While everyone has their own sets of needs and preferences, there are a few invaluable pieces of software that no web developer can live without. These range from important tools, to necessary software, but as a new developer starting out, this will read almost like a laundry list of equipment to buy.
A Plain Text Editor (Notepad, vi,)
It’s not exactly common knowledge yet that Microsoft Word adds invisible formatting to your text, so it’s crucial that you completely avoid using it for any programming of code. What may seem fine at first glance will fail to parse and require extensive re-writing (costing you valuable time on a deadline).
This is one instance where all programs are made pretty much equal, so whether you choose Notepad, vi, or Textmate, simply picking one will save you a world of headache in the long run.
(Optional Addition) WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) IDEs (Integrated Development Environments)
Adobe must have had meeting after meeting to discuss the poisoned chalice that is Dreamweaver. Although it, and other similar software, are extremely useful to experienced programmers, there is a very vocal opposition to the use of WYSIWYG IDEs. The old adage that you shouldn’t try to run before you can walk is very applicable here, as the software will allow you to create a lot of advanced websites without the required coding knowledge, creating a dilemma for both the client and yourself if any support is ever needed for debugging the code.
This is a preference-based choice to make, so don’t let anyone cloud your judgement on the hotly contested issue of whether or not to use an IDE. If you genuinely feel that you have the required knowledge, it’s probably best to ignore the stigma and use whatever works best for you.
A Prototyping Tool
It’s almost typical of the web design community that the most prominent tool created specifically for this purpose (Adobe Fireworks) is barely in usage compared to Adobe Photoshop, a program created for photo manipulation and editing (hence the name). Rapid idea generation and prototyping is absolutely critical, and being able to cut time in the initial phase will give you several addition hours to spend on developing and refining your idea, rather than trying to figure a way to display conceptual art.
As a side note, there are scores of prototyping software kits floating around, but aside from Photoshop, Balsamiq is another excellent option. It’s relatively new, yet surprisingly pure and focused on its goal of allowing developers to give clients a visual idea of how their website will look. It goes without saying how much time that will save you in avoiding lengthy revisions.
Overall, although a lot of marketers may try to convince you of the need for several flashy (and expensive) software suites, this really is all you need to be a competent web developer. An argument can be made for needing an FTP client like FileZilla too, but that’s a pretty standard inclusion. After all, it’s not about the tools you’ve got, but how you use them.
If you are a budding web developer just starting out in the industry, or with years of experience, then it is definitely worth taking a look at http://www.modis.co.uk. Modis are the UK’s leading IT recruitment agency with a range of developer jobs from .NET to C#.