IDES 101, PART II: 5 More Open-Source Coding Environments for Developers

We highlight five more open source editors you might want to consider for your upcoming projects.

 (Editor's Note: For the first part in this series, please click here.)

The craftsman and his tools are often intimately connected. And that's as valid a statement for the coder as for the cabinetmaker. You can write code in just about any text editor, but creating an application or Web site at any level of sophistication can be a chore without the right tools.

Back in May we took our first look at some free, open-source coding environments that trace their roots back to Vim and Unix. This time around we'll introduce you to six more FOSS editors. There's little in the way of shared lineage with this batch, though: Quanta Plus and Kate come out of the KDE project, while Bluefish is built on GNOME. The other editors discussed here have similarly diverse backgrounds.

Another differentiating feature, however, is that some of these tools are starting to resemble full-bore integrated development environments (IDEs). What does that mean? Well, they're designed and built from the ground up to integrate the different aspects of software development, from setting up projects to coding, source management, debugging, and deployment.

Many of the coding environments we've seen so far offer those features via plug-ins and extensions, but there's often added value in having those features built seamlessly into the system, as you'd find in, say, Visual Studio. And at a higher price than free.

So without further ado, the tools:

1) Aptana Studio
Aptana Studio is designed to be a development environment for HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Plug-ins and runtimes are available to support Ruby on Rails, Python and PHP. It's a free, open-source project with versions for Linux, Mac OS and Windows. Aptana Studio is available as a standalone IDE or an Eclipse plug-in and, as you'd expect, the source code can be downloaded as well.

Aptana also offers the RadRails 2.0 IDE for Ruby on Rails, and you can download a beta of Aptana Studio 3 from the site to explore features under development.

More on Aptana Studio can be found here:

2) NetBeans
If you're a Java developer, you've at least heard of NetBeans, a free, open-sourced IDE originally created for Java development. With this Java focus, NetBeans -- with its just-released 6.9 version -- supports the full Java EE 6 specification as well as a basket of Java standards including Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) 3.1, JAX-RS 1.1, JAX-WS 2.2, JAXB 2.2, and Java Persistence JPA 2.0. Aside from Java, NetBeans also supports JavaScript, PHP, Python, Ruby, Groovy, C/C++, Scala and Clojure. The IDE includes direct integration of Project Kenai for hosting open-source projects.

As with many of the other IDEs here, NetBeans has extensive plug-in support and there are nearly 600 available through the NetBeans Plugin Portal.

NetBeans is available for Windows, Mac OS, Linux and Solaris, and there are preconfigured download bundles for popular development frameworks.

There's thousands of resources for NetBeans across the Web, but here's some to start with:

3) Quanta Plus
Quanta Plus is a Web-focused IDE developed as part of the Linux KDE desktop environment. Quanta supports HTML and XHTML, CSS, PHP, XML and other structured markup languages. PHP support includes debugging with Gubed and XDebug. CVS support is built-in, and Subversion support is available through plug-ins. theKompany offers a commercial version called Quanta Gold for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows.

For more on Quanta Plus, check out these links:

4) Kate
Kate is the text editor component, built for the KDE environment, that is used as a central component of Quanta Plus (above). Kate actually comes in three flavors: KatePart is an editing component that can be used in other KDE projects. Kate itself is a full-featured multi-document editing environment. And KWrite is a simple single-document editing environment based on the Kate codebase. Kate supports opening and saving files via HTTP, FTP, SSH, and WebDAV. It supports scripting via JavaScript as well as a plug-in API.

All three components are typically included in the KDE releases for various Linux distros, and experimental releases for Windows and Mac OS X are available.

For more on Kate and its iterations, go here:

5) Bluefish
Bluefish is an open-source code editor focused on Web development. Bluefish is based on C/GTK+ and GNOME and will run on most POSIX-compatible operating systems. There's built-in support – code highlighting and the typical features we've discussed already – for HTML, XHTML, CSS, XML, PHP, C, Javascript, Java, SQL, Perl, Python and Ruby.

Versions of Bluefish are available for most POSIX-compatible operating systems including Linux, FreeBSD, MacOS X, OpenBSD and Solaris. There is also a version available for Windows.

About the Author

Terrence Dorsey is a technical writer, editor and content strategist specializing in technology and software development. Over the last 25-plus years he has worked on developer-focused projects at ESPN, The Code Project, and Microsoft. Read his blog at or follow @tpdorsey on Twitter.