Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Why I Like Webstorm better than Visual Studio (Sometimes)

Visual Studio is a fantastic IDE, for years I had the attitude that "if I couldn’t develop something using Visual Studio, then I didn’t care to do it". Yes I know that sounds ridiculous, but I liked it that much. Many years ago I worked with Eclipse, and was very unsatisfied. From then on Visual Studio was the only IDE for me, until now.  Recently, I began to shift my work from pure back-end services to include more front end work. I became involved in many new technologies such as HTML5, AngularJs, Bootstrap, LESS and more. At the same time a new (to me) IDE also came to my attention, WebStorm from JetBrains. I have been a long time user of Resharper, so agreed to give it a try.

Built from the ground up to meet the needs of modern web developers, it offers (but doesn’t require) the integrated experience I had come to expect as a Visual Studio user. As you would expect from a modern IDE it takes full advantage of open source plugins. I have found that many of today’s web-devs’ prefer to develop from their mac. Again, WebStorm has your back, it can be run on Windows or Mac. Try doing that with Visual Studio!

Visual Studio costs at least $1200 (unless you get a stripped down express version). Price wise, WebStorm wins hands down (it is only $99, $49 for personal use). Believe it or not, it costs less that getting Resharper! With the great pricing, it is easy to keep your team on the latest version. Even at this price point, there are tons on plugins, allowing for a very Visual Studio like experience. You can get the usual Intellisence, pre-compilation (even for Javascript), refactoring support, and much, much more.

Visual Studio has a very structured project file (.csproj).   Sometimes that is a blessing, for example when you want to find all references or to refactor a class/member to a new name.  At the same time the project file can be a bit of a burden.  If you want to add or remove files you have to let Visual Studio know, and there are the dreaded times when the project can become corrupt.  While Webstorm does have the concept of a project (.idea), it is far looser.  Simply add or remove files to a folder and Webstorm will see it and add it in.  If for some reason the .idea becomes corrupt, simple delete it, next time you open the folder, it will be recreated.  The .idea offers many similar features to the .csproj.  For example, it offers safe deletes, and global renaming (renaming all that reference something). 

In my opinion, Visual Studio is king when it comes to strongly typed languages such as C#.  Webstorm isn't really meant to be used with strongly typed languages.  As I highlighted above, its niche is  working with HTML, JavaScript, CSS, AngularJS, EmberJs, and other web technologies. 

So, am I saying that  I am done with Visual Studio? Not even close, I love using it to for development of .net apps projects such as MVC and WebApi.  Also, if the project is a hybrid of MVC and something like AngularJs I still choose Visual Studio because I like everything to be integrated. That said, more and more, I am trying to separate the server from the client, in cases where WebApi is the backend, I like to us Visual Studio for Api development, then write a pure HTML/CSS/JavaScript front-end using Webstorm.  I challenge  you, to give Webstorm a try on your next web project. You wont be disappointed.

For those still wanting more, PluralSight just released a course all about WebStorm...


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