50 Incredible Dev Tools 2020
We have sourced the web for the 50 hottest scripts, plugins and other awesome tools to assist and delight front-end web developers.
Whatever your toolset looks like, it’s always beneficial to take a peek of what’s out there and what’s new in front-end tooling. To that end, let’s roll out 50 of the most interesting and practical tools for you to consider for 2020. Most of these are pretty new, having been released at some over the last year, while a few have been around for a little longer and have only started to gain traction during the last 12 months.
Whatever the case, you’ll most definitely find something in this list you can use in a project soon!
A small library to add auto-complete functionally to a form field. Offers loose and strict search modes, customisable minimum number of characters before offering suggestions, optional callback functions and more.
An elegant, responsive virtual keyboard component that offers ready-to-use demos of both mobile – and desktop-style keyboards. The demo keyboards are gorgeous but you can also style one easily to suit your brand.
Parallax shouldn’t be used heavily but a simple dependency-free solution like this one is a good option. This has good performance and an easy-to-use API for starting the ability to chain .when() methods for queuing actions.
A super-fast internationalisation library with an extensive API. One example customisation it offers is the ability to deal with a language that has multiple pluralisation rules.
Make any element on the page draggable, resizable, scalable, rotatable or even warpable (like the perspective tool in graphics editor). You can also enable grouping and snap-to-guides functionality.
Trigger an action on a specified element by means of a shortcut, combination of keys or sequence of keys pressed by the user. The documentation has suggestion to ensure good accessibility.
Add play/pause functionality to animated GIFs on a page. Trigger play/pause via hover, click, touch event or by an external element that serves as a play/pause button.
Add a scrollable ‘mini map’ to long web pages similar to what you find in the Sublime Text code editor. It’s arguable whether this is more usable than a scrollbar, but you could implement this scrollbar disabled for a native feel.
CSS & HTML Tools
1. Project Wallace
This is a CSS analysis tool with a dashboard that lets you track the complexity of your code, including the number of lines of code, amount of selectors, quantity of declarations, specificity, use of !important, performance bottlenecks and more.
An unobtrusive CSS debugging tool that works as an outline to one or more elements. Include the script, then hold the CTRL key to outline an element or CTRL-SHIFT to outline all.
3. Animated CSS Burgers
A small library of animated mobile hamburger menus that should satisfy your needs should you require a slightly different menu style in each project.
Yet another useful and unique set of plug-and-play CSS animation and effects. This one includes a wide variety of effects – some require more than a single HTML element but they’re easy to add to a project.
6. CSS Grid Generator
For anyone first getting into the CSS Grid standard, having a visual helper will be a huge boost. This generator is a great way to learn the features and create practical grid code for all your layouts.
There seems to be a dark mode craze lately. This project lets you add a dark mode to pages, utilising CSS’s mx-blend-mode property to handle the dark/light modes.
Testing & Data Tools
1. ARC Toolkit
Chrome extension by the Paciello Group that integrates with DevTools to provide extensive accessibility testing as part of your development and testing workflow.
2. Clarity Dashboard
A user-testing platform from Microsoft. Add a script to your page then replay user sessions to see how users interact with your site or app.
3. GraphQL Editor
This is a useful online editor that enables you to speed up the creation of GraphQL schemas. GraphQL is a popular new technology that serves as a more efficient alternative to using REST.
Free JSON storage that offers users the ability to store, read and modify JSON data over HTTP APIs using various commands such as GET, POST, PUT and DELETE.
5. Accessibility Insights
A Chrome extension Edge add-on or native Windows app to run accessibility testing. You can do a quick test for the most common problem or show visual overlays on a page examine colour contrast, ARIA landmarks and more.
This one is part of Google’s new development hub, providing a one-stop online tool to test your content for vital concerns such as performance, accessibility, best practices and SEO.
A collection of simple customisable animated icons that you can plug into projects on mobile or web, offering a React version and the ability to edit the pre-made animations either in Lottie or Adobe Affect Effects.
3. Strikefree Music
A growing library of audio clips you can use in things like videos and podcasts without fear of being penalised for copyright violations. You can optionally create your own custom beats or randomly select one that’s already been created.
A neat online tool to build shareable data in chart format. Just a plug in the numbers for the x and y axes and this app will generate a bar chart downloadable as PNG or shareable via URL.
