Published Oct 22, 2023 ⦁ 9 min read

Must-have dev tools for web developers


This article will highlight the most essential developer tools for building modern websites, web apps and services. We'll cover the top IDEs, testing tools, and other must-have dev tools that will help web developers work faster, debug easier, and build higher quality products.

The focus is on widely-used, practical tools that deliver tangible value for most projects, including both free open source options as well as paid tools worth the investment. Whether you're just starting out or are a seasoned pro, having the right dev tools in your toolbox can really take your web development game to the next level.

An integrated development environment (IDE) is one of the most important foundations for efficient coding. Here are some of the most popular options:

  • Visual Studio Code is a free, open source IDE with robust extensions for customization. It has excellent support for JavaScript, TypeScript, Node.js and an abundance of community plugins. Its minimalist design, vast extension marketplace, and deep code intelligence have made it a favorite for web development.
  • WebStorm is a full-featured IDE specifically focused on JavaScript and web development. It's known for smart code completion, on-the-fly error detection, and powerful debugging capabilities. WebStorm is used widely by companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google.
  • Atom is a hackable, customizable IDE maintained by GitHub. It can be endlessly tweaked and expanded through a huge library of packages built by the community. The ability to customize Atom to suit personal workflows has attracted many loyal users.
  • Sublime Text is a fast, minimalist text editor with many developer-friendly features for writing code. It's praised for its speed, ease of use, and flexibility. The lightweight Sublime Text loads instantly and supports a wide range of programming languages.
  • Eclipse IDE supports multiple languages and platforms beyond just web development. It has a vast ecosystem of plugins and add-ons for extended functionality. The free and open source Eclipse IDE has been a longtime popular choice with Java developers.

Top Testing Tools

Robust testing is critical for identifying bugs before they reach production. Here are some of the top JavaScript testing frameworks:

  • Jest makes JavaScript testing delightfully easy with its auto-mocking and built-in assertions. It's fast, reliable, and used widely in React apps developed by Facebook and many other companies.
  • Cypress enables reliable end-to-end testing in the browser for more confidence in UI interactions. Its time-travel debugging is invaluable. Cypress is used by forward-thinking companies like Netflix, HubSpot, and Spotify.
  • Mocha is a flexible JavaScript test framework running on Node.js that can be paired with various assertion libraries. Mocha's wide adoption includes high-profile companies like LinkedIn, Mozilla, and VMware.
  • Jasmine is a behavior-driven development (BDD) testing framework that helps write clean, readable test specs in JavaScript. Jasmine is commonly integrated into JavaScript projects at Google, Uber, and other leading tech firms.
  • Selenium automates browser testing and can simulate user interactions for functional UI testing across platforms. Major organizations like Microsoft, Mozilla, and Adobe rely on Selenium for cross-browser web app testing.

Key Criteria for Evaluating Dev Tools

With so many development tools available today, it can be tricky to determine which are worth adopting. Here are some key criteria to evaluate during your selection process:

  • Speed and performance - Does the tool improve productivity, save time, and run efficiently? Or does it slow things down? Speed is essential.
  • Debugging capabilities - How easily does the tool help identify and fix bugs or errors in code? Good debugging saves headaches. Look for built-in debugging features.
  • Community and support - Is the tool well-documented with an active community behind it? Lacking support resources can hinder usage. Vibrant communities improve the usage experience.
  • Price and licensing - What is the cost commitment for the tool? Make sure the value justifies the price tag. Consider total cost of ownership.
  • Integration and extensibility - How customizable is the tool and does it integrate well into your existing workflow? Extensibility streamlines workflows.
  • Trends and adoption - Is the tool's popularity growing and seeing widespread industry adoption? Quickly fading tools may not be worth investing in. Evaluate momentum.

Most Valuable Features in IDEs

When evaluating integrated development environments (IDEs), keep an eye out for these incredibly useful features:

  • Code completion and intellisense - Contextual code suggestions speed up coding tremendously. Intellisense supercharges productivity.
  • Built-in Git support - Seamless Git integration allows for easier version control workflows. Commit right from the IDE.
  • Customizable interface and themes - Personalize the IDE with themes to suit your preferences. Make it your own.
  • Easy debugging and profiling - Quickly diagnose tricky bugs right within the IDE. Fix issues faster.
  • Extensions and add-ons - Expand functionality with community extensions. Unlock new capabilities.

