Vitaly Friedman March 16th, 2010

100 Essential Web Development Tools

By Neil Skirrow As web technologies constantly advance, the skills a developer is expected to have are constantly increasing. Web users are beginning to expect Ajax interfaces, charts and graphs and a whole host of other tricks and features. This means web developers not only have to be skilled with HTML and a server-side programming language such as PHP or Perl, but they now also need to be JavaScript gurus, Flash experts, and skilled graphic designers. When developing your applications, you simply can't create every element yourself. A graph or mapping solution is an application in itself, so no single developer or small team can create such components while continuing development of the primary application. This means programmers have to use third-party solutions — and thankfully there are thousands of such solutions to make our lives as developers that little bit easier. In an effort to save you a few hours crawling the web in search of the perfect third-party solution, we have compiled this list of essential development resources.

1. Functions and Classes

You can find a whole array of pre-made classes and functions to help save development time. A great resource directory for finding the perfect PHP classes is For those of you who use Perl, you should be familiar with CPAN.


CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing to tell Computers and Humans Apart) is the term used to describe the use of images which humans can identify, in order to ensure an automated bot/computer program isn't accessing your application. The ideal use for this is in contact forms to ensure only humans can send messages — therefore eliminating automated spam and junk messages. The following CAPTCHA systems can be easily integrated with your applications:
    • reCAPTCHA One of the most popular CAPTCHA systems that helps to digitize books, newspapers and old time radio shows by using CAPTCHA inputs to help translate. There is also a Perl module available for reCAPTCHA.

    • Securimage Securimage is a free open-source PHP CAPTCHA script for generating complex images and CAPTCHA codes.

  • freeCap A GPL CAPTCHA script to stop spam.
  • HN CAPTCHA A CAPTCHA script written in PHP, licensed under LGPL.

Date Manipulation

Manipulating dates in your applications can be a time-consuming process. PHP and Perl include numerous functions for automating the process, but often don't offer all the required functions. The following date manipulation functions can be easily integrated with your applications:
  • PEAR Date Generic PHP classes for representation and manipulation of dates, times, and time zones without the need for timestamps.
  • Date Class This PHP class allows you to add or subtract periods from dates, and calculate the difference between two dates.
  • Date manipulation in PHP A PHP tutorial on, guiding you through a number of common date manipulation processes.
  • Date::Calc Perl Module A powerful Perl module for date calculations based on the Gregorian calendar.

Image Manipulation

Manipulating images is a common requirement. Whether you want to resize your images while maintaining aspect ratios, or add watermarks, the process can be entirely automated using a server-side language like PHP or Perl.

Form Validation

Form validation is critical to ensure users enter form information in a suitable format, and is especially important to protect your application against attacks.

Password Validation

Password validation is important to ensure your users choose passwords that offer an adequate level of security to prevent their accounts from being compromised.
    • Strength Test A useful PHP function for password strength testing.

2. Ajax and JavaScript

Ajax is a web methodology that uses JavaScript to make HTTP connections to retrieve and process data for the purpose of dynamically updating the content of a static web page. Ajax enables you to update content within a web page without reloading the entire page, thus reducing load times and server loads, making your web pages more interactive and intuitive. A great resource for Ajax tools is MiniAjax.

Auto Suggest

Auto suggest or autocomplete tools are usually applied to text inputs like search fields. When a user begins their input, the input field shows a list of options that match what they have entered so far. This enables users to enter their input more quickly, and can also help them enter terms that match search data that are more likely to return relevant results.


Ajax calendars are extremely useful when you need your users to enter a date. They reduce confusion over date formats, and enable users to easily find the date they are looking for rather than typing a date format string.

  • AJAX Calendar with PHP and MySQL An open source Ajax calendar tool.
  • Super AJAX Calendar A PHP and mySQL Ajax calendar.
  • dhtmlxScheduler A powerful events calendar and scheduler.


Ajax sliders enable users to use an interactive draggable element to select values. These are very useful for features like colour pickers as they enable users to 'slide' through a range of colours to select the one they want.
    • Accessible Slider A well-coded and nicely-designed slider tool that features range sliders.

Data Grids

Ajax data grids enable you to display data in a table, but with the benefit of features like column sorting and pages without the need to reload the entire page.
    • Grid3 A useful data grid tool which is part of the Ext JS library.

    • dhtmlxGrid A powerful data grid tool that includes column sorting and search functionality.

  • Unobtrusive Table Sort Script A data grid tool that includes multiple column sorting.
  • AJAX Data Listings Engine A powerful open source PHP data grid tool for use with mySQL.
  • TableKit A data grid tool based on the Prototype JavaScript framework that features field editing.

Draggable Content

Ajax-based draggable content features can be very useful when used appropriately. Such tools enable users to reorganize a page to suit their needs, and can also serve as a basis for an interactive feature like a shopping basket.
    • Draggable Content Scripts provides numerous draggable content scripts, including an image cropping tool and a sortable list script.

    • DragResize A great tool for draggable content with resize functionality.

  • Drag & Drop Sortable Lists A simple tool for creating sortable lists.
  • Scriptaculous Draggable A powerful draggable content tool which is part of the framework.

