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15 Code Editors For the iPad – For Free or Very Cheap

Can you leave your notebook computer at home and still code on the road? Absolutely. We compare more than a dozen iPad text editors for general programming and HTML web development.

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Can developers write code on an iPad, as an alternative to using their desktop or notebook?  Sure they can – as long as they are equipped with a programmer’s editor that lets them work with HTML or with their favorite programming language.

There’s no shortage of simple text editors and Word-like apps for the iPad. Coders, of course, need (or want) more than that, and there are iOS apps that provide some of the features you want – although  there’s no guarantee you’ll find an app that has the right feature mix. In general, these tools all include a way to download-and-upload code, and some can sync files across systems. Some editors include syntax highlighting, perhaps even local preview capability.

But be prepared to set your expectations differently for a tablet environment. Don’t look for features like auto-indent support for lots of languages, or embedded command windows to be standard; be pleasantly surprised when you find such capabilities.  Accept the limitations of these tools, such as only one foreground window, poorer task switching, and no mouse. Certainly, none of these are a full integrated development environment. (What do you expect for under twenty bucks? Or for free?)

Here’s a look at 15 code editing and development tools available for the iPad, in alphabetic order, and their advantages and disadvantages. The apps I list here were selected based on searching iTunes and other research. (Unattributed quotes within the app write-ups come from the app’s iTunes webpage.)

This overview should help you get started at the task of finding an iPad text editor that works for your needs, especially since iTunes makes it hard to do really focused searches.

I downloaded and installed each of these iPad text editors, and herein I share my poked-at-it experience. I’m not a developer, so I can’t give a full-on review for suitability to task, but I like to think that my research can save you several hours. At these prices – you can grab everything covered in this article for less than a hundred bucks – you can afford to check out a few and see which meet your needs.

1. Code To Go

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Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later

Features:

  • Write, save and load code locally, without connectivity; with connectivity, load from and save to DropBox. “You can also save and later load different files for each language.”
  • Supports about 50 languages, including awk, C, C#, C++, LISP, Forth, Java, JavaScript, Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby, SQL, and Visual Basic .NET.
  • Lets you run your code and see the results on Sphere Research Labs’s Ideone.com site.
  • “Add files directly from your computer to CodeToGo, as well as exporting CodeToGo files to your computer” (using the app syncing page in iTunes).
  • “Adds an extra row of commonly used keys to the default keyboard. You can also customize this extra row by touching the “Settings” button at the top right of the initial language screen.” If you’re using a Bluetooth keyboard, the special keys — which you can edit via the app’s SETTINGS — show up as a row of keys at the bottom of the screen.
Price: $2.99


2. Code Monkey

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Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1.3 or later

Code Monkey has a UML editor in a “programmers notebook” paradigm, with class diagram support presently, a RPN capable programmer’s calculator, a regular expression cheat sheet, and a design patterns reference. The company explains, “The UML editor supports multiple class diagrams, classes, dependency, derivation and realization relationships between them. Classes and relationships can have names (shown on diagrams), stereotypes and descriptions (names and stereotypes shown). Diagrams can be emailed as PDFs and saved and PNGs to the pictures on the device. Note that this is not a full UML editor.”

Price: $1.99


3. Codosaurus

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Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later. Codosaurus features include:

  • Highlighted syntax for small files
  • Coding optimized keyboard
  • Language support for TXT, HTML, CSS, PHP, JS, XML, HTACCESS, Python, ASP, ASPX, Ruby, SQL, PHTML, TPL, CSV, INI, and INC files
  • Open and view PDF, DOC, XLS, PPT, RTF, LOG, and image files
  • Create a full working jQuery library
  • Templates for HTML, HTML5, CSS-Screen, CSS-Print, PHP, XML, and a jQuery Library
  • Latin1 and Unicode Encoding.

Note: I could access and see filenames in one of my shell accounts, but wasn’t able to open anything. I might have been doing something wrong, however.

Price: $5.99 (Coda also offers a free Lite version of Codasaurus; see the developer reviews here.)


4. CoffeeScript At Once

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Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPod touch (third generation), iPod touch (fourth generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later.

CoffeeScript At Once bills itself as a “minimal web development environment,” and was originally meant for the iPhone, with goals including reducing the amount of typing you have to do.

