years ago when it was an open-source project on c9.io, we highly recommend this product. In fact, it provides a very similar experience to StackBlitz above. When Amazon acquired C9, they connected it to their cloud as part of their AWS suite of services. AWS Cloud9 is definitely a solid, full-featured online IDE, and the informational blurb on their website does a great job of breaking down exactly why it’s worth a look.
If you have ever seen or used PasteBin, JSBin will be familiar. It is similar in structure, style, and utility, JSBin is mainly a site to share code. We think it’s definitely best to register an account here to stay logged in. The reason being, JSBin automatically saves your progress on any code you’re working with. Even if you are simply experimenting to see what snippets do, you’re not going to lose your work. JSBin is a simple, no-nonsense editor. And if that’s what you need, you really can’t get any better.
6. WordPress Theme Editor
WordPress might not be the first thing you think about regarding online code editors. But it is definitely something to consider. In WordPress 4.9, WP Core was updated to include CodeMirror. Syntax highlighting and error warnings for any changes that are made within code areas are now baseline with WordPress. The primary location for this is within the Appearance – Theme Editor area, but it also appears in any widgetized area (such as the Custom HTML widget) or within the theme customizer in the Custom CSS tab. While this is definitely not a full IDE, we can absolutely recommend the WP CodeMirror editor as a way to check errors and update snippets of code without dealing with FTP and various file management systems.
Wrapping Up with Online Code Editors
Most online code editors aren’t going to replace your local dev environment. That’s not their job. Mostly. What they can do, however, is provide a solid and simple way to edit code, share snippets, make backups, and experiment with new features in a safe and secure location in real-time. Between full IDEs like StackBlitz, snippet sharing services like JSBin, and even just quality-of-life online code editors like the WordPress CodeMirror integration, if you’ve never played around with online editing, there’s no better time to start.
What are your favourite online code editors? And do you need a server for your online projects?