If you’re learning to code at work using software or tools covered by company licenses, then you might not be aware of just how much some development tools can cost. A Visual Studio license can cost in the thousands of pounds for the best version. This can often put people off from trying to learn at home or in their own time, but it shouldn’t. There are plenty of free tools out there that will allow you to code using proper syntax, and even full blown IDEs that will allow you to compile code and build fully working applications.
So here are five of the top tools that I would recommend:
Notepad++ is an absolutely incredible piece of software. It’s a text editor that allows you to write code in a huge number of languages, with proper formatting and colour coding. While you can’t compile your code, it’s fantastic for writing code when following examples online or messing around with syntax and trying to learn. It’s available on Windows, macOS and Linux and it should be your text editor of choice.
- Sublime Text
Sublime Text is another fantastic text editor like Notepad++, that allows you to write code in various languages with the correct colour coding and formatting. This is a contentious entry on this list as it’s not completely free. It’s free to trial, and there is no limit on how long you can trial it for and if and when you decide to buy, it’s very well priced.
- Visual Studio Code
This really is a fantastic tool, and something I wish was around when I was learning back in university. It’s not quite a full blown IDE but it’s not far off, and it’s completely free. It allows full compilation of code from a number of languages, the ability to add extensions which can offer customisation and improve your ability to learn quickly. Best of all, you can debug through your code and learn exactly how your code is working. As a bonus, it has Git integration to allow for source control, if that is something you feel you ever need.
If you want a fully featured IDE without the licensing costs, then SharpDevelop is an open source IDE that provides just that. The list of included features is massively impressive, and for automation testing purposes, it even supports Nunit for creating and running tests. I highly recommend this. The UI might not have the polish of Visual Studio, but for the features on offer for no licensing costs, it really is a great IDE.
- Visual Studio Community
This is my IDE of choice for everything I do with my hobbyist projects. As long as you’re not writing commercial software, you get fully featured Visual Studio for nothing. And what’s not to love about that? You get everything you need to learn, and for 99.9% of users, you’ll have every feature you’d need to write the most complex of projects at home.
There are so many other free tools out there for you to try, but these are my five favourites and ones I can personally recommend. The point of this article was to show you that learning to code shouldn’t be out of reach even for those with the tightest of budgets. Free software and open source software mean that any aspiring automation tester has the tools to learn and write great code. Now you know some tools to write great code, why don’t you follow our Framework series and begin writing your framework today.