Image Enlarging

Image enlarging scripts, similar to JavaScript light boxes, enable the user to enlarge or zoom in on an image chosen from a set of thumbnail images.
    • Highslide JS A great tool for managing image enlarging and modal windows.

    • FancyZoom A useful JavaScript image zoom tool.

Galleries and Slideshows

Image galleries are very useful when you have a collection of images to show, they allow users to easily browse your images, and features like slideshows allow users to sit back and enjoy watching your images.

Star Ratings

Star rating scripts allow users to rate items through an intuitive and attractive interface, which is an improvement over typical drop-down menus or radio buttons.
    • Starbox A flexible star rating system using Prototype.

Colour Pickers

If you want to let users choose colours in your application, it's better to present them with an interface rather than asking them to enter a HEX code. Colour pickers allow users to choose colours from a colour palette which then generates a HEX code for use in your HTML.
    • jscolor A simple pop-up colour picker.

Progress Bars

Progress bars are very useful when handling user uploads or pages which can be slow to load; they keep the user informed that progress is being made and that the page is loading.

3. APIs

An API (Application Programming Interface) is a set of program functions which can be accessed by another application. One example is a currency conversion API that retrieves currency conversion data by allowing the user to enter a base currency, an amount, and the desired result currency, which returns a result via the API.
  • Alexa Top Sites This API provides access to lists of web sites ordered by Alexa Traffic Rank.
  • API A useful API for the URL shortening service.
  • Blinksale API Enables you to access Blinksale data such as invoices and customer data.
  • FoXRate A basic currency conversion API.
  • eBay API eBay's API which allows you to submit items to be listed and obtain listing data.
  • Twitter API The Twitter API allows you to have access to Twitter data, including user and status information.

4. IP Locations

Finding out where your visitors are located can be valuable from a development standpoint. It can help you understand your visitors so you can design your site to better suit their needs. IP location information can help you determine where a user is located, enabling you to display content in the their language. You can also optionally customize other information such as currencies and shipping costs.
    • OpenCrypt IP Location API A hosted API service for determining user location by country.

  • IP Details A PHP class for determining geographical locations based on IP address.
  • GEO-IP A free IP to country database.

5. Charts and Graphs

Charts and graphs enable you to display complex data visually. This is useful for example when trying to determine information like daily pageview counts from detailed statistical logs, enabling the user to immediately see how the data varies over a period of time.
    • amCharts A powerful Flash charts tool which supports 3D charts and the ability to combine different graphs.

  • XML/SWF Charts A highly customizable Flash charts tool.
  • JFreeChart A free Java-based charting tool.
  • pChart A powerful PHP class for building attractive charts.

6. Maps

Once you are using IP location tools like those listed above, you will have a collection of user location data. What better way to display it than with an interactive map. Interactive maps are also useful for understanding user location data such as sales information, for example, when you receive delivery and billing address info from a user.
    • amMap An interactive mapping tool which includes drill-down functionality.

  • Flashmaps A great collection of different Flash mapping tools.

7. Audio Players

When used well, playing audio on your web site can be a great way of setting a mood or getting a message across.

  • TSPlayer A Flash-based skinnable MP3 audio player.
  • E-Phonic MP3 Player A lightweight skinnable MP3 audio player with real-time visualization effects.

8. Video Players

Video content is now becoming a standard, but getting the right video player is very important. Video content is the ideal, and often expected tool for promotion, so getting a player which suits your site and needs is now a critical design and development choice.
    • OS FLV An open source and well featured Flash video player.

    • Flowplayer A full-featured and highly customizable Flash video player.

9. Video Conversion

Video conversion/encoding can be a tricky business. Videos can be in a wide range of formats but most players only support a handful of those. If you don't have a server which supports ffmpeg, converting videos to a format suitable for your player is usually an offline and manual task.
  • OpenCrypt Video Conversion API A powerful video conversion API for generating FLV video files.
  • Online FLV Converter An online FLV video converter.
  • FlashVideo Module API A Flash video encoding API targeted to the Drupal community.

10. WYSIWYG Editors

WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors enable you to offer an HTML editor when users enter information, for example, in content management systems, or for entering comments or reviews. These editors enable users to style and format data without the need to understand HTML.
    • TinyMCE A lightweight yet powerful JavaScript WYSIWYG editor.

    • XINHA A fully featured and open source WYSIWYG editor.

  • NicEdit A simple and lightweight WYSIWYG editor.
  • openWYSIWYG An open source, cross-browser WYSIWYG editor.
  • CKEditor A well designed and feature-rich WYSIWYG editor.

About the author

Neil Skirrow is a professional web developer with over 14 years programming experience and is the Managing Director of ionix Limited, a UK software development company that develops the OpenCrypt Membership Software. (ll)


  1. Lots of neat tools though. Not all essential, obviously, but neat nonetheless. Notice how many of them are ajax. There’s a web 2.0 technology that not’s going anywhere soon.

  2. These are hardly what I would define as essential web development tools.

    Surely the only essential development tools are

    1) A text editor
    2) A webserver

    and maybe 3) image editing software.