Features:

  • Editing HTML, CSS, JavaScript (only one file per project)
  • Allows external libraries like jQuery
  • Custom keyboard for input symbols
  • Preview by internal browser
  • View generated html source
  • Downloading HTML, CSS, JavaScript and libraries
  • Can send email and post to Gist (Github).
Price: Free

5. Diet Coda

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Also see the company’s screen video demo

Compatible with iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 or later.

Diet Coda is based on Panic’s Coda web code editor for MacOS X. Its features include:

  • Remote-only editing: edit documents right on your server or staging server.
  • Syntax highlighting for HTML, CSS, JS, PHP (more promised)
  • FTP, SFTP
  • “Super-Loupe” to improve cursor positioning.
  • Find and replace including “wildcard” token
  • A contextual keyboard that changes which special characters show on the virtual keyboard.
  • Clips, let you “Insert chunks of code with a single tap.”

When using a Bluetooth keyboard, Diet Coda presents a row of special characters at the bottom of the screen. As the most expensive app in this round-up, Diet Coda ought to be among the best of the lot – if price bears any relationship to quality and features.

Price: $19.99


6. Edhita: Open source text editor for iPad

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Compatible with iPad. Requires iOS 3.2 or later.

Edhita is an open source text editor. Features include:

  • Create, rename directories and files
  • Download files via HTTP or FTP, upload via FTP
  • View files in built-in browser
  • Send files via email.

Edhita can pop up a row of special keyboard characters at the bottom of the screen. To enter FTP info and other configuration, you have to go to the Edhita entry in the iOS’ settings.

Price: Free

7. Editor for iPad

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Compatible with iPad. Requires iOS 3.2 or later.

Features include:

  • Syntax highlighting for HTML, CSS, JavaScript.
  • Preview webpages
  • 50+ text patterns for HTML, CSS3, and JavaScript are included.
  • Upload/downloads via WiFi connection with desktop computer. If you upload as zip files, selecting the zip file automatically extracts the files.
  • Syntax highlighting based on file suffix/extension
  • Allows file export to other apps, working with an FTP app, e.g., to FRP, or to Amazon S3 servers.

Thanks to its vanilla name (keyword-wise) combined with the App Store’s inexplicable, annoying, aggravating, not-ready-for-prime-time lack of an alphabetic sort on results, you may find it difficult-to-impossible to find this app. Fortunately, including the developer name in the search gets it in one: use “editor yboom” (tsk!).

Price: $3.99

8. For i: Code Editor for the iPad

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Compatible with iPad. Requires iOS 3.2 or later.

Features include:

  • Syntax highlighting for C, C#, Objective C, Java, HTML, PHP, Ruby, Python, SQL, and other languages
  • Built-in web server for transferring files
  • Virtual keyboard includes useful keys; also, shortcuts usable from Bluetooth keyboards
  • “Take snapshots of your files and revert back in any time.”

When using a Bluetooth keyboard, For i pops up a special-characters row of keys at the bottom of the display. I’m not seeing a lot of features. I found no way to change the font size, which is very small.

Price: $9.99


9. Gusto Code Editor and FTP Client

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Compatible with iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later.

Gusto offers both this $9.99 Code Editor and FTP Client, and the $4.99 Gusto Mobile, an integrated FTP/SFTP client and code editor for web development. It’s not clear what the differences are.

Oddly, in landscape mode, many of the pop-ups are often – but not consistently – in portrait orientation, even when my iPad was still in landscape. In portrait orientation, the reverse doesn’t seem to occur. Tsk.

Gusto lets you open multiple documents in tabs, an important feature given iOS’s “one-foreground-app-only” display.

Features include:

  • Project-driven workflow
  • Syntax highlighting for ActionScript, ASP, C, C++, C#, ColdFusion, CSS, HTML, Java, Javascript, JSP, LaTeX, Lisp, Objective-C, PDF, Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby, SGML, SQL, VB and XML.
  • Tabbed Editor
  • Line numbering
  • Hard and soft line breaks
  • Built-in File Transfer Client supports FTP, SFTP, FTPS, and Dropbox
  • Toolbar for frequently used keys
  • Built-in Local and Remote Site Previews

Price: $9.99


10. JsAnywhere (a.k.a. “JavaScript Anywhere”)

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Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later.

“JavaScript Anywhere” features allegedly include:

  • edit JavaScript, HTML, CSS.
  • open an HTML file, including its CSS and JS files, in a built-in Web browser.
  • Store by sending as attached email files.

