A look at Adobe Brackets

Published on July 20, 2014 under Technology, Web Development

Adobe Brackets

For the longest time, when you thought of “web development” and “Adobe”, the usual name that arose was Dreamweaver. Even before Adobe bought up Macromedia, Dreamweaver was the standard in html/css coding. Even today I’ll still see employers ask for applicants to know the program.

However, times have changed, and the more die-hard coders simply wanted more simplicity in a text editor with some levels of customization. Sublime Text arose to meet those needs and challenge the bloat of Dreamweaver, and apparently they won. Thus with the industry changing, Adobe simply went back to the drawing board and released their open-source freeware idea on a text editor with Brackets.

I downloaded the software months ago and gave it a go with some projects, and I’ll admit I like what I’m seeing for a piece of freeware. Granted I’ve been a supporter of Coffee Cup HTML Editor, but even I admit I’m outgrowing it, as well as becoming disappointed in how the software doesn’t support new coding technologies such as .less.

Looking at Brackets

Adobe Brackets Screenshot
Click to enlarge

When you try Brackets, you’ll first think it’s practically a carbon copy of Sublime Text. Much of the functionality is quite similar. You can drag a file or folder into the shortcut icon and it’ll instantly open. Folders will also open as a project with all files and directories organized on the left.

Coding in Brackets is quite similar to how it feels in Sublime Text. Tags and items are color-coded for easier readability, and there are autofill functions to help speed up development. You can even set up a live view if you want to check your layout in the browser.

The customization aspect comes in four areas. First is in the preferences section where you add/remove parameters to a json file. This allows you to change some of how Brackets will work for you, such as if you want files on the left organized by name or type. The second is in the themes, where you can change the colors and fonts used in the program. Yes, there have been several themes made to imitate Sublime Text.

Extensions are for when you want to customize functionality in Brackets. It’s an open-source paradise of addons to handle things such as .less or .sass compiling, code hinting, syntax checking, shortcuts, and even how the program lays out from a functional viewpoint.

The fourth and deepest level of customization is where Brackets stands apart from Sublime Text. Adobe took a slightly different direction in development by building Brackets out of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. I’m not kidding. They advertise even as an “open-source code editor built with the web for the web”.

What this does (on top of the open source setup) is literally give anyone the power to build extensions, improvements, or customizations with just the knowledge a web developer has. It becomes an editor built and maintained by web developers.

What I liked

The biggest factor to like in Brackets is that it’s free. For those too strapped (or too cheap) to shell out for a license for Sublime Text, it’s an ideal solution. Granted I think there are factors that make the $70 for a Sublime Text license worth it, but Brackets does stand out well for those looking to save the money.

The ease of customization is a wonderful bonus, mainly because you do not have to be a full software developer to make a theme, or even dabble in making an extension. However, I have run into issues trying to use extensions not offered via the Extension Manager.

In terms of coding in Brackets, I was impressed at how well it makes code visually easy to read. The program will highlight tags you’re working on. So if I click on an opening paragraph tag, I’ll see the end tag highlight with it. Makes things much easier to find you way around. Plus the automatic indentation keeps your code organized.

What needs work

Despite many pluses, I did find minuses that won’t make me ignore Sublime Text for Brackets. One big annoyance is in how Brackets handles projects. So you drag a folder of files into the shortcut (or open a folder) and you see it all listed. You do what you need, save files, maybe move those files into an external hard drive or server, and move on.

Suddenly when you come back to Brackets, the program looks for that last folder. It has been requested that Adobe change this functionality or at least put in a preference parameter to turn this off, but nothing has come of it. I like how Sublime Text will “clear itself” and “start fresh” when you reopen it.

The autofill syntax functions are nice for the most part, but sometimes they’ll get annoying. I would like to see the program be able to differentiate between when I just need to add in an opening or closing tag to something versus when I need a whole set. Maybe I’ll try it without the autofill enabled.

Lastly, I don’t like how when I do a find-and-replace, the action doesn’t take place when I press the button to do it. Instead, I get a listing of what will be changed with a secondary request to approve the action. Totally not necessary, as it just is annoying. For a while I thought the program was malfunctioning when I didn’t see items replacing.

The verdict

While there are bugs/quirks that need to be worked out, Brackets is still a solid text editor that takes some getting used to. It’s ideal for students or those who simply have no money for software, and would rather not pirate. I’d definitely tell anyone in development to give it a shot. I know despite how I like Sublime Text a little better, I’ll still keep my eyes on Brackets just to see how this handy tool does evolve.

You can find more on Brackets on Adobe’s official website.

Have you tried Brackets? What did you think?

Tags: Adobe Brackets, html, coding, programming

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