Aptana Studio: A Worthy Replacement For Dreamweaver

I have been a great fan of Dreamweaver. Even after I migrated to Linux Ubuntu, I still diligently use Dreamweaver (under Wine) for all my coding projects. To say the truth, running Dreamweaver in Linux with wine is not a great experience after all. At times, its performance can be lagging and the font and interface can be rather ugly and unmatching to the whole OS theme. The only reason that I am still using it is because I have not been able to find a worthy replacement for it. Quanta Plus, bluefish, geany, Netbeans, Eclipse, I have tried them all, and in my opinion, they are either not as good, or as user-friendly as Dreamweaver. That is until I found Aptana.

Aptana Studio is a free, open source cross platform compatible IDE that supports a large variety of languages. The default Aptana Studio’s editor comes with full support for HTML, CSS and Javascript. If you are a PHP or Ruby On Rails developer, you can also get it to support the the code you want by adding the respective modules via plugins. Platforms supported by Aptana Studio include PHP, Ruby On Rails, Python, iPhone Web apps, Adobe Air, Nokia and AJAX.

Aptana is based on the popular Eclipse, so if you have been a fan of Eclipse (or Dreamweaver), you shouldn’t have any problem getting used to Aptana.

Things that I like about Aptana

Support various platforms

Aptana is fully extensible by the use of plugins. While the default Aptana Studio’s editor comes only with full support for HTML, CSS and Javascript, you can install the respective plugins to add PHP, Ruby On Rails, Python or other functionality to it. The plugin management is integrated in the studio, so there is no need for you to download the plugin files and install it manually.

aptana-plugins

Autocompletion

One thing that I love about Aptana is its tags suggestion, tags explanation and autocompletion feature. When you type a tag, it will show a list of similar tags and give you an explanation of what each tag does. This is also a feature that I like in Dreamweaver and is sorely lacking in most IDE.

aptana-tags-suggest

aptana-autocompletion

Tags outline

On the sidebar of the editor’s window lies the outline pane that allows you to quickly access to any function within the code. This is one handy feature that is useful when you have a large CSS file or a long list of Javascript functions.

aptana-outline

Split view

If you are coding HTML and CSS at the same time, you will want to view the changes you have made on the CSS file on your HTML file instantly. By placing the two files side by side, you can quickly make changes to the CSS file and view the result on the HTML preview.

You can also have two instant of the same file, one in the Source mode while another is in the Preview mode. This make it easier for you to check the output of your code.

aptana-split-view

Conclusion

There are still many other features in Aptana, such as Cloud hosting, FTP/SFTP support, inbuilt Web server, AJAX server, that I did not mention, either because I have no use for them or I have not tried them out yet. However, for those things that I have used , I must say that I am pretty impress with it.

One thing though, the installation in Ubuntu is not as straightforward as expected. I did spend some time before I can get it to work. In my next tutorial, I will go through the steps to install Aptana on Ubuntu 8.10.

Have you tried Aptana? Do you love it? Share with us in the comments.

14 comments

  1. Great article!

    I have been using this app for sometime and it’s fantastic!

    I also noticed the article on how to install Aptana Studio, great job on that too.

  2. Hello,
    I think is really helpful and great article. I’ve been looking for something like this for a long time without any good results, so I did the same as you. I used Dreamwaver with wine and I have to tell it is not a good experience.

    Could I use the same procedure to install Aptana in Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy?

    Thanks!
    Miguel Ruiz

  3. This is what I’ve looking for… I was tried others options, but with poor results. This post comes to me just in time… thanks… really thanks…

    • Thanks for sharing. I don’t really like themes with dark bacground, but I guess it could be really useful for most people

  4. Hi thanks you for great review,I hav only one question:
    How to enable live preview feature,am searching in preferences but cant find id :( .

  5. i am forced to return to dreamweaver because the lag, i can’t continue to wait one second every time i ‘undo’. Sad coz it seems cool.

  6. Great overview of Aptana. Perhaps you and your readers would be interested to find out about WireframeSketcher wireframing/prototyping plugin. I’ve recently added support for Aptana Studio 1.5 so give it a try. I should mention that it’s a commercial product but I give away free licenses to open-source developers, bloggers, non-profits and others.

  7. I just stumbled across this app. I have to say I really love it so far, so much so i will be uninstalling my Dreamweaver from my system and start using this full time. I love the fact that it has a smaller footprint than Dreamweaver also. There is a bit TOO many things squeezed into Dreamweaver that i frankly just don’t use.

    This app runs really well on my laptops Mac and Windows based one. I am sold on this and will probably purchase the Pro version, can’t beat that price vs Dreamweavers..

  8. I found your article while searching for a replacement for Dreamweaver. I went ahead and installed Aptana on my Max OSX 10. I opened an html file in Aptana and it would not preview in the tabs at the bottom, even though Firefox and Safari appeared to be setup to do so. There was no support for this at Aptana.org.

    Guess I will have to find something else.

  9. I’ve been on a mission for some time to move to open source tools purely because of the point and principle of the price tag on Adobe products (which really annoys me – it’s just excessively steep).
    I’d also love to ditch Windows altogether – so rather than buy a (again excessively priced) Apple Mac and then at least £700 on Dreamweaver and Fireworks – I’d be quite happy with Linux on my PC and alternative tools. (I have to recommend the latest SUSE KDE4 Distro – very nice, stable and good driver support – indeed)
    So, I know I can do everything I do in Fireworks using Gimp…just a little amount of package learning to overcome but fairly trivial.
    So the replacement to Dreamweaver…The closet open source package I’d previously found was Quanta+ but it would appear development has been on hold for some time – with is a real shame, it had great potential.
    I was introduced to eclipse through work for Java development, and stumbled across the web tools plug in. This was exciting and finally I found Aptana, eclipse gets a bit confusing with too many plug-ins loaded so it was even better to have the stand alone install.
    I think the review here does cover the package really well, I like the fact you can configure the previews for different browser to quickly flick between them – enabling the CSS differences etc. Also previewing PHP was easy and fully supported.
    It’s the little ‘comforts’ that Dreamweaver has that seem to make Aptana a little frustrating, for example, dragging an image into the code, being able to click on the preview to place your cursor in the corresponding code, and the CSS editing – although the auto complete and code editing on the whole seems superior in Aptana – it does seem a little counterproductive having to remember CSS, it would be great to have more intuitive method.
    However, I’m genuinely hoping it’s just a case of getting accustomed to slightly different way in working because Aptana is without a doubt a great open source application and probably the best alternative to Dreamweaver.
    At this time and if money was no object, I think I would have a Mac & CS4 though, purely because I know I’d be more productive. But money is a factor and I hate parting with it, so I’ll persevere. In a way I think it will improve development skills, I guess Dreamweaver provides a lot of shortcuts.

  10. I just started using Apnata and it is really great to work with. The autocompletion is great in fact superb. It is a professional product that you can get for free.

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