The Ultimate List of Front-End Web Development Tools for 2021
Mar 10, 202111 min read
Co-founder and CEO of Ideamotive. Entrepreneur, mentor and startup advisor.
Due to technological progress and advanced tools appearing on the market, the creation of new IT products and software turned into a smooth, fast, and enjoyable process. From add-ons and plug-ins to code-optimizing processors - all at the service of the large IT community.
However, since new development tools are emerging almost daily, selection of the best ones becomes a daunting task. To help you with this challenging choice, we've compiled a list of front-end development tools to help you get started easily.
It is a feature-rich text editor with tons of plugins adaptable to just about anything: themes, APIs, and languages that you use. The editor itself is developed by GitHub based on their Electron platform, which includes Node.js and the Chrome rendering engine. As a result, it allows you to develop web-based desktop applications.
built-in package manager
file system browser
Git and GitHub version control
Pricing: free of charge.
Sublime Text is another top text editor designed for coding, creating markups, and plain text. It has a user-friendly and fully customizable interface. There is always an opportunity to switch the basic theme of the editor (right now, its main theme is black) to the most convenient one for you.
Its rich editing features include:
full customization of text display
support for various encodings
unlimited canceling of operations
automatic typing completion
support for multiple selections
extensive search capabilities with convenient highlighting of search results
automatic document saving and much more.
With Command Palette you can sort, change the syntax and the indentation settings.
It has a Python API that allows plugins to expand built-in functionality.
Sublime Text is a cross-platform tool that works equally efficiently on Mac, Windows, and Linux.
Pricing: for $80 you can acquire a personal license key that is valid for years.
Visual Studio Code
VS Code is an open-source IDE created by Microsoft. It is an easy-to-use code editor suitable for cross-platform development and web/cloud apps. VS Code includes a unique solution - IntelliSense, which allows smart completions based on variable types, function definitions, and imported modules.
debugging is possible right in the tool
implemented GIT commands
possibility to add new extensions (languages, themes, debuggers).
Price: free to use.
CSS preprocessors are great front-end development tools created to ease the coding process. These are add-ons on top of CSS itself, which open up new possibilities for Java. Developers call them syntactic sugar. Those are special coding constructions that do not introduce anything fundamentally new into the technology, they only make working with it more convenient and simpler.
Sass, the absolute top of the CSS preprocessors, was introduced in 2006 as a way to make CSS easier to work with and immediately became popular among developers. Some people think that Sass has slow performance but this is only true when working on extremely large projects.
Sass has two syntaxes:
Sass is the original version in which the curly braces are not used, and everything is done in the indentation, like in Python.
SCSS has curly braces like native CSS, and it also has support for modern CSS tricks that are used across browsers. This format appeared after the release of LESS - as the answer to Sass’s main competitor.
supports all CSS libraries
has a huge community of supporters, including giant tech companies
provides access to built-in frameworks: Compass, Bourbon, Susy, and many others.
Price: $39 per user in the CodeKit app. Scout-App allows free usage.
In 2009, Alexis Sellier presented a new tool for more flexible work with styles called LESS. The first implementation was developed by Ruby, which meant that Sass had a competitor. LESS preprocessor allows you to introduce variables and loops that make working with CSS easier.
coding with Less is faster and easier as compared to CSS
The popularity of CSS preprocessors has influenced the creation of similar technologies for HTML. Their goal is absolutely identical: to simplify coding making it less time-consuming and save a developer from repetitive work.
ability to work on the client-side
its syntax is similar to CSS
the indentation system
a large number of training materials.
Note: the use of preprocessors alone will not make your code better, and if the code was weak in the first place, their use can make it even worse. Despite all the great features that preprocessors provide, you still have to work carefully on its structure yourself. The main rule when working with preprocessors is you should always remember what is stored in a variable and what the mixin returns.
It helps developers test, debug, profile, validate code in real-time. The Chrome DevTool comes in handy for debugging websites and developing web applications. They conduct both the most basic operations like traversing the DOM, as well as more advanced ones, like inspecting network requests and even profiling the performance of your application.
dynamic DOM and CSS editing to control the appearance of the web page
graphical debugger with advanced breakpoint support
analysis of the execution time of all functions to improve the apps’ speed
the trace is relinked and redrawn as your application loads
able to explore what's stored in local HTML5 databases.
