Front-End Dev Software List

I am a big fan of making lists and I love web development so I decided that I should combine the two and produce a list of the front-end dev software I use to make my coding life easier. Although I tend to use Macs more often than PCs, I find that I alternate between the two when working on my various projects. Therefore, I decided to include the apps I use on each operating system as well as the ones that I use on both. Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any of the software companies below.


At Big Spaceship I use an iMac to do most of my front-end development. The following are mac only apps in no particular order that I find invaluable for this type of work.

  • Homebrew - Don’t even think about installing MacPorts. This is all you need for OS X package management.
  • Codekit - A pretty good tool at compiling and optimizing your files just the way you want ‘em. I would make sure to go into the settings however and only set the files you want to be compiled as Codekit has the ability to bog down your computer on large projects (more than once I've had to task kill it when opening a repo for the first time).
  • Serve - An exceptionally easy way of setting up a Ruby template server with Compass support.
  • Transmit - It's the prettiest and easiest ftp program I've used for whenever I need direct access to those precious server files.
  • Parallels / VirtualBox - Although I find Parallels to be superior to VirtualBox, VB is free and can hold its own fairly well. And now that Microsoft released various official vms, being able to load that copy of IE8 (or worse yet, IE7) is even easier than ever before. A third option is to use browserstack so you can test various environments online without the need to install any software. It can be much slower and lower resolution than a vm but it has its benefits.
  • iTerm2 - For when you feel the original terminal is a little drab and you want to add a bit of color and pizzazz. Lately I've been using TotalTerminal however, which pulls down the terminal from the top of your screen with a hotkey. Very convenient.
  • MAMP - If you need a php stack local server you can't go wrong with MAMP. Best of all there is little need to go pro so you don't have to pay for this one.
  • XtraFinder - No longer as necessary with the new OS X version Mavericks, this small app still adds some very useful features to Finder such as tabs, file hiding, and button shortcuts.
  • Adium - The best instant messenger app out there.
  • Alfred - Productivity app for Mac, highly customizable with its extensions system and integrates with many other software.


Every now and then I find myself coding in a Windows environment for whenever I want to do an android app or work on a .Net project (and the occasional attempt at making a mobile game).nah

  • Visual Studio - The grand daddy of all Windows IDEs. I love working in Visual Studio and it is made all the better with the following extensions:
    • ReSharper - My absolute favorite extension. This is almost essential for working on projects as it all but improves the intellisense and makes refactoring and fixing code a synch.
    • NuGet Package Manager - An essentia download to make it easier to install any extra packages you need.
    • CodeMaid - Adds code cleaning and lookup to your solution.
    • Productivity Power Tools - as the name implies this adds a set of extra utilities to improve developer productivity. Several of these tools end up being implemented in official VS releases.
    • Web Essentials - If you are using visual studio for modern website development, you need this.
    • VSCommands - A collection of enhancements added to your solution explorer.
    • Take a look at the Visual Studio gallery site to see others that are popular as well.
  • WinMerge - The better file merge tool out there and completely free.
  • Everything - Although by now Windows 8.1 is making this program unessential, it still holds a dear place in my heart. It's just a file search tool but it does the job blazingly fast and with no frills.
  • WinSCP - After going through a ridiculous amount of ftp programs for Windows, this program has been the one that has worked the most often and given me exactly the options I needed to get into some of the more troublesome servers.
  • Teracopy - For when you need to move large files from one place to another. It does the job amazingly well.
  • Revo Uninstaller - A better option than the default add/remove programs in the control panel.
  • Eclipse - The IDE of choice of course for doing anything Java related. Also beneficial for it's android emulator although you will have to take care of some settings changes so it doesn't take forever to load each time.
  • Recuva - If you ever need to recover those unintentionally deleted files this is the best program to do it.
  • EasyPHP - As the name implies, an easy way to install a local WAMP server.
  • puTTY - The most well known Windows SSH client. You simply can’t go wrong.

Most of the freeware programs on this list can be installed all at once via

OS X and Windows:

And here are the bundles of joy that are not dependant on just one OS to function.

  • Sublime Text 3 - My favorite general dev use IDE at the moment (Atom comes in second). I recently installed the 3rd iteration and find it much smoother and able to work with most of the same plugins I used in ST2. The level of control it gives you is just great. Speaking of that here are some packages that are the most beneficial.
    • Package Control - The first extension you should install as you can then use it to grab the rest of the packages you want. It is a fantastic package manager.
    • Emmet - Emmet (which used to be called Zen Coding) plugin for Sublime Text. Emmet itself allows for faster code typing.
    • Hayaku - Fuzzy abbreviations for CSS that can drastically speed up your styling process.
    • SublimeCodeIntel - Multiple programming language support that enables autocomplete and symbol definitions inside the editor.
    • Soda Theme / Spacegray - Two gorgeous Sublime themes. Currently using spacegray but both are great.
    • SidebarEnhancements - Adds several menu options and other additions to the Sidebar that honestly should be included by default.
    • SublimeLinter - Awesome tool at avoiding coding errors and smells. Involves a bit of extra work installing this over other packages but completely worth it.
    • And there are a plethora of other useful packages to install. The package control site has a great section that is sorted by most popular so you can get a better idea of what you might want:
  • SourceTree - A visual GUI for Git (and Mercurial). Using a Git GUI seems to be taboo amongst some developers that sanctimoniously prefer terminal commands but I find having a visual directory of the repo's commit history and staging area a great benefit to understanding the workflow. Of course you can always go from SourceTree into command line at the click of a button.
  • TeamViewer - The best remote desktop application I've used so far. And if you need to communicate between your mac and pc computers it allows for that as well.
  • XMind - a great mind mapping app for when you need to do some extensive brainstorming.
  • Pencil - A simple and free open source prototyping design tool.
  • VLC - An excellent media player and the only video player I need, comes with all major codecs and allows for direct video manipulation.
  • LibreOffice - Better than open office in my opinion, this software gives you all the main doc utilities your heart could desire.
  • DiffMerge - Cross platform solution for merging files. I prefer winMerge but this solution works great for Mac.
  • F.lux - An eye strain saver, this handy app modifies the temperature color of the screen depending on the time of day. Includes the ability to temporarily disable if you are doing design work.
  • The following require no explanation in my mind: Skype, Dropbox, 7-Zip.
  • Workflowy - As far as an actual list maker I have gone through a multitude of them and for various reasons workflowy has become my current favorite. In a minimalist way it does the majority of what I would want from a list making app. Just recently though, Microsoft released OneNote for Macs as well and I think I might start migrating to it as it has more features and less bugs than workflowy.

That's my list for now, one that is most likely subject to being outdated in the very near future as I'm constantly using different software in this ever-changing field.

Hero image via Imgur


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