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Flipping the Linux switch: Linux web tools, Pt. 5 - Readers love editing

Komodo EditSeriously guys, we love you. Okay, fine, maybe not in the way your mom loves you, or your dog loves you, or your significant other loves you. But we definitely love you in that totally uncomfortable, care-free, "Hey, let us buy you a Red Bull and Pop Rocks next time we're at the convenience store" sort of way.

We don't just love you for your looks, or your superior intelligence, or because you can totally creep out little kids with that thing you do with your left eye. We will even go so far as to say the fact that you use Linux doesn't play into it one bit.

We love you because your suggestions rock. We scour the web ourselves daily, but you know, it's a big place, and we just can't know every single bit of software or tech goodness out there. We think it's way cool when we get suggestions from readers about applications for Linux (or Windows, or Mac, or Palm...) because you aren't only cluing us in on applications we may not be familiar with, but a lot of you are avid users, and can vouch that the application you are suggesting really works for every day use.

This week, we think it's only appropriate to wrap up the editors section of our Linux web tools discussion with a couple of reader suggested gems. So a big thanks to Tim for suggesting we look at Komodo Edit and kingkool68 for pointing us towards Aptana.

FtLS Komodo and Aptana

Komodo Edit - Dragons have add-ons, just like foxes!

Komodo Edit is a nifty little editor from ActiveState. It's based off the beefier and more featurific Komodo IDE, but truth be told, unless you're in a hard core development environment and using this sort of application for collaboration, specialized tasks over multiple platforms, and world domination, Komodo Edit should be more than enough. (It is also good to note that while Komodo IDE does cost some moolah, Komodo Edit is a free download.)

Komodo Start Screen

Remember how we've mentioned that HTML editors are, under all the shiny-shiny, really just text editors? Komodo is a little different. It is a text editor that's so wildly modular and extensible, it makes your head spin. So it doesn't look like a "traditional HTML" editor like Quanta Plus, but it doesn't really smack of nuts and bolts linear text editing, like gedit or Kwrite. It actually handles a really impressive range of languages, including, of course, HTML and XHTML, CSS, and PHP. But then there's the wild stuff, such as Ruby, Python, Perl, Tcl, and, we kid you not, Actionscript. Since the Actionscript whizzes are not in the neighborhood, though, we couldn't really try it out in Linux.

Komodo Edit File types

The neat thing about Komodo is the very Mozilla way that it adds extensions. You've used Firefox? You've added an extension or plug-in with a .xpi? Well, hey, that's about as hard as it gets with Komodo Edit. Komodo Edit comes with a lot of extensions already enabled (and you are, of course, free to disable any that annoy you to death).

Komodo suggests tags

Komodo Edit is a bit like Screem in that there is no WYSIWYG editor, just a fairly unobtrusive tag suggestion function. We really liked the way it handled project creation and organization (at the end of the day, this was probably our favorite feature in Komodo, and was the one that made Komodo different from the others).

Komodo Edit project fun and preview

There also was a nice preview function. It may not have been quite as fancy as the one Quanta Plus used or quite as easy to follow as Amaya's, but it worked as expected. Komodo Edit has a few other tricks up its sleeve, too, such as code folding, syntax highlighting, code autocompletion, the ability to save snippets of code (or macros,or just about anything), and keybindings and emulation to help you gnarly old Vi and Emacs users feel at home.

Komodo Edit is a text editor, primarily, but it lends itself to HTML and webwork so nicely right out of the box that it is a great editor for those who might edit system configuration files one day, PHP the next, and then feel the need to whip up a new theme for their blog some time in between. It's also conveniently cross platform, eliminating the jarring need to adjust to a different user interface on your non-Linux machines.

Aptana - Java powered, no weird coffee aftertaste

Aptana is yea, verily, a true HTML editor. The web is its reason for being. It is conveniently cross platform, which is a plus in our book. The problem is, this might not sit well with some Linux users, or play well with some systems. This is not purely Aptana's fault. Aptana runs atop the Java Runtime Environment version 1.5 or later. Most distributions, due to the licensing and nature of the code, don't include this by default. It is usually available in repositories, which enables a clean, easy install. It is also available from Sun in a few different formats, but trust us on this -- you want to use the version in a trusted repository so badly it isn't funny. It is so much easier that way.

Aptana main workspace at work

Aptana Studio comes in two versions: the free community version, and the Pro version. The Pro version is a plugin (a very powerful plugin) geared for users in the web development industry with really specific needs. The community version has fewer features, but for most casual (or even semi-professional) users, it's a really useful application.

Aptana allows for coding in a variety of languages, including JavaScript, HTML/XHTML, CSS, and PHP and Ruby on Rails (through plugins). There are other nifty features like FTP support, code snippets, and CSS previews. There are also code assistance tools, which is nice for those of us (and we'll be the first to raise our hands) who seem to get intermittent senility when it comes to code.

Aptana maps our layout. We get lost easily.

Aptana feels very Dreamweaver-esque, and we can't help but think that users familiar with Dreamweaver needing something that runs cross platform and performs similarly can't really go wrong. It may not feel quite as polished, but it has good feature overlaps with configurable workspaces, projects, and really nice, unobtrusive WYSIWYG editing feature.

The more we poked at Aptana, the more it seemed like there is an internal preview function (yeah, there we go again, we just like that feature) but whether it doesn't work for us, or for Linux in general is a bit unclear at this point. It honestly wasn't that big an issue, though, since Aptana seemed extra responsive with external Firefox previews and supported a wide range of server configurations we might find ourselves using in our testing environment.

There are a variety of plugins (free, even) for Aptana to extend its function, and the debugging tools and validation functions are quite handy. This is why we'd say that those who will really appreciate all Aptana has to offer are those who do a fair amount of web-centric coding beyond XHTML and CSS. JavaScript and Ruby coders, in particular, should feel right at home.

Even a more casual user will like Aptana's clean GUI, even if much of it isn't pertinent. It's laid out well enough that even if you don't use it, it's never in the way of what you need to get done.

Tags: aptana, code, coding, editors, java, jre, komodo, komodo edit, KomodoEdit, linux, linux-switch, opensource