Sparkling gems and new releases from the world of Free and Open Source Software


Article from Issue 215/2018

Graham tears himself away from updating Arch Linux to search for the best new free software.

Web-focused text editor


When potential Linux users are asked which proprietary software they'd most like to see on Linux, Adobe's suite of applications are always near the top of the list. This is because professionals rely on Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign to do their jobs, and it's difficult to find open source replacements while remaining ahead of the industry curve. With Linux now being used in so many professional production companies, many of us have been surprised that Adobe hasn't looked at creating Linux versions of its most popular applications. But there's still hope, and Brackets is a good reason to hope.

Brackets is an open source text editor targeted at web design. There's obviously a Linux version, but the part that makes Brackets unusual is that it's developed by Adobe, and it has been in development since 2014. This may lead you to think the project is some kind of failed trial by Adobe, but Brackets is far from being a failure. In fact, it's rather brilliant. The first thing you notice when you launch the application is that it looks nothing like a typical Adobe application. It actually looks good, and its user interface doesn't impinge on usability, with a large text pane holding the editor itself, complete with beautifully rendered text using whatever font you prefer. Start typing into an HTML document, and the autocomplete helps you start and finish elements, fixes indentation, and subtly highlights the tags from the text. This helpful functionality extends to colors, where you add the hex value for a specific hue and the editor will show you the color you've dialed in.

But its smartest feature is also a new addition: the live preview. Selecting this will open a simple web browser window containing the rendered output of the HTML and CSS files you are editing. The clever part is that as you edit the source text files, the live preview updates instantly to reflect those changes. It feels like the developer modes you find in popular web browsers, where you can temporarily change how a page is rendered, but the difference here is that your changes are saved to the files used to build your eventual site. Thanks to its age and provenance, there are also dozens of add-ons that can be installed, allowing you to add themes, watch videos, make notes, and even turn the editor into a fully fledged IDE. While the emphasis is obviously on CSS and HTML, Brackets also supports a huge variety of formats and programming languages, from Bash to YAML, where you can take advantage of its excellent font rendering, refactoring, and split panes. It's a clean and effective editor. Although it's never going to replace something like Dreamweaver when it comes to designing a website without touching the source, it's perfectly suited to the modern role of web developer.

Project Website

1 Live preview: Changes made to the raw text source of a site update the preview. 2 Multiple files: Tab between open files or create both vertical and horizontal splits. 3 Code highlighting: Text looks crisp and easy on the eye, and HTML colors are previewed in small swatches. 4 Distraction free: A simple mode can be enabled to remove all the window furniture so you can focus on the code. 5  Extensions: Augment your editing environment with dozens of easily installed plugins and extensions. 6 Code completion: Use the drop-down menu to help with element memory. 7 Multiple languages: Designed for the web, but you can use Brackets with many different languages. 8 Refactor and linting: Change names easily and check and even fix common errors automatically.

Terminal web browser

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