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Modern trends and webapps have dramatically changed the way web developers can build. Obviously you need some type of IDE to code new files and save them for deployment. But what about just testing your code snippets? There are more tools available now than ever before!
Recommended Reading: Top 10 Free Source Code Editors – Reviewed
Originally created by Steven Hazel, Codepad is a unique web app where you can share code syntax across the Web. Instead of just debugging, Codepad allows you to copy/paste important bits of code to share online.
The output screen displays any error messages associated with your code. The left-hand menu radio buttons allow you to change the parsing language from C/C++, Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby, and tons more. I would argue Codepad is really for software engineers who need to collaborate and debug their more confusing programs.
2. Write Code Online
What's interesting is that you'll see the output results directly underneath the text field. So when you hit "run code" it will parse through everything and display the result for you to see. It can be tough debugging some larger PHP scripts because you need to include other files.
However for just testing the waters on a new idea, you can get a lot of value from this application.
Tinkerbin may actually be my favorite online code editing resource. It supports web developers coding in HTML5/CSS3/JS and renders the output directly on-screen. The application is still in Alpha development, but most of the tools work perfectly and can quickly catch bugs.
The rendering engine also supports more obscure languages such as Coffeescript and Sass within CSS. Their console is very advanced and clearly supports many of the same trends you'd expect moving into the future of web design.
Another interesting note is how the most popular functionality actually supports keyboard shortcuts! This is something you hardly see on any webapp, let alone an in-browser source code editor. As you type new tags, the IDE will auto-indent new lines. Tinkerbin is truly the best frontend tool you can have in your web developer's toolbox.
4. JS Bin
Their interface may be a bit confusing to newcomers. The developers have setup some online tutorials which you can read through if interested. Basically you can select between any number of JS libraries – jQuery, JQuery UI, jQM, Prototype, MooTools, there are dozens to choose from.
As you're coding different elements the drafts will autosave. You have the ability to download your final product or keep the source code saved online. Their system is much more advanced for exporting and keeping your code as a bare template.
Anybody who has browsed through Stack Overflow must know about jsFiddle. Their interface is a whole lot difference compared to JS Bin, along with support for more complex functions.
Right away you can signup for a free account and start saving your code samples online. jsFiddle offers a short URL which you can share around the Web via Twitter, Facebook, even Stack. But notice you do not need an account to start coding. It's just a handy feature to keep everything organized.
jsFiddle also supports the inclusion of libraries such as Prototype and jQuery. You can include additional external resources to JS/CSS files into each testing document. Incredibly their app even supports XHR Ajax where you can pass data back-and-forth between the server and client browser window.
Moving from the world of scripting into stylesheet language, we have CSSDesk. You've got a similar setup like all the rest, with your source code on the left and final webpage render on the right. This webapp is great for building small webpage templates and testing the longer CSS3 properties with gradients and box shadows.
This app also allows you to download source code as files to your computer. It can be a solid replacement in situations where you're working on a laptop without any IDE software. Or additionally, you can generate a short URL link to share online. Then other developers may come in and edit what you've already created – definitely an interesting solution!
Some of the apps appear to have Japanese writing which makes me believe it was originally created somewhere in Asia. But what I love about their interface is how you can actually upload files you've already created and store them into a project. It's such an easy process to store full webpage mockups online where you can access and edit them from any computer.
8. Google Code Playground
I'm surprised how many developers are not familiar with the Google code sandbox. You have full access to their APIs and can debug all your code right from the same window.
When I talk about APIs I mean that you can pull data from the biggest Google products. Listing blog posts from Blogger, markers from Google Maps, and even video players directly from YouTube. As you click through these different examples the live preview box will update accordingly.
I would recommend saving this tool only as a resource. It's not perfect for debugging everything you write. But Google is a huge company with a lot of open source API data. If you ever need to pull content from YouTube or custom Google Searches, this is the sandbox you want to use.
IDE One is another tool based around deep programming and software development. Their online editor supports syntax highlighting for some very prominent languages. These include Objective-C, Java, C#, VB.NET, SQL and dozens more.
What's so great about their app is how you can quickly debug many different programming languages from the same page. You can also store this source code via a unique URL to share around the Web. However I do feel that their layout is very cluttered with ads and other content, it makes using their website difficult. It would be really cool to see the option of including alternate code libraries, such as Cocoa Touch for iPhone app development.
10. Viper7 Codepad
This webapp also named Codepad is hosted on a website viper-7.com, which also redirects to the same online editor. Their debugging tools are setup for PHP output where you can change between PHP5 and PHP4.
If you create an account you can use their service as a personal storage system. Much like other online editors, you can name each PHP project and keep them hosted online for free. It's such a powerful code editor because you don't need any software on your computer at the time. As you parse each script the editor will offer additional meta details, such as browser request & response headers.
12. SQL Fiddle
We saw earlier the power of a web application like jsFiddle. Now we can see SQL Fiddle which works in the same way, except for SQL database syntax. I have yet to find another alternative for testing database code and this is by far my favorite choice.
All of the output data from your SQL code will appear in a table beneath the editors. You can write some code to implement new data on the right and generate a schema on the left. This database schema is SQL code you can save to export your current database and re-install everything on a new server.
If you aren't familiar with databases or SQL language then this app won't be much assistance. But even for developers who are new yet interested in learning SQL, this is brilliant! Check out one of their basic code examples so you can get an idea of how the app works.
13. Cloud9 IDE
In my opinion Cloud9 is the best source code editors you can find online. It's not just an editor, but an entire system of tools and resources and you can store all your code repositories on their servers.
Account signup is free for all public projects. But if you need private development space this costs $15/month which only adds up to $180/year. You can share these private code repos with anybody you choose. This brings the opportunity for collaboration between web developers on many different projects.
Each new project is stored in a subfolder where you can generate real physical files. HTML, CSS, JS, PHP, anything you need to code will be saved locally in your account. Then you can later export these files as a whole project and download them to your computer.
The amount of things you can accomplish with Cloud9 is extraordinary. I highly recommend toying around in a free account for even 10 or 15 minutes, you'll be amazed at the UI performance. And their company is always growing so I'm expecting to see very cool features released in the next few years.
The CodeRun IDE is an online editor for any dynamic web application. Their text editor looks very similar to Microsoft Visual Studio, and you can even code in C# for ASP.NET. Their libraries include 3rd party resources such as Facebook Connect and Sliverlight.
CodeRun is fantastic if you do have any experience working with Visual Studio. The interface behaves almost exactly the same, and you can even upload/download project files locally to your computer. This is another tool experienced web developers may consider bookmarking for future reference.
Here we have another desktop-style online IDE Compilr with a similar template as Windows applications. You can work with open tabbed documents and edit files right on the fly. However you do need to register an account before you can create any new projects.
Since their layout is designed similar to a regular desktop application it's much easier to work with having no prior experience. I don't think any developers would struggle, although their tools do support true programming practices with C++, C#, and Visual Basic. If anything Compilr should be one more app you have in reserve for testing and debugging source code.
With more computers connected online, it's getting easier for developers to work together and collaborate in the browser. We're seeing more and more technologies shift from local applications, and who knows how far this trend will go?
I hope this collection of code testing tools can get you thinking about the modern development environment. It's so easy to quickly put together an HTML/CSS web project and within minutes have a small demo preview. Remember these are only tools to help guide you along the path to constructing your final product. If you have any suggestions or questions about the article feel free to share your thoughts in the discussion area below.