The difference between good and bad development tools/IDEs is like night and day. A good development tool will reduce development time and turn anyone into a web developer. A bad development tool will cause headaches, restrict your options, and even harm the company.
With so many options, how can you distinguish the good from the bad before you buy?
The key to success is finding the development tool or IDE that provides the most options and the fewest limitations. While that decision is largely based on your company’s needs, here are 7 essential elements that you should look for in any development tool or IDE:
1. Open architecture
Be wary of any development tool or IDE that generates proprietary code. Why? Proprietary code ties you to one vendor, which means you’re stuck with worthless software should that vendor ever go under. Instead, look for software that generates applications built on open architecture and frameworks. The applications will integrate better with current software and other web apps, and won’t gamble your company’s success on another company.
2. Web-based interface
This is a no-brainer, as web-based software holds many advantages over installed software. Here are a few:
- Accessibility: Web-based software is accessible from any web-connected device.
- Fewer limitations: Web-based software works across all platforms and operating systems.
- Easier maintenance: Maintaining web-based software is far simpler because it’s only installed in one location.
3. Mobile capabilities
These days, a modern development tool or IDE should give you a way to create mobile/tablet web apps. Be careful: Some tools claim to offer mobile capabilities, but offer little more than a re-sized web app. As you know, a mobile web app is much more than that.
4. Broad database support
Choosing a tool that only supports your current database can limit your future options. What happens if you add (or switch to) a new database down the road? Your development software shouldn’t limit your database options.
5. No language to learn
A good development tool should have a point-and-click interface and should not make you learn a proprietary language or syntax. What’s wrong with a proprietary language? Here are some problems:
- Longer learning curve: It will take longer to become productive with that tool.
- Limits usability: Non-IT staff can’t use the tool.
- Ties you to the vendor: If you ever need to bring in outside help on a big project, you’ll have to rely on the vendor.
- It doesn’t help you in the future: Will you ever need that knowledge later on in your career? Probably not.
6. Use of custom code
Maybe there’s some old COBOL code that’s crucial to your company’s operation. Maybe you’re an expert in another programming language. Whatever the reason, a good development tool or IDE should let you incorporate that custom code into your applications.
7. Clean, commented code
In most cases, you’ll never even have to alter or customize the underlying application code. However, in the rare instances that you will, a tool that generates clean, commented code will save you plenty of headaches.
There are plenty of options when it comes to development tools and IDEs, both good and bad. How do you choose a good one? While much of the decision depends on your company’s needs and goals, the points listed above will put you on the right path.