I say “allegedly” because, while the iTunes entry shows working examples, and reviewer comments who are using it, I couldn’t get JsAnywhere to do anything beyond creating a New Project (giving it a name). Beyond that, nothing, other than continuing to show me a NetFlix banner ad towards the top. Perhaps you will have better luck. Otherwise, you’re not out any money, just the time you’ve spent trying it.

Price: Free


11. Koder Code Editor

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Also see the company’s YouTube video.

Compatible with iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 or later.

Features include:

  • Syntax highlighting for PHP, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, XML, Ruby, SQL, Python, ColdFusion, ActionScript3, Perl, Java, JavaFX, C#, C++, Delphi, Visual Basic, Diff, Erlang, Groovy, Powershell, Latex, Scala, and Shell
  • A snippet manager
  • Tabbed editing
  • Find and replace code
  • Previewer browser with Firebug support and a View Source function
  • (S)FTP Connection, FTPS/FTPES, Dropbox, iDisk, Local iPad folder
  • iTunes File Sharing Support

Price: $5.99


12. Markup for iPad

Dern_markupforiPad

Compatible with iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later.

Features include:

  • Automatically saves your work
  • Supports HTML special characters  “Preview” button for current page
  • Fixed-width font
  • UI persistence (“Come back to Markup and find it exactly as you left it”).
  • View image files including PNG, JPG, GIF PDFs, iWork and Office files.

Price: $9.99


13. Textastic Code Editor

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Compatible with iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 or later.

Textastic is a text, code and markup editor, offering syntax highlighting for over 80 programming and markup languages, and supporting FTP/SFTP and WedDAV (with a built-in WebDAV server), for transfers to and from your desktop-OS system, Dropbox, or iDisk account. Among its features:

  • Syntax highlighting for languages including HTML, XML, Objective-C, C++, PHP, Perl, Python, SQL, JavaScript, CSS, and shell
  • Code completion for HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP functions
  • FTP, FTPS (FTP over SSL), SFTP (SSH connection), WebDAV, MobileMe iDisk and Dropbox clients
  • Displays additional keys over the virtual keyboard to make it easy to type characters often used for programming
  • Cursor navigation wheel for easy text selection
  • Customizable font and font sizes
  • Undo/Redo, Find/Replace
  • Send files by email
  • Local and remote Web preview for HTML and Markdown files
  • Supports TextExpander touch snippet expansion
  • File import over USB via iTunes File Sharing; (S)FTP, WebDav, iDisk, Dropbox; “Open In” in other apps; Wi-Fi using built-in WebDAV server.

I can see why Textastic got lots of good reviews. It has a great first-screen, making it clear where to start, where too many of the other apps basically start with a blank screen.

Price: $9.99


14. Vim

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Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later.

Based on the Unix vi editor, VIM is “a modal text editor with features including syntax highlighting and split windows.” Because there is no Escape key on the iPad keyboard, you may have to fuss with some workarounds.

If you aren’t a vi user, the odds are you won’t care about VIM. If you are, this might make you feel better about there not being an iOS version of emacs. (There’s YMACS, an “emacs-like editor that works in your browser” – but how well that works on your iPad is an exercise I leave to you. And since it’s browser-based, that means no off-line editing.)

Price: Free

15. Web page developer (WPD)

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Compatible with iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later.

Web Page Developer “lets you open up to 10 pages at a time, from your server or locally.” The icon is “WPD,” but to find it in iTunes, you need to enter the full name.

Features include:

  • Local previewer
  • Split view
  • Code view
  • Line numbering
  • FTP client
  • Online referencing
  • inserts.

The reviews in iTunes are not encouraging, but for four bucks, you can afford to purchase a few frogs.

Price: $3.99

And Finally…

Here’s a few more things to keep in mind as you explore these apps.

Consider a Bluetooth keyboard. You can buy third-party keyboards that work with the iPad and other tablets and smartphones. Most of the keyboards connect wirelessly via Bluetooth; a few use the docking connector. As with anything else, they vary in quality. My current recommendation, having reviewed several back in December 2011, is the Logitech Keyboard Case by ZAGG for iPad 2.

The cloud is your friend… or not. iPad apps that access your remote computer via the Internet, or work with stuff in the cloud, may give you more of the features you need – but now you require connectivity,  and the connection’s latency may be an encumbrance. Plus, the iPad’s essential one-thing-at-a-time user interface may complicate access to desktop applications or cloud services.

