A variety of front-end code playgrounds have appeared over the years. The majority offer a quick and dirty way to experiment with client-side code and share with others. In this article, we take a quick look at seven of the best.
Typical features of these online playgrounds include:
- a preview window — many update on the fly without a refresh
- HTML pre-processors such as HAML
- LESS, SASS and Stylus CSS pre-processing
- developer consoles and code validation tools
- sharing via a short URL
- embedding demonstrations in other pages
- code forking
- zero cost (or payment for premium services only)
- showing off your coding skills to the world!
The best feature: they allow you to test and keep experimental front-end code snippets without the rigmarole of creating files, firing up your IDE or setting up a local server.
The prize for the best-looking feature-packed playground goes to CodePen. The service, co-founded by Chris Coyier, highlights popular demonstrations (“Pens”) and Projects, which is an online Integrated Development Environment you can use to build and deploy web projects, a feature added in March 2017. It offers advanced functionality such as sharing and embedding of Pens, adding external JS and CSS libraries, popular preprocessors, and tons more. The PRO service provides cross-browser testing, pair-programming and teaching options starting from just $9 per month.
Plunker lets you add multiple files, including community generated templates, to kick-start your project. Just like CodePen, with Plunker you can create working demos, also in collaboration with other devs, and share your work. Plunker’s source code is free and lives on its GitHub repository.
You can also add external libraries such as jQuery, AndgularJS, Bootstrap etc. quite easily in your workspace. Furthermore, Liveweave offers a ruler to help you code responsive designs and a “Team Up” feature which has the same features as JSFiddle’s collaborative editing.
There are, of course other options out there. Did we miss your favorite? Tell us about it!
We haven’t talked here about online code playgrounds that will let you share back-end code too, such as CodeSandbox. For more on those, head over to James Hibbard’s round-up of online back-end code playgrounds for more information.
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.