Category: Code

Learning Java Using JShell

Java programming is not hard to learn, but proficiency in the language takes time, effort, and a lot of practice. JShell can significantly reduce the time required to learn many of the core features of the Java programming language.

As a prototyping tool, JShell makes it easy to write and develop a code snippet without having to compile and run a complete program to test it.

What is JShell?

Java 9 witnessed the introduction of JShell, and it persists with the latest releases. It is a read-evaluate-print-loop (REPL) tool that can be used to write and execute Java code, load code from a file, save code snippets, and more, all using a simple command-line interface.

Learning Java using JShell

Learning Java using JShell, by Christoph Tornau (Packt Publishing), is an excellent introduction to the Java programming language using JShell and is especially suited for beginners. While it does not cover all the formalities of writing a full Java application, it does cover the fundamentals of the language itself including:

  • Data types: int, byte, double, float, String, char, and boolean.
  • Variables: Declaring variables.
  • Operators: Using logical, conditional, compound assignment and unary operators.
  • If and If-Else statements
  • Switch expressions: Note that switch expressions are a preview feature and are disabled by default. Run JShell with “–enable-preview” to enable switch expressions.
  • Loops: While, Do-While, For, and ForEach
  • Arrays
  • Methods
  • Object-Oriented Programming
  • Classes and Objects

Using JShell to teach the fundamentals of Java is a smart approach taken by Christoph. It eliminates the distractions of having to choose from a variety of editors or IDE’s (Interactive Development Environment) and provides a simple “clutter-free” means to focus on Java alone.

The video course is ideally suited for beginning Java programmers and serves as a soft introduction to using JShell with Java.

Interestingly, Learning Java using JShell does not spend much time covering many of the JShell commands and key combinations that make using it that much more effective. What follows is a brief introduction to JShell. I have also included some helpful links to additional articles and resources at the end of this post.

Java Version 9 or Later

To run JShell, you must have JDK9 or later installed on your computer. You can get the latest version of the JDK for your operating system from Oracle’s “Java SE Downloads” page.

You can check the installed version of Java by typing “java -version” at the command prompt in a terminal session as pictured below:

Running JShell

To run JShell on windows, start a terminal session by typing “cmd” in the search bar and click on the “Command Prompt – app.”

When the command prompt appears, type “jshell” and press enter. Some Java language features, such as switch expressions, are available in preview mode only and disabled by default. They can be enabled by typing “jshell –enable-preview” at the command prompt as pictured below:

For a brief introduction to JShell, type “/help intro” without the quotes as suggested when the jshell opens in the terminal. For a list of commands, type /help. Oracle’s Java Platform, Standard Edition Java Shell User’s Guide, provides an in-depth review of JShell’s core features.

You can set the feedback mode using the “/set feedback mode” command where the mode is replaced by either “verbose,” “normal,” “concise,” or “silent.” For example: “/set feedback silent” displays the absolute minimum amount of information. You can also use the /set command to create customized feedback and prompt settings.

For help on a specific command or subject, type /help followed by the command or subject of interest to you. For example, when you enter “/help /list” at the jshell prompt, the requested help information appears on the screen as pictured below:

JShell Commands

The JShell commands available in version 12 as displayed on our system are as follows:

  • /list [|-all|-start]
    • list the source you have typed
  • /edit
    • edit a source entry
  • /drop
    • delete a source entry
  • /save [-all|-history|-start]
    • save snippet source to a file
  • /open
    • open a file as the input source
  • /vars [|-all|-start]
    • list the declared variables and their values
  • /methods [|-all|-start]
    • list the declared methods and their signatures
  • /types [|-all|-start]
    • list the type declarations
  • /imports
    • list the imported items
  • /exit []
    • exit the jshell tool
  • /env [-class-path ] [-module-path ] [-add-modules ] …
    • view or change the evaluation context
  • /reset [-class-path ] [-module-path ] [-add-modules ]…
    • reset the Jshell tool
  • /reload [-restore] [-quiet] [-class-path ] [-module-path ]…
    • reset and replay relevant history — current or previous (-restore)
  • /history [-all]
    • history of what you have typed
  • /help [|]
    • get information about using the jshell tool
  • /set editor|start|feedback|mode|prompt|truncation|format …
    • set configuration information
  • /? [|]
    • get information about using the jshell tool
    • same as /help
  • /!
    • rerun last snippet — see /help rerun
  • /
    • rerun snippets by ID or ID range — see /help rerun
  • /-
    • rerun n-th previous snippet — see /help rerun