Price: free to use.
Firefox Developer Edition
If you’re looking for an alternative, consider Firefox Developer Edition. It is an extended version of the Mozilla browser, which is aimed primarily at web developers.
Some of its key features are:
CSS grid management and visualization
shape editor, intended for detailed adjustment in the visual editor of clip-path parameters together with shape-outside
tools for building and debugging web pages
fonts panel that displays detailed information about the fonts
improved performance due to an upgraded version of the CSS engine that achieves faster performance.
Price: free to use.
Puppeteer is an open-source tool that has an API for controlling Chrome. It is basically a Node.js library developed and supported by Chrome. Puppeteer is capable of many useful things: tracks performance issues of your website, conducts UI testing, tests Chrome extensions, etc.
provides access to Chrome Performance Analysis tool
non-dependant on external drivers while running tests
you can monitor/change all operations in real-time.
Price: free to use.
Let’s review the main benefits and features of these libraries.
Without a doubt, React is the most popular framework because of its flexibility and ease of migration between different versions. Developing with React provides great SEO optimization possibilities (it is easier for robots to browse sites built on this framework). React comprises language templates and feedback functions to render HTML-JS bindings - components that remember their internal state. Since React utilizes a component-based pattern, the need for templates, models, and controllers disappears.
speeds up rendering
ensures further support/maintenance
optimized for work with SEO.
You can read more on top open-source React developer tools for 2021 here.
Angular has a lot of features, the most important of which are MVC framework, filtering, two-way data binding, templates. When using this framework, the risk of errors is significantly reduced as compared to development on other frameworks.
running tests in real-time
allows creating dynamic content with HTML
Node.js allows you to send multiple requests at the same time. With its help, it is possible to create separate instruments completely independently. Using Node, you can create a site much faster in comparison with other languages, since this framework is more web-oriented.
Price: with these libraries, development is free of charge.
Version Control Systems
Generally speaking, the developer’s work comes down to three simple operations: removal, addition, change. But the larger and wider the project, the more people are involved in it. The work of each developer on each version becomes difficult to control.
With the advent of VCS, it has become much easier to:
undo changes if there is no point in introducing them
quickly and easily recover damaged files
determine which member of the team wrote a certain block of code.
GIT is a powerful VCS that allows tracking large amounts of data and avoiding small errors. It is the most widely-used and sustained tool up-to-date. GIT enables developers to produce multiple, autonomous parts of code, creation, deletion, and integration of which happens easily and smoothly. In GIT, all operations are atomic, which makes testing and finding errors much easier.
branching model: allows you to work on independent lines of code, easily create, link, and delete them
works at high-speed on large projects
cryptographic protection of user data.
Another great option is Subversion. It is a free, centralized VCS with advanced features such as:
provides a full history for renamed, moved, or deleted files
commits are indivisible (atomic), hence a set of project changes either completely gets into the repository, or, in case of a connection error, does not get there at all
supports version control of metadata.
increased data safety
works well with projects of all sizes.
Both GIT and Subversion are centralized tools, which means that their users work and store data on the client side. Mercurial, on the contrary, is a distributed source management tool that grants access to user development history.
Key benefits :
can expand functionality via Python-built extensions
operates fast even while working on large projects
provides tutorials and guidelines for new users.
Reviewing of your code and checking the website/app for errors is an essential component of product creation and improvement. It's the only way to reassure that all functions run properly. Besides front-end development tools or operating systems utilized in the process of creation and launch, testing is a must. Developers have to test constantly - it's a big part of their job. Luckily, there are many solid tools that help them with this job.
quickly finds and alters users of code errors;
customization for all user needs;
auto fixation of many errors.
Price: it’s free. In fact, ESLint has many contributors that support its work.
safe and quick parallel testing
code coverage eliminates the need for an additional setup
Jasmine is a behavior-based testing framework created with Java. It has a neat, easy-to-understand syntax. With this tool at hand, you can conduct browser/Node.js tests in the same environment.
has no external dependencies, which makes it very fast
includes all necessary features for testing
does not require a DOM.
Price: free to use
When creating websites, developers usually write a huge amount of code to design the web page. Certain branches of it are constantly present on different sites, so special frameworks utilize ready-to-use code to speed up the work. Bootstrap became especially popular among programmers.
