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10 Apps for Developers on a Shoestring

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Read Time: 5 min

There are many many different areas web developers need to cover. First you need to find the perfect text editor, set up a local environment, find a database management tool and then find a great FTP application. And for many of us out there freelancing, we have less of a budget to work with. So here's 10 cheap or free web development tools for Windows and OS X.

Code Editing


TextMate is my personal favourite. It is a text editor but has some essential functionality such as line numbers, code highlighting, bundles for completing repetitive tasks and a neat project draw. The project draw deserves a special mention; when you open a folder or create a project in TextMate you get a neat project draw with all the files and folders listed inside. This has to be my favourite feature of TextMate since it is so easy to see all the files in my projects, I never lose anything. At only €48.75 and 15% off if you're a student, it's a tidy sum for a powerful application.


Espresso, the new web development tool for OS X is currently in public beta, but is available for pre-order for €59.95. Espresso has a neat sidebar which shows all files and folders clearly with indenting of folders. There is also a sweet integrated preview, which makes it easier to preview sites as you only need to switch inside the application. The best thing about Espresso though is uploading to a site. There are 3 tools, update, merge and mirror. "Update" uploads all the files you have changed locally to the live server; "Merge" merges the files locally and on the server; and "Mirrors" mirrors everything on the server to your local disk and vice versa. This would be the selling point for me, and when Espresso comes out of Beta I may just buy a license.


Notepad++ is a text editor for Windows that comes with code highlighting features and line numbers, much like TextMate. You can open multiple files in one window with tabs, there's a save all function allowing you to save all the open documents in one click. Notepad++ is free and open source, meaning you can dig deep into the files and see what's happening, if you wanted to.

PHP Designer

PHP Designer is a brilliant tool that I could not live without on my Windows machine. It comes complete with code highlighting, line numbers, code exploration, code completion, live error detection, integration with the PHP manual and more. There is a free 21-day trial so you can try it out, and if you find it's the application for you, it's €69 (approx $87) commercially or @39 (approx $49) for personal use.

Local Server Environment


If you're developing for the web on a mac, this application is a must. MAMP is a package which installs Apache, PHP and MySQL on your mac; best of all, it doesn't mess with the built in Apache configuration that comes with Leopard. I find this an indispensible application for a few reasons. First, it installs PHPMyAdmin which I love for many reasons; and second, it's quick to install. Just run the installer and you're done, no messing with the terminal like when you install each separately. The best bit? It's free. There is a paid version which gets you virtual hosts, dyndns and more.


Wampserver is just like MAMP in that it is a package by where running just one installer gets you PHP and MySQL and PHPMyAdmin on your system. This windows application is free and it runs great, has a number of configurations available and overall is a sound application to run a local environment.


XAMPP is a Windows, Linux and Mac OS X solution for running a local development environment. Prior to this article I hadn't known this, so it would be ideal for those of you who use more than one operating system on a regular basis. When I had a windows PC I used this and could not fault it at all.

Database Management

Sequel Pro

I have Sequel Pro on installed on my mac. It is a small and easy to use application once you get to grips with it. It has a sleek user interface and its in well with all my other OS X apps. The best part about Sequel Pro is that it's free, you can't complain about something if it's free, right? There is also a donate page which I encourage people to use if they use the app on a regular basis.



FileZilla is a free cross platform FTP solution. FilaZilla supports FTP, FTPS and SFTP and resume transferring large files bigger than 4 GB. You are able to configure the transfer speeds; and there is also a powerful site manager, especially useful if you have a number of websites with different FTP locations. FilaZilla also has a donate page which you can use if the application makes your life easier.


Ok, so not technically an application, it's what I use on my mac. FireFTP is by far the best FireFox addon I have installed, it gets used nearly every day and it copes well when uploaded a wordpress site. Best of all it's free! It supports SSL,TLS, and SFTP file compression, proxy support and file hashing amongst other things. As with Sequel Pro a donate page exists which I urge you to use if you use this app regularly, it helps the developers and half of the proceeds go to helps orphanages in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina and in Vukovar, Croatia.

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