JShell Subjects

To learn more about a given subject, enter one of the subjects from the list below after the /help command. For example: /help intro

  • intro: an introduction to the JShell tool.
  • keys: a description of line editing support to navigate and edit snippets and commands.
  • id: a description of snippet IDs and how to use them
  • shortcuts: a description of keystrokes for snippet and command completion, information access, and automatic code generation
  • context: description of the evaluation context options for /env /reload and /reset
  • rerun: a description of ways to re-evaluate previously entered snippets
  • shortcuts

The “jshell>” prompt doesn’t offer help unless you ask for it. There is more to this seemingly “archaic” interface than first meets the eye. and it is worth taking the time to look further.

Why use JShell?

As a developer, it is convenient to test a snippet of code without having to formally compile and run it to see if it’s going to work. Working with APIs can also be a challenge. and JShell is a perfect environment to learn more about them.

JShell is even integrated into the JetBrains IntelliJ IDE so you can reap all the benefits and productivity gains it has to offer and makes knowing what JShell is and what it can do for you even more relevant.

Some seasoned Java programmers are not aware that JShell even exists. I can only stress the importance of staying current with updates when they occur as they usually introduce new features and ways to make writing code that much more efficient.

As I’ve said many times before, “There’s always a better way and more than one solution.” Learning Java using JShell by Christoph Tornau is yet another example of that.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

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Lean Programming – 5S for Code

I enjoy coding and learned many programming languages over the years. As diverse as these languages are, there is one trait that is consistent among them all: every instruction matters.

The principles of Lean, defined as “the pursuit of perfection to achieve excellence through the continual elimination of waste,” can also be applied to programming. The seven forms of waste are:

  • Defects: Bugs in our Code. Avoid using clever tricks or complicated code where a simple statement or expression is just as effective.
  • Overproduction: Features or functions that are not required,
  • Waiting: Synchronous versus asynchronous processes, load times, code sequencing, multi-core threading, distributed networking,
  • Inventory: Redundant Code,
  • Motion: Inefficient algorithms, poorly designed UI,
  • Over-processing: Unnecessary functions or capabilities. Deliver the solution requested per the scope of the application, no more, no less.
  • Transport: Movement of resources or data. Consider in memory processes versus disk intensive transactions, or client side versus server side data processing.

There is a notable difference between “sloppy programming” and clean code written by someone who knows better. Have you ever spent hours attempting to decipher someone’s code, or even your own? A clean, readable, and well documented file is much easier to work with and, more importantly, understandable.

5S Your Code

We can minimize some forms of waste by using a method known as 5S. IDE’s such as those offered by JetBrains, allow us to create a workspace for a given application, but we can extend this concept to each file or script too.

  1. Sort (Seiri): Eliminate all unnecessary tools, functions, comments, and resources. Choose meaningful file and variable names to minimize tedious and redundant comments in your Code.
  2. Set in Order (Seiton): Use an effective directory management strategy to organize all your files for quick and easy reference. Deploy an effective “Model, View, Controller” strategy when developing your applications. Restrict your functions to a single purpose to better enable re-usability.
  3. Shine (Seiso): Set and follow standardized coding guidelines and naming conventions. Deploy rigorous version control standards.
  4. Standardize (Seiketsu): Publish coding guidelines and maintain your Code accordingly.
  5. Sustain (Shitsuke): Cascade requirements and communicate expectations throughout the organization. Continually review and update the guidelines accordingly.

5S is one of the fundamental elements of Kaizen and, when practiced regularly, helps to minimize the seven wastes, allowing you to work effectively and efficiently.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

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What is 5S? – kanbanize.com

JavaFX-12.0.1

With the recent release of Java Development Kit 12 (JDK 12), it’s time to upgrade to JavaFX-12.0.1 as well. JavaFX is now managed and released as it’s own independent entity and is not shipped as part of the Java Development Kit.