    Anything else is just a nice extra

    1. Maybe they’re not “essential” but you sure wouldn’t want to take the time building all of these things yourself. Great roundup, thanks!

  3. Great list of resources for web developers. Each in that list should be implemented into a highly dynamic and interactive website.

  4. Good list, actually a few items will be defo useful to me. Surprised not to see more jquery examples though.

    I’d love to see best practices for setting up testing servers as well. Trying to figure out how to do it the smoothest way from a production standpoint.

  5. how can there be 100 essential web dev tools? I think we need to reevaluate our use of the word “Essential”…

    1. I doubt that “WE” are the ones in need of a dictionary.
      Some of these don’t even fit in a category of “things you should consider”, like the Captchas for example. There are waaaaaaay too many reasons Captchas suck donkey schnitzel that we should try to avoid them as much as possible, not recommend them.

  6. Great post, I enjoyed this! Any thoughts anyone on tools for the C# (ASP.NET) developer? I see a lot of designers using PHP and I use a Mac @ home but an trying to force myself to use Microsoft ASP.NET since that is what I use @ the office.

  7. “This means web developers not only have to be skilled with HTML and a server-side programming language such as PHP or Perl, but they now also need to be JavaScript gurus, Flash experts, and skilled graphic designers.”

    WRONG! Design should be left to designers. Just like back in the 90’s all too often developers think they can be designers, too. It all ends up badly.
    Some developers have a decent sense of what looks nice compared to what does not. But most just think code and numbers. Just as developers cringe when they see designers building a site in Dreamweaver’s WYSIWYG editor, designer’s too cringe at seeing developers trying to strut their stuff on the look and feel of a site.

  8. This the proof of google trend result, it explain that designing is more than developing. Most developer now customizing to develop a project.

  9. this is the best web development article I’ve read for long time, and this is the first time i comment on this website because this is must-read article for every web designer or developer.
    good work Neil Skirro; and thank you.

  10. Great Article!

    If I could write like this I would be well chuffed ;-)

    The more I read articles of such quality as this (which is rare), the more I think there might be a future for the Web. Keep it up, as it were.

  11. Wow! Excellent List. Most of the tools are very helpful and useful for our daily use. Thanks a lot for sharing!

  12. As someone mentioned earlier, I was surprised not to see more JQuery examples mentioned… which in some cases are easier and less complex than the examples you provided.

  13. Nice list! and good organization.

    If you are a designer and need to learn more about common user interface controls, we
    published a list of 43 Essential Controls in March this year, an update of the popular 30 Essential Controls article in 2009. Just Google the term ‘essential controls’.

    Both lists talk about the (+20) most popular RIA frameworks and libraries, like JQuery, ExtJs, Flex, Laszlo, Silverlight… and which ones provide which UI controls.

  14. Hello..
    many thanks this nice Colection..
    please can i have details about html comment system
    how to make comment system for my web site…
    thank you !!

  15. Great list of resources, thank you.

    For 6. Maps, I would like to suggest adding Similar to Ammap, it provides a web-based software tool which allows easy publishing of maps without any editing skills. I found it very easy to use, and can work with any HTML based, or CMS sites such as WordPress or Joomla.

  16. Thanks for the informative article. I am making use of the grids. I was actually expecting the article to be about things like text editors and image editors. I currently use NetBeans IDE, since it is free and has good intellisense for PHP–but it is a memory hog. Someone was asking for testing setups–here’s a good article to read:

  17. That is to be expected in a long-term, high-risk project like ours. So, we turned to the blogging community for help – and got it! We have published our problems

  18. Thanks for all the great comments!

    I must stress, I submitted the article to Noupe with the title ‘100 Web Development Tools’ and at my horror, it was published with ‘Essential’ added…

  19. Great list!
    Also checkout SharpKit, C# to JavaScript converter during compilation. Makes client-side code development much easier! :-)

  20. this web site is good ,it gives the total development tools
    but we also want some basic tools for the development….


  21. offers a great free tool for integrating Google Maps onto a website. It pops up a facebook-like window with the map and driving directions. Pretty useful

  22. The way the technology is changing it has become necessary for each to become multi talented as now it is necessary for all those web developers to learn atleast base of designing and even some cases of Graphics design.

  23. It’s a very nice tutorial, I really enjoyed reading it. I want to share it on twitter, but unable to find share button. Please install one.

  24. Thanks for this post. It has a lot of good information and great links to examples and tutorials!…………..

  25. quite good features,Prof Neil.
    You however never mentioned anything on mobile applications
    Abila James

  26. This is a great collection of tools for web developers.
    I’ve used an online application called Mut8 which is pretty nice. It lets my clients edit their sites without my help. All I have to do is add a css class to my design and off they go.

    Here is the link:

  27. Thanks for the informative set of tools…Its very helpful for webdevelopers in order to make web development more efficient

  28. Great list! Here’s a product which I found is particular useful for testing purposes:
    For reporting bugs or layout issues, I use usersnap: – you get a feedback button which creates screenshots which can be annotated.

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