AEA Survey Results: Development Tools of the Trade

When we polled you about what you're up to these days and how you get the job done, we asked designers about design tools, and developers about development tools. The results were enlightening, and a little surprising. Let's dig a little deeper into the development tools results.

Common Versus Popular

From the results of our multiple-choice question, Which coding tools do you use most frequently?, it looked like the runaway favorite was GitHub.

Table 1. Frequently used development tools



Sublime Text








But we followed that question up with a second question, this one open-ended: Of all the coding tools you use, which one is most essential to you? Because it was an open text field, we had to take a few liberties with interpreting the answers, but the results still have a clearly different shape.

Table 2. Essential development tools

Sublime Text




Visual Studio Code


Chrome Dev Tools




The clear winner, as you can see, was Sublime Text, which was almost twice as popular as the second-place finisher. We asked a few respondents why it was their favorite.

“A good selection of plugins, extensions, and visual themes,” said Scott Gruber, who also cited its customizability. “With each trick and with every customization Sublime Text became more indispensable.” He cited Josh Earl's work-in-progress Sublime Productivity for helping him get up to speed.

Albert Johansson concurred with Scott's points on customization, saying that of other tools he'd tried, they “lacked the extension structure that Sublime has.” Sublime's friendliness to keyboard-centric use also won him over. “I love the simplicity in the keyboard shortcuts.”

When we asked both what their second-favorite tool was, they named a few things, but the one tool in common? Git or GitHub. As we've observed before, Git seems to be like the water in which the fish swim: indispensable to most, but so invisible that it's rarely thought of at all, let alone as a favorite.

We asked Jeffrey Isham about his favorite coding tool, our second-place winner, Atom. He'd tried Sublime, but settled on Atom for its stability and customization options, which he found as good as Sublime. He also said:

Without any customization, the time from clicking download to doing work is quick, which is good when using multiple computers. I recently started a new job, and this was by far the easiest of my tools to get up and running with.


As for the other question we asked, developers' responses were pretty much in line with the overall set of responses. Developers indicated they were slightly more likely to use MacOS or Linux than the overall population, and correspondingly less likely to use Windows, but not by a sizable margin in any of those cases.

Table 3. OS usage

Mac OS






It was when we asked If you had to pick just one communication channel for work, what would it be? that the biggest differences showed up. Preferences for Slack, email, and Skype were essentially the same as for the wider population of respondents; but beyond those three, GitHub and JIRA appeared in the top five. Neither did so for the overall population.

Table 4. Essential communication tools











The other interesting tidbit here was that, unlike with the overall population, “Other” didn't appear in the top five (or even the top ten). We take this to mean that developers are very picky (no surprise there!) and that the web development toolset, while broad and deep, is also becoming fairly stable—a good sign for the maturation of our medium.

That's it for our brief survey of your favorite developer tools. We'll be back soon with a look at the design tools you love most (and why). No spoilers, but here's a sneak peek: one of these tools is surprisingly old. That's all we can say until next time.