If you are new to Java and JavaFX, visit Getting Started with JavaFX 12 to install and test the latest version of JavaFX. Instructions are presented for use with Linux/Mac and Windows.

If you already have Java 12 installed, download the JavaFX runtime, unzip the file to your location of choice, and add the PATH_TO_FX environment variable: set PATH_TO_FX=”path\to\javafx-sdk-12\lib”

Now you’re ready to test the installation using the HelloFX.java sample which is available for download from GitHub.

From the command line, use javac to compile the program as follows:

  • javac –module-path %PATH_TO_FX% –add-modules javafx.controls HelloFX.java

Now execute the program using:

  • java –module-path %PATH_TO_FX% –add-modules javafx.controls HelloFX

If all went as planned, running the program should produce a window as pictured below:

Why JavaFX?

Every book, online tutorial, or course typically begin with writing programs that run on the console or terminal. An initial frustration for new users is that Interactive Development Environments or IDE’s such as Eclipse, NetBeans, or Visual Studio Code all use a Graphical User Interface or GUI interface and leaves us wondering why we can’t do graphics.

Of course, the books and tutorials do eventually address GUI’s; however, the subject of GUI’s is a topic for later chapters or course segments. Since JavaFX is not part of the JDK distribution, you must download it separately.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

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Lean Code and Comments

When I learned to program, hardware and storage were scarce. It is imperative for the code to be tight and the speed of execution is and remains a first and foremost concern. Achieving this isn’t always easy and often requires some very sophisticated programming techniques.

If there was ever a time or place to demand comments, a clever or complicated code sequence is it. Many books and courses will tell you to comment on your code and many experienced programmers do an excellent job of doing so. Writing clear and useful comments is as much a skill as it is a discipline.

The coding style where indentation, line length (80 characters maximum), avoiding the use of global variables and writing single purpose functions also help to understand and debug the code. Make your comments relevant and don’t restate what should already be clear.

Some will argue that good well-written code is self-documenting although my experience strongly suggests otherwise. Well-worded variable names are helpful; however, their intended purpose may not always be clear. Functions, subroutines, or classes may also have well-defined names yet arguments and/or parameters and results may not be.

I recently found myself having to debug a program I wrote over a year ago. The application was working on all machines but one. I learned that the client replaced the computer with an old legacy system. Fortunately, I have been working with PC’s for more years than I care to admit and understand what was happening and why.

Needless to say, were it not for the comments, fixing the issue in the actual code would’ve been a daunting task otherwise. The very sections of code that were to occupy my time were cause for previous visits. The comments clearly describe what the code sequence is supposed to do and the potential caveats to avoid.

Good Meaningful Comments

All of my code modules have an opening comment block that, aside from the author(s), date created, purpose, and revision, provide specific details regarding the methods/techniques and how they are used in the code to follow. Even the method of versioning the module is clearly outlined.

Complete history with version/revision number, date, and description of the changes accompanies the opening block. The specific changes are dated and documented in the revised code segments as well. Dating the changes in my code serves as a frame of reference and allows me to better recall the events that triggered the changes in the first place.

/* System.out.println(“Don’t use block comments to block out code\n”); */

Rule of Thumb

A good “rule of thumb” is to provide sufficient comments to reteach yourself or to teach others what the code is supposed to do. I also provide ample warnings and advise of possible side effects that code changes may introduce.

If there is ever a place to serve yourself best in your coding skills, it’s in the comments. Everything that appears fresh today will be everything but fresh a year from now. A well-documented program requires focus and discipline, but the effort will make the debugging process so much easier when you visit your work in the near or distant future.

Until next time, STAY lean!

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Lean Code and Sticky Fields

Quite some time ago I created a backend interface to serialize and record data for labels printed through Crystal Reports as generated from our ERP system.  Unfortunately, the ERP system makes no provision to enter or update all of the key information required to support traceability of the labels after they are printed.

To solve this problem, I used Excel VBA to create a front end label manager to edit or update labels with the relevant information.  The window appears modally when the “Manage Labels” button is clicked on the ASN E2 Data worksheet (pictured below), allowing us to continue working with our workbook as required.

EDI-LabelManager

I could have written the front end as an independently managed application, however, it is a natural extension of other features and capabilities supported by the workbook in which the VBA code resides.  No code is presented in this post, however, some familiarity with Excel VBA and User Forms is assumed.

