Must-Have Tools for the JavaScript Developer


Dynamic, functional and object-oriented — these are a few of the adjectives used to describe JavaScript, one of the world’s most popular web programming languages.

Now, almost 20 years since JavaScript first appeared, there are many tools to aid the developer. If you’ve been following our coverage of JavaScript, you already appreciate how jQuery, a JavaScript library, and these snippets can help you develop mobile apps with greater speed. You also know how to make your code run more efficiently from reading these tips.

Let’s take a look at some of the other JavaScript must-haves that are available now. To move beyond hacking someone else’s code snippets, set up a development environment and prepare to check your code for coding errors and preventable performance problems.

Development environments

JavaScript developers who work with a range of other web technologies will likely find their integrated development environment (IDE) of choice has some facility for editing, debugging and refactoring JavaScript. Visual Studio 2013, NetBeans and Komodo IDE were all rated well in recent reviews. The following four are worth a look, too, especially if you need to build software that works on mobile devices (don’t we all need to do that now?):

  • Brackets is an open source option for the JavaScript developer available on Windows and OS X. Versions for Debian and Ubuntu are in development. The latest version includes Theseus, an open source debugger that inspects code in real time.
  • Webstorm by JetBrains is a feature-rich environment for JavaScript developers. It incorporates the ability to work with CoffeeScript and TypeScript, two languages that compile to JavaScript. This IDE also lets you try out the next version of JavaScript, codenamed “Harmony.” Code inspection is built in and add-ons allow you to unit test within this IDE.
  • The Appcelerator Platform lets you write an app in JavaScript on its Eclipse-based IDE. A live user interface editor, on-device debugger and other features make this a great choice if your code must run on many different devices.
  • Alpha Anywhere is another IDE for JavaScript developers who write software for multiple mobile phones and tablets. One of the highlights of this platform is that it was designed to connect to existing data sources. It also incorporates app hosting into its fee structure.

Debug, test and automation tools

To extend your existing open source development environment, consider one of the test frameworks and tools available at no cost, for example:

  • When you are ready to “lint” your code, try JSHint or JSLint. Both of these parsers look for and report errors or other potential problems.
  • Don’t stop with simply checking your code for errors, though. Testing frameworks like Jasmine,Mocha or QUnit are important to complete a JavaScript developer’s workflow. (Here’s one explanation of the types of tests a front-end web developer can do on JavaScript code.) With a testing framework installed, you can use Karma to automate testing. Here’s a guide that explains how.
  • Grunt lets you automate a variety of repetitive JavaScript tasks from the command line.

Preparing for a JavaScript developer interview? Check out our advice for answering questions about these up-to-date JavaScript tools.

What are your must-have JavaScript libraries, frameworks, and debugging and testing tools? We’d love to hear what you like best. Let us know in the comments. To find out how Java development skills can have a positive impact on the average starting compensation for many technology roles, check out Robert Half Technology’s Salary Guide.