Must-Have Testing Tool Capabilities

The most capable testing tools should enable:

  • Support for unit, integration, and e2e testing - All testing types covered. Take a layered approach.
  • Generating test coverage reports - Measure how much code is exercised by tests. Get visibility into coverage gaps.
  • Mocking and stubbing - Isolate code under test from dependencies. Control test conditions.
  • Running tests in CI/CD pipelines - Automate testing on commits and deploys. Prevent regressions.
  • Integration with popular frameworks - Work seamlessly with your tech stack. Leverage existing libraries.

Top Open Source Dev Tools

Open source software provides amazing value at no cost. Here are some of the most popular open source dev tools:

  • Visual Studio Code - A full featured cross-platform IDE loved for its great debugging and customizability. View on GitHub.
  • Postman - Simplifies API development and testing with features like collections, environments, and mocking. View on GitHub.
  • npm - The JavaScript package manager that makes sharing code easy by streamlining dependencies. View on GitHub.
  • Jenkins - A self-contained Java-based automation server great for CI/CD pipelines. View on GitHub.
  • Apache JMeter - Open source Java application designed for load testing and measuring performance. View on GitHub.

Leading Commercial Dev Tools

While open source is great, paid commercial tools also provide immense value with premium features and support:

  • JetBrains IDEs like WebStorm and IntelliJ IDEA are praised for their excellent code analysis and project-aware editing. Pricing starts at $129/user.
  • Tableau enables anyone to transform data into stunning, interactive visualizations. Subscription plans start at $35/month.
  • AppDynamics provides end-to-end application performance monitoring with advanced troubleshooting capabilities. Pricing not publicly listed.
  • Sentry helps developers monitor and fix crashes in real time before users notice. Teams plans start at $26/month.
  • GitHub makes collaborative software development easier through Git repository hosting, access controls, and useful integrations. Free for public repos, paid plans for private repos.

Notable Cloud-Based Dev Tools

The cloud has enabled a new generation of development tools accessible from anywhere:

  • AWS Cloud9 provides a cloud-based integrated development environment (IDE) for writing, running, and debugging code. Pay only for compute resources used.
  • CircleCI allows teams to rapidly build and deliver quality software through cloud-based continuous integration and delivery. Pricing starts at $15/month.
  • MongoDB Atlas makes deploying and operating fully managed MongoDB a breeze. Usage-based pricing starting at $0.10/hour.
  • Auth0 provides a universal authentication and authorization platform for web, mobile, and legacy apps. Pay only for active users.
  • Cloudflare improves web performance and security by acting as a reverse proxy and content delivery network (CDN). Free plan available.

Integrating Tools into Your Workflow

With so many great tools available today, it can be challenging to figure out your optimal dev environment. Here are some tips:

  • Start with a core set of essential tools like a good IDE, source control, and testing framework. Master these before expanding.
  • Evaluate new tools incrementally to find the best fit for your needs and avoid overload. Try before you buy.
  • Configure tools to play nicely together through extensions, plugins, and APIs for smoother workflows. Connect them together.
  • Automate repetitive tasks by connecting tools to improve efficiency. For example, trigger tests on commits.
  • Monitor tool usage to double down on what's working well and cut what's not delivering enough value. Optimize over time.

Optimizing Your Dev Environment

Make your developer environment more productive with these tips:

  • Use a single robust IDE for most coding and debugging to minimize context switching. Stay focused.
  • Set up seamless Git integration in your IDE for easier version control workflows. Commit right from the editor.
  • Personalize themes, shortcuts, settings to optimize your IDE for focus. Make it yours.
  • Install productivity plugins and extensions to level up your IDE's capabilities. Expand functionality.
  • Keep tools automatically updated to latest versions for access to new features and security patches. Stay current.

Key Takeaways

To recap, here are the key insights on must-have tools for web developers:

  • An IDE like Visual Studio Code provides a central, customizable workspace with time-saving capabilities.
  • Testing tools like Jest enable confidence in code changes through robust test automation.
  • Open source developer tools provide immense value at no cost.
  • Cloud-based tools scale instantly with lower overhead but may have higher ongoing fees.
  • Carefully integrating tools can greatly streamline development workflows and boost productivity.

With the right combination of dev tools in your toolbox, you'll be able to build higher quality websites, apps, and services more efficiently than ever before. Don't be afraid to experiment until you find your perfect set of must-have tools.

If you're looking to discover and evaluate even more emerging developer tools, check out DevHunt which showcases new developer tool launches in one centralized place.