LabelDetailsWindow

When the “Manage Labels” button on the worksheet is clicked, a “Label Details” window appears as pictured above.  After confirming or selecting the Server Location and clicking Connect, a Customer Code is selected from the ComboBox.  We then click the “Get Labels” button to load the labels for that Customer accordingly.  More granular search capabilities are also provided.

The core functionality supported by the front end is the ability to edit the data associated with any given label.  Text boxes are used to edit data for the fields indicated.  A check box next to each field is used to make the field “sticky”.

EditBarCodeLabelsPage

Note that although each field can be set independently, all “sticky” checkboxes can be set or cleared by pressing the “Set Sticky” or “Clear Sticky” button respectively.StickyFieldsCheckBoxReset

Sticky Fields

Normally, text boxes are updated when moving from one record to the next.  However, there may be times when we want our data to persist or carry over from one record to the next so we only have to enter it once.

For example, at the time of printing and when parts are being produced, we can’t possibly know the Packing Slip number in advance.  StickyFieldsCheckBoxTrueIf multiple containers (each having a uniquely serialized label) are shipped, we can simply make the Packing Slip “sticky” and update the records without having to re-enter the packing slip for each individual label.  Similar logic applies to the remaining fields.

TextBoxProperties-TagThe “Reset” button is used to overwrite the TextBox with data from the original record.  To do this, we take advantage of the “Tag” property of the TextBox.  When the data is read from the database, a  copy of the data for each field from the original record is stored in the “Tag” for each TextBox.  The “Tag” can store up to 2048 characters and is more than sufficient for our purposes.

Functionality is also provided to Swap the data between the current field value and the original data value of the field by using the up/down arrow button immediately to the left of the “Reset” button.

Note that all fields can either be reset to the original data contained in the record or cleared entirely by pressing the “Reset Fields” or “Clear Fields” buttons on the Edit page respectively.

Carry On

This type of functionality is not typical for most applications though it is not necessarily unique.  I recall seeing a “record level” Carry ON type of functionality years ago where the data from the previous record would carry over to the next record and edited as required.  However, this only applied to new records as they were being entered.

Risks

If the user “forgets” that a sticky field is set, it is possible that some data may be changed unintentionally.  By default, all of the check boxes for the sticky fields are clear (off) when the edit page is presented and must be turned on intentionally by the user.

On the other hand, consider the risks associated with data entry where the user would have to enter the same data multiple times for a larger number of records.

Editing Multiple Records (Global Update)

Though not presented as part of this post, it is also possible to select multiple records from the main “label display area” and globally apply changes to “common fields”.  Of course, “global” edits to multiple records presents it’s own challenges and risks and is the topic worthy of it’s own post.

Final Thoughts

You may already be using Sticky fields or perhaps considered making this capability available to your users.  There are certainly times where this type of functionality may not be desirable and certainly where the risks of “contaminating” your database may be high.  You will note that we did not provide the ability to edit all of the fields for a given record for this very reason.

The efficiency and effectiveness of an application extends from the underlying code to the actual person using the application and is one of the reasons why this was included as part of our ongoing Lean Code series.  Saving the user from having to re-enter duplicate data into multiple fields across large record sets can save a significant amount of time and effort and minimizes the risk of error where “exact” duplication of data is a necessity.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!
Versalytics

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Lean Code and JavaScript

As I’ve said many times before, “There’s always a better way and more than one solution!”  The sentiments of this statement are echoed by the many ways a solution can be programmed using any of the many available languages including JavaScript.

Although I’ve been working with JavaScript for a number of years, I continue to discover interesting nuances in the language.  The learning never stops and is an inherent part of the intrigue that is programming.

While many solutions exist, some techniques and methods of programming are preferred over others.  Once you’ve mastered the basics of JavaScript, the programming challenges you are prepared to accept will inevitably become more complex.

Learning to address various coding problems is directly dependent on the knowledge and tools with which you are already familiar.  Be reminded however that just because they work doesn’t mean they are as effective or as efficient as they could be.

