Over the past two years, I’ve paid nearly $500 to Adobe for the use of their Creative Cloud software suite. That’s $20/month as a student user. In the old days of outright purchasing software as a licensed user, that amount of money would have provided me with programs that I could continue to use for the life of my computer and beyond. After all, I’m still happily using a copy of JASC PaintShop Pro 8 that I purchased well over a decade ago.
Unfortunately, after providing Adobe with $500 of my money, I have nothing to show for it. My subscription to Adobe expired in the Spring and I couldn’t bring myself to pay $50 per month (more than my internet bill!) as a non-student user. Heck, I wouldn’t resubscribe at the student price. The only part of the suite that I consistently used on a weekly basis was Acrobat, which thankfully remains available for purchase with a permanent license (though, unfortunately, the new Acrobat Pro DC presents the worst UI update and privacy violations I’ve seen in a while, but that’s a topic for another post).
Once I decided to drop Adobe, I needed to piece together a replacement for Dreamweaver, which was my go-to HTML editor. Dreamweaver was always a bit bloated for my needs: I never did figure out how to use many of the built-in features, particularly the things that were Adobe-specific and not standard HTML. However, its color-coded handling of language syntax was useful, and I especially appreciated the site management tools that allowed for convenient synchronization of entire websites.
I now rely on a couple of free, open-source projects that recreate these features from Dreamweaver, as well as a bevy of other useful functions that have improved my workflow. For code editing, I adopted Notepad++, which has long been my preferred method for viewing HTML files quickly (no sense loading up Dreamweaver, which took several seconds even on my powerful desktop, when Notepad++ could open and display the file almost instantaneously).
Notepad++ provides color-coded syntax highlighting and folding, not only for web development but for ‘real’ programming languages as well. Powerusers of Notepad++ also have access to plenty of plugins that extend the functionality of the program, including the NppFTP plugin that brings FTP access. I haven’t experimented much with it, but it may well be possible to handle my site synchronization and publishing needs from within Notepad++.
However, I found another great open-source program called FullSync to handle my site updates and to keep files synchronized. FullSync is a beautifully simple program: you set a source directory and a destination directory, either of which could be a local folder, an S/FTP location, or a connected network share (SMB), and then you select which type of synchronization relationship you’d like the two folders to have: a direct, exact copy, a 2-way sync, a backup copy, or a publish/update relationship, which is more conservative about deleting anything on the destination folder without your express permission. The great thing about FullSync is that once you’ve set up your profile, you’re always just a button away from publishing your changes to the web. It actually provides the same functionality as Dreamweaver, but in a faster, more intuitive manner. On the backend, I keep my web files–both the ‘in development’ and ‘live for web’ folders–synchronized between my own devices using Sync.com, which provides all of the features of Dropbox without the sketchy invasions of privacy (more on this later).
(Note: Unfortunately, FullSync can be a bit unstable when initially setting up a new profile. It seems especially prone to crash whenever I select a source or destination folder that is SFTP or SMB. My advice is to save your profile after each change as you’re setting it up, until you’ve eventually got all the parameters in working order. FullSync has never let me down, once I have set up my profiles completely.)
And that, folks, is how a couple of completely free and open-source programs have taken the place of Adobe’s bloated, bug-ridden, expensive software suite in my web development workflow.