If the 15 editors I list above don’t meet your editing needs, you might consider avoiding them altogether. Another option is to use a remote-desktop access app such as GoToMyPC, LogMeIn, or TeamViewer. They let you work with your regular desktop tools over the Internet.

Just as an out-of-office notebook can’t replicate the experience of using a desktop system with multiple monitors, stereo-quality speakers, and your office comfy chair, an iPad can’t replicate the mouse, multiple windows, and other features of a desktop-OS notebook.

But with a Bluetooth keyboard – which you may want for other reasons anyway – and little or no software investment, you may be able to use your iPad for code development and remote support. That may be enough to let you get work done without packing along a notebook.

 

Editor Price
Code To Go  $2.99
Code Monkey $1.99
Codosaurus $5.99
CoffeeScript Free
Diet Coda $19.99
Edhita  Free
Editor for iPad  $3.99
For i: Code Editor for iPad $9.99
Gusto $9.99
JsAnywhere Free
Koder Code Editor $5.99
Markup for iPad $9.99
Textastic Code Editor $9.99
Vim Free
Web Page Developer $3.99

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Comments

  1. Ajoy Bhatia says:

    Quote: 
    “Certainly, none of these are a full integrated development environment. (What do you expect for under twenty bucks? Or for free?)” 
     
    Certainly not a valid statement in the days of the likes of Eclipse and NetBeans available for free. Yes, I do expect a full IDE for free :)

  2. Code To Go and Code Monkey are two of my personal favourites.

  3. Yelena. Yet Another Code Editor. 
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/yelena/id569260830 
     
    Enjoy

  4. Offline coder – like JSFiddle for iPad. 
     
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/offline-coder/id548233375?mt=8

  5. Ajoy Bhatia says:

    @Ethan – I do not think that either Eclipse or NetBeans is available on the iPad. This article is about code editors for the iPad.

  6. Great list of the code editor for iPad apps. Why you not mention Eclipse and NetBeans which are available for free?

  7. Outstanding post. I appreciate it.

  8. I use GoodReader for my text editing (which includes writing raw HTML) with the ZAGGmate keyboard mentioned above.

  9. Great list of the code editor for iPad apps ! 
     
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  10. manojbajpay says:

    If you are consistent with your diet and exercise programs, weight loss will happen and you will be more likely to keep the weight off long term. Thanks a lot. med tech training fort lauderdale

  11. Interesting that fifteen different code editors available for iPad and not even a single one has SVN support (and only one offers git), basically meaning that no serious developer could ever hope to do work on them. Fine for hobby development, but useless for most paid coding. I appreciate the roundup, but holler when someone puts SVN support into one of these apps (or Eclipse gets ported to the iPad. ROFL).

  12. Keefygeorge says:

    @Donovan, 
    Why not set up your svn directory in a cloud location such as dropbox and work directly in a folder that syncs to your svn respository. It wont commit automatically but there is nothing to stop you using a Remote Desktop on the ipad for commiting your work from your desktop.  
     
    In fact I actually use my notepad++ remotely on my ipad. Connections can be a little slow sometimes but it does let you work on the move.  
     
    I consider my ipad a mobile development tool.. I either work in an ipad development app and sync to my svn directory through dropbox. then when I get home all I have to do is commit from my desktop if I havne not already done it remotely

  13. Great list of the code editor for iPad apps ! Pyrameed est une agence de Création de site basée à Genève  

  14. MichaelFreidgeim says:

    Most of images are broken (I am using ipad Safari)

    • Baustin213 says:

      Sorry for the inconvenience Michael. We just migrated to a new platform and are still cleaning up some of the residual issues that came from that. Thanks for pointing out this post in particular. I’ll make sure to get it cleaned up as soon as we can.

  15. I will recommend “iLearning D3″, although it’s main is “interactive learning”, but during you are learning D3 (which is a very good js library), you can coding and even run js in console. Similar with debug tool in chrome.

  16. You can also try “iLeanring D3 js”, it is a interactive html/js/css code editor, with a complete tutorial of D3.js.

  17. Stephen Dolphin says:

    We’ve written FTPedit which is a lightweight but very nice http://twentythreedegrees.co.uk/ftpedit-v2-now-available/

  18. Inama Eseegep says:

    I have heard of a code writer called codea

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  1. […] search “free iPad HTML editor” I stumbled upon SmartBear’s blog post titled 15 Code editors for the iPad – for free or very cheap. Within this article various different types of editors are reviewed and it allowed me to trial a […]

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