On this premise, I consider programming as a learning continuum.  Books and videos tend to serve as my primary sources of learning and reference.  In the case of JavaScript, one such book is:

Effective JavaScript presents detailed examples of what NOT to do and why followed by effective solutions to resolve the concerns identified.  The examples are succinct and clearly demonstrate complex ideologies in a simple, straightforward manner.  I have learned more from this book than most could begin to offer.

Learning how to code is only one aspect of programming.  Understanding how your code (or the language) works and why is another.  Effective JavaScript does both with a greater emphasis on the latter.  You will save yourself many hours of debugging your code when you have a clear understanding of what JavaScript can do when used correctly.

Of course, there is always Google, however, the information is typically solution oriented without the full benefit of scope or context.  As I’ve said before, “Be careful who teaches you.”  Unless you understand the code you are using, resorting to a “searched” solution may be cause for more trouble than it’s worth.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Versalytics

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What? Rats WebGL Hit a Snag?

When your code hits a snag, there has to be a solution.  If you’ve discovered the “Rats WebGL Hit a Snag” notification, here are some articles we’ve discovered to both enlighten you and provide potential fixes.

It’s important to be aware of the potential problems your application may encounter, especially those that are beyond your control.  In this same respect, it is important to consider the tools and/or API’s you choose to use in your application.

Simply an FYI …

 

Until Next Time, STAY lean!

Versalytics

Lean Code – Web Graphics

Graphics and Animation

MultipleMachines

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on an application to simulate multiple production processes working in tandem and decided to re-introduce myself to the world of animation.  In its present state, the application is working quite well using just the core HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript web languages.

The HTML5 canvas makes it easy to render graphics where CSS3 and JavaScript are used to manage and manipulate various animation effects.  Aside from the canvas element, OpenGL, WebGL / WebGL 2.0, SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) and SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language) or VML (Vector Markup Language) are also options to render graphics to your web page.

While HTML canvas is relatively easy to understand, working with SVG can be a little more complicated.  Fortunately, a number of packages exist that can be used to create our shapes and several JavaScript libraries are available to work with the generated SVG files.

Creating Vector Graphics

Adobe Illustrator is a great product but also demands a monthly subscription fee which, unless you’re a professional web developer, isn’t something too many of us want to add to our monthly budget.

An SVG Editor (by henoc) is available for Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code that can simplify the task of working with SVG.  You may also wish to consider using:

  • Vectr, a free cross-platform vector graphics editor, that allows you to create scalable vector graphics in 2D.   You can use the online version or download a copy of the application for your operating system (Windows, Mac, Linux, or Chromebook).
  • Inkscape a professional vector graphics editor for Windows, Mac OSx and Linux.  Free and open source.
  • Gravit Designer is a very capable and powerful design tool.  You can use the online version or download a copy of the application for your platform (Mac OSx, Windows, Linux, and Chrome OS).
  • There are also a number of online SVG editors – easily found with a simple Google search –  where you can create simple 2D SVG files online and save them locally to your machine.
  • It is also worth noting that the WebStorm IDE by JetBrains, our IDE of choice for web-based applications, also provides a level of support for working with SVG files.

JavaScript Libraries for SVG

While we can manipulate and work with SVG data directly using CSS and native JavaScript, a number of libraries are available that provide significantly enhanced functionality and effects.  Some commonly used libraries for working with SVG data include:

JavaScript libraries will save you a tremendous amount of time and effort so you can focus on your application.  It is also possible to render 3D models using SVG with more highly capable JavaScript libraries.

Browser Support and Local Files

Browsers provide varying degrees of support for today’s web technologies and knowing what is or is not supported will determine whether your application will run as intended.  IE (Internet Explorer) is one browser that is typically lacking in support for capabilities such as CSS transforms on SVG elements.

Remember:  Browsers are NOT created equal.

FailedtoLoad-CrossOriginRequests

Some browsers like Chrome do not permit access to files or data on your local drive and you may receive an error similar to the one pictured above if you make the attempt.  Fortunately, I’m using the WebStorm IDE by JetBrains and have the option to run code either as a local file or using the built-in server.

Use a local server if you are using Chrome or another browser that does not provide access to data files that are local to your machine.

