Getting Setup for Client-Side Web Development

All the essential tools and services you will need

If you are taking INFO 343, or just want to learn Client-Side Web Development by going through these tutorials, you need to install a few tools and sign up for a few accounts. All of these things are free and available on all major platforms (Windows, OS X, and Linux).

File Management

Building a web site or application means wrangling a lot of files. If you work with others, coordinating changes to those files is almost impossible without a good version control system (VCS). The most popular VCS these days is git, which is often paired with the repository hosting service GitHub.

Install git

If you are on a Mac and have Homebrew installed, use it to install git: brew install git. Otherwise, download and run their installer. After installing, open a new terminal window and use this command to verify that it's working:

git version

If you see a version number, you're good to go. If you get a "command not found" error, something went wrong. Try installing it again and watch for error messages during the install process.

Sign-Up for GitHub

If you don't already have a GitHub account sign-up for a free account. This will let you create centralized code repositories in the cloud that are always backed-up. Free accounts can only create public repositories, but students can request the GitHub Student Developer Pack, which gives you free private repositories, and a slew of other discounts.

If you're taking INFO 343, you will use GitHub Classroom to create a private repository for all of your solutions to our challenges. Click the link in the first challenge assignment on Canvas to get started.

Code Editing

Building web sites and applications from scratch requires a good code editor that is optimized for web development. There are many to choose from, and you are free to use any editor you wish (including vi 😱 ), but here are a few I recommend:

  • Visual Studio Code: A free, cross-platform integrative development environment (IDE) from Microsoft that is nicely optimized for web development. It's remarkably good, and comes with just about everything you'd want pre-installed. Interestingly, it's actually a web application: the entire thing is built using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, yet it still feels very snappy.
  • Sublime Text: A very fast cross-platform code editor that sells for $70 (no student discounts, but you can register the license on many machines). It ships with less features than VSCode, but it can be easily extended using the Package Control add-in. It's written in C++ so it is much snappier than VSCode and does a better job with large files.
  • JetBrains WebStorm: An incredibly powerful IDE optimized for web development, from the same people who develop IntelliJ IDEA. They charge a yearly subscription fee, but you can get a free license while you are a student. It's implemented in Java, so it takes a little while to start, and can sometimes feel more sluggish than Sublime or VSCode.

Standards-Compliant Web Browser with Developer Tools

The various web browsers have become increasingly standards-compliant over the last few years, so you can use just about any browser now. I would recommend Chrome or Firefox, as they have very good developer tools you can use to debug your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Other Helpful Tools

As web development has gotten more complicated, developers have created new tools to handle the complexity. Most of these run under Node.js, which is an engine for running JavaScript at the command-line. These tools will be especially helpful while doing client-side development:

  • Node.js: if you are on a Mac and have Homebrew installed, you can use it to install node with the command: brew install node. Otherwise, just download and run their installer.
  • Live Server: This little command-line tool will auto-reload your browser whenever your source files change. This is insanely handy when doing client-side development, and will save you a ton of time. It requires Node.js to run, and you can install it using npm, which comes with Node.js. Run npm install -g live-server at the command line. If you are on a Mac and this command reports an error about not having permission, use sudo npm install -g live-server instead.