Web development Toolkit
“Chrome Inspector is such a valuable tool for me as a web developer because not only can I easily inspect CSS rules that have been applied to a specific DOM element, but I also have the ability to quickly test changes that I’m considering for my web application without having to jump into my editor. This type of immediate feedback makes me a more efficient web developer. I can also see what other developers are doing with markup and CSS rules to learn new techniques to further my skills.”
Bill Rowell is the Director of Admissions at Launch Academy. Bill brings over 12 years of software development experience to the team, and is in charge of admitting only the most stellar applicants into the program.
Text editors are perhaps the most debated tool for developers, but for those who decide to choose a simple text editor over a complex IDE (integrated development environment), Sublime Text comes highly recommended. It’s lean and simple, but allows for development in multiple environments and extends native functionality with a host of plug-ins.
“Sublime’s speed, looks, and package control make it such an essential part of my workflow. Add in the vintageous plugin and I get most of the advantages of vim inside of Sublime. All of these combined plus more helps to make sublime my go to text editor.”
Sam McTaggart is a Junior Experience Engineer and Launch Academy graduate. His passion and enthusiasm for software development is contagious like his smile and great sense of humor.
Communication in a team development setting is of paramount importance, and Flowdock is a team chat and email box tool that facilitates this process. It also integrates with social media and the critically important developer-focused web service GitHub.
“Flowdock is an invaluable tool in our office. It allows the development team to stay connected throughout the day. We make heavy use of the @messages, private conversations, and emoticons. We’ve also integrated the app with various other services like GitHub and Pivotal Tracker with API hooks.”
A gifted educator and developer, Jason is an Experience Engineer at Launch Academy. Jason discovered Rails in his pursuit of solving technical problems in the medical space while earning his PhD. He is a master at helping newcomers to Rails and getting them unstuck from common programming pitfalls.
Git is a tool and concept that might take some time for complete newbies to wrap their head around. At its simplest, it is the automated equivalent of adding track changes and comments in a Word document. However, with Git, these comments and changes are attached to each single line of code with a complete change history.
“Git is a magical tool that lets me go back in time whenever I screw everything up. After using Git for several years now, I still feel like a novice when I discover a feature I never knew existed. The myriad ways to view a project’s history has really enabled me to better understand how certain design decisions were made and the context surrounding them.”
Adam Sheehan is an Experience Engineer at Launch Academy. With more than eight years of programming experience, Adam is a frequent source of wisdom when it comes to architectural approaches and best practices.
Alfred is a productivity app for Mac OS X very similar to the built-in search tool Spotlight. However, while Alfred’s entry-level use is as a search tool that helps you find the app or file you need when you need it, Alfred can do a lot more. As you use it more and more, Alfred remembers your most commonly used apps and assigns them hotkeys, or keyboard shortcuts. You can also use Alfred to set up workflows that carry out a series of actions.
“Other than coffee, Alfred is my favorite productivity increasing tool. My most used feature of Alfred is definitely the global hotkeys. I have a separate hotkey for each of the applications that I use on a daily basis. This lets me easily switch between applications without having to think about the order of my apps in the ⌘CMD+tab menu or having to reach for the mouse. There’s nothing better for productivity than having all of your applications only one hotkey away.”
Eric Kelly is an Experience Engineer at Launch Academy. Eric is a mentor to the company’s Launchers and is known as Launch Academy’s frontend guru. He helps students incorporate CSS frameworks like Bootstrap and Foundation into their projects. He also teaches SASS and how to coherently organize CSS.
Dropbox is now everyone’s favorite file sharing tool and may one day replace the traditional file server. However, web developers have an extra special use for it, since many coding platforms can now integrate with Dropbox. This allows developers to upload their codes on Dropbox, making it possible to switch computers and continue coding without skipping a beat.
“In addition to Git, Dropbox provides another means for backing up valuable source code. It’s definitely the best way for me to ensure my code is always in sync on multiple machines. It also comes in handy in pair-programming situations when we need to switch machines.”
Dan Pickett is the Co-Founder and Head of Experience at Launch Academy. Dan has been building web applications with Ruby on Rails since 2004 — the year Rails was first publicly released — and is Co-Organizer of the Boston Ruby Group. A well-known and respected activist for both the Rails framework and code literacy, Dan’s passion is to teach and mentor aspiring developers.
Different (key) Strokes For Different Folks
Launchers go through eight weeks of rigorous interactive preparation leading up to the program, but tool selection is something that is settled early on. Dan and his team of Experience Engineers prefer their students to stick with their recommended web development toolkit. However, Dan points out that there really is no cure-all tool.
While Launch Academy will help a student become a professional developer, developers are on a lifelong journey. Whether you enroll in Launch Academy or an online course on Treehouse, you must always be on the lookout for new and exciting tools. Here are some tips on this critical area:
- Focus your efforts on being proficient in your editor, the command line, and a version control system (VCS). Tools like Git and GitHub will change your life as a developer. Knowing how to use these tools effectively takes time, but the return on investment is high.
- Take the time to watch and read tutorials and ask experts about how to get the most out of these tools.
- Don’t forget to get involved with the community and socialize with other developers. Find people you respect and admire. Ask what they’re using that helps them become very efficient. In some circles, people can get somewhat religious about their tools. Prepare for some hearty debate over editors and other polarizing tools!