Responsive Websites

A responsive website is one of the more significant and noteworthy advantages of using SVG for your graphic elements.  Scaling your site to accommodate devices of all shapes and sizes is less of a challenge with SVG.   Images retain their original quality regardless of scale, can be created or edited with any text editor, and can be manipulated or enhanced using CSS and JavaScript.  These reasons alone make learning SVG that much more rewarding for you and your visitors.

The options for animating your website are many and limited only by your imagination.  As I’ve said many times before, “There’s always a better way and more one solution.”  Working with SVG’s and the number of API’s available to animate them proves this statement to be true yet again.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Versalytics

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Lean Code and API’s

API Resources

GeocodeResponse-OVER_QUERY_LIMIT

Using an Application Program Interface or API is not a new concept, is relatively simple, and easy to do.  However, developing applications using resources outside of your local controlled environment can present new challenges and opportunities.

In this instance, I was testing one of Google’s API resources and received an “OVER_QUERY_LIMIT” error message.  Although it’s not too often that this happens, apparently it can on occasion.

You have exceeded your daily request for this API.  We recommend registering for a key at the Google Developers Console:  https://console.developers.google.com/apis/credentials?project=

You typically need an API key before you can use an API such as the Google Maps Geocoding API.  For those of you thinking or wondering about security, you can place restrictions on the use of your API key.

Registering an API Key

APIs Credentials

If you already have a Google account, go to the “https://console.developers.google.com/apis/credentials?project=” link as shown in the error message above, sign in to your account and accept the terms and conditions.  You can then begin the process of creating your project and credentials.  Google will then generate an API key for your project to use in your application.

As of this writing, there are at least 184 API’s available where some of the more popular API’s include Google Drive API, Gmail API, Google Maps Android API, Google Cloud Translation API, and Google Maps Geocoding API.

Once you’ve enabled the API’s required for your project and set up your API Key, you can begin using and monitoring the services requested from your GoogleAPIs dashboard. The “Web Services > Geocoding API” page provides a simple example of getting and using the API Key in your application.

API’s can greatly simplify your application development and enables you to deploy features that would otherwise consume a lot of time and effort to implement.  The guides and documents in the API Library describe the scope of the API and provide sufficient information to begin using them to your advantage.

API Access Limits

Be aware that some API’s may have limits to the number of free “access requests” received and/or processed in a given day or over a given time period.  Users may encounter problems if requests from your site exceed this limit.  Increased access requests may be available if you are using a “fee-based” service or premium account.

For example, as of this writing, the Google Maps Geocoding API imposes the following Standard Usage Limits:  2,500 free requests per day and 50 requests per second.  A “pay-as-you-go” billing option or Premium Plan is also available with a maximum of 100,000 daily requests.

API Services

API services or resources may offer significant advantages for your application and are certainly worth an investment of your time to see what is available.  If your programming language, such as JavaScript or Python, provides a means of working with “http” requests, API’s are definitely worthy of your consideration.

API’s enable working with external resources both as a data source and for manipulating data.  The ability to programmatically work with data reduces the possibility of data entry errors and other human fallibilities.

Remember to use API key restrictions to control and prevent unauthorized access requests!  Making an attempt to use an API key from a site other than the one authorized in the restriction settings will return a “REQUEST_DENIED” status as pictured below:

API-Restricted-Access

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Versalytics

Brackets Update

Brackets-Corner-ScreenShotVersion 1.12 of Brackets was released on January 29, 2018 and is now available for download.  This release introduces some exciting new features including JavaScript Refactoring, intelligent rename in file/scope feature, try catch block wrapping, one click conversion of anonymous expression / function block to arrow expression, and getter/setter creation.  More information can also be found in the release notes.

As a lightweight editor, Brackets serves as the “Goldilocks” solution for my smaller JavaScript and web page development projects.  Web page development is greatly enhanced with the live preview feature.

Although JetBrains Web Storm is my IDE of choice for larger applications, Brackets is an ideal editor for those looking to start off with something simple and easy to use.  Numerous extensions are readily available, easy to install, and will greatly enhance your experience while using Brackets.

To take advantage of the latest and greatest features, it’s important to keep your applications up to date.  These updates may fix bugs that you’ve discovered (or have yet to discover) and may also introduce some features that can save you a lot of time and effort in your development process.

Until Next time – STAY lean!

Versalytics