An image optimisation service and CDN for WordPress. Includes features for servicing device appropriate images with lossy or lossless compression, optional lazy loading and lots more.
A collection of HD videos and illustrations, filterable by categories and free to use anywhere in commercial and non-commercial projects, without attribution.
Libraries and Frameworks
1. A non-opinionated and feature-rich toolkit for building static sites. Offers automated builds, a local dev server, production-level optimisations (such as code minification and image processing) and has support for a number of modern front-end technologies (Saas, ES6, etc).
2. Base Web
A React-based UI framework with a vast suite of components that range from complex functionally like a payment card component (ie input mask for different credit card types) to low-level features such as FlexGrid and Layer for composing your layouts.
A Vue-based UI library with components to help build single-page applications, progressive web apps, hybrid mobile apps and desktop apps with no unnecessary bloat.
Today, developers are doing everything possible to shave bytes off their production builds. One way this is done is by means of tools that clean unused CSS, like DropCSS, featured in the main list of this blog. DropCSS is one of the newest of such tools. One of the problems with these tools is that they almost never perfect and require caution before using – especially on dynamic websites and apps. Chris Coyier wrote about this on CSS-Tricks. For example, a tool like this might incorrectly remove the styles for a dynamically generated modal window that only appears when the user clicks something.
One way to resolve this problem is by using a CSS-in-JS solution or any tool that incorporates styling at the component level. This way ensures there is no possibility of any unused CSS since all styles are part of a component. Another key point to mention here is that unused CSS should be near the bottom of your performance to-do list. Image optimisation, too many HTTP requests, lack of caching and so forth should all be handled long before you consider automating removal of unused CSS. And let’s not forget that unused CSS is only a problem on first load when resources aren’t cached.
Nonetheless, I consider this a decent micro-optimisation that can help the performance of your site, even if only a small amount. With performance, every little bit counts but make sure you complete the big wins first!
1. React Simple Img
A lazy-loading image solution for React projects that uses the IntersectionObserver API and the new Priority Hints standard for an elegant image-loading solution.
2. React Animation
An easy-to-use animation library for React that lets you easily add unique pre-built animated effects to page elements based on content changes and loading or enables you to build your own.
3. React Redux Loading Bar
A progressive animated loading indicator bar for React projects, with the ability to add multiple loading bars on a single page that indicate different items loading independently of each other.
A set of responsive React components to magnify and zoom in to high-res images on mobile or desktop similar to the zoom feature available on shopping sites like Amazon, which enables you to drag while zooming to examine specific parts of an image.
React component to convert any HTML form input into formatted input. For example, if a user types something in lower case, you can force upper case (or just about any preferred format) as they type.
Workflow and more
1. Remote Development
An extension pack for Visual Studio Code that enables you to use VScode’s full set of features remotely by SHHing into any folder in a container, remote machine or Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL for short)
This lets you edit CSS Properties in a sidebar in VSCodes. Will display CSS from different sources including CSS-in-JS libraries, .scss files <style> blocks in the HTML and styles tied to library components (Angular, Svelte, Vue0.
A tool that tracks and analyses your webpack bundle on every commit. Helps to avoid oversized assets, npm packages overuse and redundant content to ensure better overall app performance.
Google’s UI development toolkit for creating natively compiled apps for web, desktop and mobile. Produces an app for all platforms from a single codebase, offering flexibly UI to boot.
A multi-featured toolset that includes npm stats, package search a CDN and Pika Web. The latter lets you add dependencies to a project directly in the browser without webpack, Broswerify, etc.
A lightweight, ad-free, privacy focused commenting system you can embed in your web pages, usable via their cloud service or self-hosted. Includes Akismet spam detection, sticky comment, voting, Markdown support and more.
A build task library with an easy-to-use API to compose chained, parallel or nested tasks during your build process.
9. Git History
Easily browse any file’s history on GitHub, GitLab or Bitbucket. Just select a file URL then replace github.com with github.githistory.xyz and an animated, visual history of the files will display.
10. Sublime Merge
A fast, search-friendly Git client (Mac, Winodws, Linux) from the makers of Sublime Text. Offers syntax highlighting, integrated merge tools, side-by-side diffs and more.
The front-end tools landscape is huge and changing constantly, so I hope this collection of libraries, scripts, modules and workflow helpers inspires you to check out some of the stuff available.
Good luck and build something awesome!