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Monday, March 02, 2009

Geany - A Good Web Development Editor (IDE)

Geany Version 0.16

Geany Homepage

Last year I finally made a switch to GNU/Linux as my operating system and had been in search of a good editor for my web development. In Windows I used Dreamweaver for the purpose and was quite happy with it. It could can easily highlight PHP, HTML, JavaScript and other codes of some other languages related to web. It can also do some Auto-Completion – a feature I think is a must-have. I also liked the fact that it (version MX) was reasonably light on system resources.

When I switched to Linux, I tried Bluefish, Komodo Edit, Netbeans IDE. Bluefish (ver 1.0.7) had  a  bad syntax highlighting feature besides other things I found to be quite irritable (working with PHP files, at least). Komodo Edit and Netbeans stood out especially Komodo Edit, in terms of functionality, usability and other small-small things. But still these were not what I was looking for. I wanted something good in terms of functionality but at the same time light on resources (Komodo Edit took about 15 seconds to load). I wanted something that had a good balance between features and memory footprint.

Geany is small (source package is about 2.2 MB), light on resources and at the same time loaded with functionality and ease of use for the size. Geany does not have all the features of a full-fledged IDE (like for example Komodo Edit) but it has got many of the important ons. And it's not just PHP and web development that you can use it for, it has support for a good number of languages (programming, scripting etc). But as I've only used it for web development, I'm strictly talking in that context throughout.

Here are some of the features I find very helpful:

  1. AutoComplete: For functions(inbuilt as well as user-defined), variables, classes etc. Inbuilt functions are shown with their argument list-very useful. And there's but only a few functions I couldn't find in its database. Just type in a few characters and it shows a nice drop-down list of suggestions, select one and it shows the function's parameters list and their types. TIP: By default you need to type in at least three characters for it to give you suggestions for AutoComplete(ion) but it can be changes from Edit-> Preferences-> Edit(Side-Tab)-> Completions(Tab). I personally have set it to be 1.

    Geany: Auto-Complete Feature
  2. Compile and Make: You can't “make” a PHP script but compile is damn good a feature. Now forget refreshing the browser. NOTE: Can only check syntax errors.

    Geany: Compile Feature
  3. Code-folding: Another useful feature especially for lengthy scripts.

    Geany: Code Folding
  4. Auto-Closing: Can close (X)HTML tags, parenthesis, curly braces, quotes etc. for you. Check Edit->Preferences->Edit(Side-Tab)->Completions(Tab) for settings.

  5. Sidebar: These are many tabs in the sidebar but one of them particularly stands ot. The one which displays “Symbols” in the document-variables, functions, classes, objects, constants tec. This one reminds me of the commercial IDEs such as Visual Studio. Just click on something to find its declaration.

    Geany: Sidebar
  6. Sessions: Just like Firefox can restore sessions of open tabs(websites), Geany can restore session of files. If I'm working on, say, ten files and I decide to go take a bath. I can close and shutdown my PC because Geany will open all the files for me the next time I run it. Great!

  7. Pre-defined Comments: Whether you want to insert copyright note or license information or just function information. Just right click and and got to “Insert Comments” menu, you have them just a click away! There also exist a  feature for inserting current date and time, for that go to “Insert Date” from the right -click menu. Useful!

    Geany: Pre-Defined Comments

  8. Windows Version: Don't want to switch to Linux yet! No problem! Just download the windows version (needs GTK libraries installed)

  9. In spite so many useful features there is one more thing I expect Geany to do – better support for HTML files. Look, PHP and HTML go hand-in-hand and I'd have loved to have HTML preview feature like Dreamweaver has. We often embed PHP in HTML pages and Dreamweaver works perfectly well for these kind of pages. This is where I miss my old Dreamweaver the most.  I'm not saying this is Geany's short-coming as it's designed not just for web development, but when you do web development you'll  feel it's missing.

Some might wonder why I'm always mentioning Dreamweaver. This is because unlike some of the editors I've used, it isn't just restricted to HTML pages-it can handle dynamic content as well. Web development isn't just HTML or PHP or ASP, it's a mix which Dreamweaver handles quite well. It's a great HTML editor as well as it's a quite-great PHP editor, this is what I love about it.

Geany Homepage

Geany Download Page

9 comments:

  1. I've been using Geany for the past year and I most say it's a general purpose IDE that is simply great. I use it for C/C++, Java, PHP and Python. I'm even starting to use it for JavaScript.

    I gotta say that if you program in PHP the right way, it won't be easy for DreamWeaver to tell you how it looks =) Check the MVC pattern.

    Still, just use f5 and it will run the php script. Still can't handle all those $_POST and $_GET data, but that's the obvious.

    Although, for large projects, I consider using other heavier IDEs (see NetBeans) a better idea. Geany is lightweight... maybe for a 10 thousand lines project it's fine, but when it gets larger, it's not enough for handling those.

    And welcome to the Linux community.

    ReplyDelete
  2. @ Mamsaac,

    Yeah, you're absolutely correct. Right now I'm using And IDE from Zend, and I gotta say I just love it. Sad thing is it's not free, NetBeans, as you mentioned, however is free. But i haven't used it yet.

    ReplyDelete
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