The components that are embedded inside the Bootstrap provide the following benefits:
standard classes for styling site content (images, text, tables, menus, buttons, etc.)
a bootstrap grid that allows you to quickly mark up a page that adapts to any screen size
classes for quickly inserting navigation menus, modals, buttons, drop-down lists, and other interface elements
classes for indenting, aligning text or images, setting the background of an element, etc.
The release of updates impacts the capabilities of Bootstrap; they are constantly expanding, the approach to creating sites is changing.
Even though Bootstrap is the most popular framework and some believe that there are no good enough alternatives, we offer the one that can compete with it.
Semantic UI comprises a wide range of commonly used components such as buttons, icons, images, labels, etc. the use of which makes coding faster and easier. It provides options to integrate code into React or Meteor. As with other CSS frameworks, you will find a responsive grid and tons of components and modules in Semantic UI that will surely interest you both in terms of design and functionality.
Boilerplates are a real saver from repetitive work. They comprise templates of codes that help you speed up development. HTML5 Boilerplate is an absolute leader in this regard.
HTML5 Boilerplate is definitely the number one choice in this matter. It is not a CSS or HTML5 framework. This is a basic HTML/CSS/JS template - the latest technology that will come in handy regardless of what browser you use. It brings together the best hacks for cross-browser compatibility, performance tuning, and even things like cross-domain Ajax requests and Flash. With its help, you can easily create fast, non-buggy, and future-oriented websites.
Take a look at a basic HTML Boilerplate site:
Key benefits that lie in the box with HTML5 Boilerplate are:
cross-browser compatibility (+ IE6)
optimized for mobile browsers
.htaccess for caching static content
CSS reset file (one for the same display in all browsers)
You can also try out CSS reset if you have cross-browsing issues. The thing is any browser has its own cascading style sheets that it uses to present non-styled sites. In addition, each browser provides specific padding values for almost all elements.
This certainly creates difficulties for CSS coding, related to cross-browser compatibility, (ensuring a consistent look of the site in all existing browsers).
The key benefit of using CSS Reset is that developers can force any browser to reset all of its style settings to zero, which minimizes the risk of cross-browser issues.
Vue Enterprise Boilerplate
Another option to use for the creation of a new project is Vue.js boilerplate. It constantly evolves and improves its development environment. It is the best fit for large projects.
Take a look at how linting and test scripts are organized:
boosts development speed
conducts code testing
provides clear guidelines for newbies.
Prices: all frameworks mentioned are free of charge.
Today, there exists a variety of front-end development tools that allow you to optimize the development as much as possible and make all the processes convenient and understandable. The most popular task managers are GNU Make, Gulp, and Grunt that work through Node Package Manager. After working with these tools, you will never want to go back to the way you worked before.
Make is a unique tool. To start working with it, developers must assemble the makefile that will contain all info about the program they are creating. Building and installing the package you’ve created becomes easy because you already input all data in the makefile.
makes automatic updates possible
deletes unnecessary files.
Price: free of charge.
efficient: the creation of projects of any complexity.
Price: free of charge.
Gulp is a task manager that automates repetitive processes: building and optimizing CSS and JS files, automatically refreshing the browser, raising the server, and others. One of the tangible benefits of Gulp is its use of streams. They pass data alternately from one function to another, which interact in a certain way with this data. Such a system allows you to speed up the assembly.
possibility to create a web server, as well as update pages in the browser
implementation of preprocessors (JS, CSS, HTML) into development to speed up the layout
consolidation, optimization, and reduction of the volume of the source code
automatic creation of prefixes for the name of CSS-files to support browser styles.
Price: Gulp collects donates ranging from $2 to $10 per month. However, these are optional and you can use it for free.
Proven libraries, ready-to-use code, modern collaboration tools - all this can improve your workflow providing more options when it comes to complex technical work. With all the available front-end development tools and frameworks, the creation of IT products has become faster and easier.
If you are looking for exciting projects to work on, Ideamotive Talent will provide you with some great software development project opportunities matched with your personal needs and requirements.
Robert is a co-founder and CEO of Ideamotive. Entrepreneur, who with passion spreads digital revolution all around the internet. Mentor and advisor at startup accelerators. Loves to learn and discover new business models.