I’m a pretty big fan of open source initiatives, code, rules, and especially software. If you go to school for computer science they’re going to give you the command line and probably a bunch of proprietary software; either free or not, to develop with. Sun puts out a decent developer JAVA. Microsoft has Visual Studio. And, if you’re as fortunate as me you’ll get to learn BASIC and you might even come upon a floppy with QBasic on it! If you’re doing web development you may even be told to use Dreamweaver to do your HTML and CSS (if they’re even aware of CSS). While I’m a big fan of JAVA and of Visual Studio as far as ASPX is concerned I’ve got to tell you I don’t use either often. And, I don’t do ASP development ever and don’t plan on it. Not because it’s Microsoft but because there is enough stuff out there to learn about and that system isn’t one that’s I’ve been around or care to use.
For a long time now I’ve use some version of Eclipse. At my office we hired another developer a few months ago (now a project manager) who booed Eclipse. But, in all fairness he’s a Mac guy so what does he know anyway? I came from JAVA and therefore Eclipse is a sort of no brainer for me. However, I recently realized that plain old Eclipse wasn’t cutting it for me. And, I noticed some pretty sweet tools that the new guy had that made his life easier. But, rather than run from the editor I’ve grown to love I did what the application designers meant for us to do with their software, I added to it. No, I didn’t change the core or even write something for it; I simply installed some plugins. Well, actually I went a step further and I switched to Aptana.
I may pick up some flak right now for this. But, Aptana used to (and is again) support PHP right out of the box. Eclipse has a PHP bundled version, but Aptana by default supports it and does quite a few things differently that I like over just regular Eclipse. Now, Aptana is built on Eclipse and has a standalone so this isn’t really a knock on Eclipse. Might I mention too that I’m running Aptana 3 beta right now.
The Upsides I’ve Found
It now has this black background as a default style with grey highlighting and orange syntax which I initially hated. But, I figured they did it for a reason and after about a week I noticed my eyes seemed to strain less. Now looking at my white WordPress editor is killing my eyes and I think I’ll switch it to black!
As I’ve already stated it supports PHP out of the box. And, as an even bigger bonus it has support for Ruby and Rails in the project builder. I’ve only started messing with either of those and don’t have a lot of experience here but as anyone has heard both are hot right now. I have a hard time though with any language that claims good object oriented code but allows such loose scripting. Sure it can be strict; but I don’t know that a lot of people are using it that way. Of course, I do with what I have so others very well may be too and so I should keep my mouth shut there right?
It uses git and although Eclipse supports it too and has the cmd line in it I just feel better using what’s bundled with Aptana. And, setting up GIT projects is super simple. I’m not a cmd line type of guy and so anything to make commits easier for me is welcomed!
It was funky making the switch. And, I’ve had more trouble with ANT builds. I haven’t had time to get a lot setup between managing the two at my office and at home. I haven’t quite figured out why the project explorer doesn’t show my htaccess files either! And, since it’s still in Beta it’s a bit funky at times. The tabbed completion is funky and it doesn’t always pull up code hinting when I can’t remember if it’s needle, haystack, count or haystack, needle, count.
As I mentioned earlier this other developer did show me something I absolutely needed and one of the reasons I switched to Aptana and that’s Zen Coding. I couldn’t seem to get it to work well in Eclipse alone and Beta 3 was out so what the heck. Zen Coding completely destroys any troubles I had with tabbed completion. And, being able to setup what you want it to do when you tab is amazing. No more writing out the enctype of forms, no more declaring a class and having to write a contruct manually. I’ve always felt that understanding the core of the code and how it should be structured was more important than just using plugins or copy paste from somewhere else. And, that’s still the case. But once you have it down, and down some more, and down for a couple of years it’s time to step up the game or get stale! Zen Coding has made my life more enjoyable in front of a computer screen and sped up my work-flow quite a bit.
Another nice thing I found was code hinting for jQuery. Hopefully over time I’ll release some good ActionScript code and those of you who know the relationship between JS and AS will understand that code hinting for jQuery can seem like overkill. But, if for nothing else I use the autocomplete! And that alone is worth it.
If I ever get comments on here please don’t let them be about me being a Mac hater. And no comments like I see on Smashing Magazine with people complaining about the post unless I write one that really sucks. But, I hope this helps some newer folk out there and doesn’t waste somebodies time.