Installing basic software

In Installing basic software, we show you what tools you need to do simple web development and how to install them properly.

What tools do the professionals use?

  • A computer. Maybe that sounds obvious to some people, but some of you are reading this article on your phone or a library computer. For serious web development, it's better to invest in a desktop or laptop computer running Windows, macOS or Linux.
  • A text editor, to write code in. This could be a text editor (e.g. Visual Studio CodeNotepad++Sublime TextAtom, GNU Emacs, or VIM), or a hybrid editor (e.g. Dreamweaver or WebStorm). Office document editors are not suitable for this use, as they rely on hidden elements that interfere with the rendering engines used by web browsers.
  • Web browsers, to test code in. Currently, the most-used browsers are Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge. You should also test how your site performs on mobile devices and on any old browsers your target audience may still be using (such as IE 8–10). Lynx, a text-based terminal web browser, is great for seeing how your site is experienced by visually-impaired users.
  • A graphics editor, like GIMP, FigmaPaint.NET, Photoshop, Sketch or XD, to make images or graphics for your web pages.
  • A version control system, to manage files on servers, collaborate on a project with a team, share code and assets and avoid editing conflicts. Right now, Git is the most popular version control system along with the GitHub or GitLab hosting service.
  • An FTP program, used on older web hosting accounts to manage files on servers (Git is increasingly replacing FTP for this purpose). There are loads of (S)FTP programs available including Cyberduck, Fetch and FileZilla.
  • An automation system, like WebpackGrunt, or Gulp to automatically perform repetitive tasks, such as minifying code and running tests.
  • Libraries, frameworks, etc., to speed up writing common functionality. A library tends to be an existing JavaScript or CSS file that provides ready-rolled functionality for you to make use of in your code. A framework tend to take this idea further, offering a complete system with some custom syntaxes for you to write a web app on top of.
  • More tools besides!

What tools do I actually need, right now?

That looks like a scary list, but fortunately, you can get started in web development without knowing anything about most of these. In this article, we'll just set you up with a bare minimum — a text editor and some modern web browsers.

Installing a text editor

You probably already have a basic text editor on your computer. By default Windows includes Notepad and macOS comes with TextEdit. Linux distros vary; Ubuntu comes with gedit by default.

For web development, you can probably do better than Notepad or TextEdit. We recommend starting with Visual Studio Code, which is a free editor, that offers live previews and code hints.

Installing modern web browsers

For now, we'll install a couple of desktop web browsers to test our code in. Choose your operating system below and click the relevant links to download installers for your favorite browsers:

Before going on, you should install at least two of these browsers and have them ready for testing.

Note: Internet Explorer is not compatible with some modern web features and it may not be able to run your project. You usually don't need to worry about making your web projects compatible with it, as very few people still use it — certainly don't worry too much about it while you are learning. You might sometimes run into a project that requires support for it.

Installing a local web server

Some examples will need to be run by a web server to work successfully. You can find out how to do this in How do you set up a local testing server?

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