5 best online front-end web development playgrounds and communities to test code snippets on-the-fly

As much as I love offline web development editors and IDEs, I hate the inconveniences which come with having to edit code, then open a browser to test changes. Even when a browser tab with the test file is open, you constantly have to jump from editor to browser and refresh the tab before any changes will show in the output. I have the preference of working on sites where the output is shown in real-time.

As soon as the code is written, the test-ready output is delivered within seconds. Conveniently, editable code and testable output are shown side-by-side. Another joy of these online playgrounds is the huge community of web designers and developers publishing code snippets for the world to take a look at.

1. Codepen

CodePen is one of the largest communities for web designers and developers where users can test and showcase user-created HTML, CSS and JavaScript code snippets. It functions as an online code editor and open-source learning environment, where developers can create code snippets, named “pens”, and test them. Codepen’s editors come with some common functionality like normal ones, with respect to code indentation and colorful syntax highlighting. It also supports a huge array of preprocessors for HTML, CSS, and JS, including but not limited to, Pug, Slim, SCSS, TypeScript. The collaboration mode is also very helpful. You never have to lose your work, because it is automatically saved, and you can resume whenever you please. With similarities close to Github, feel free to fork and edit other user’s code as you wish.

2. JSfiddle

JSFiddle is a vibrant online community for testing and showcasing user-created and collaboration HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code snippets, most appropriately known as ‘fiddles’. It allows for simulated AJAX calls. Just like with Codepen, the clean interface puts the code and the result side by side, and results are applied immediately after clicking the run button. It features support for SCSS, as well as JavaScript libraries such as TypeScript, CoffeeScript, Vue and React. It keeps on improving, and recently rolled out a code hinting feature which will suggest some common CSS property and value names, same for JavaScript. Collaboration with other developers supported too.

3. Plunker

Plunker is the best tool to prototype, experiment, share and debug your ideas on the web platform. From idea to implementation, Plunker helps you build something quickly and frictionlessly. It’s multi-file, the multi-pane editor gives you a full file tree where you can drag and drop your files, images and even animated gifs right into the workbench and rearrange or resize your panes as you wish. When it takes a fraction of a second to see the outcome of a change, you can get things done. Fix bugs and tweak the styles easily. What you see on Plunker’s real-time previews is what you would get if your code was served directly from a CDN.

With Plunker, you never lose your work. Not when it keeps track of your most recent work and keep a copy of all of your unsaved code. Every project on Plunker is indexed and searchable, so you can search and find whatever you need, whenever you need it. At your heart’s content, you can fork other users’ ‘plunks’ and use them as a template for your project. Plunker’s console is impressive and provides a huge help in the debugging process.

4. JSBin

JS Bin is a free online HTML, CSS, and Javascript editor. It has a live output so you may see what you are doing. Some of its features include; live to reload both in editor and in full preview, codecasting, which involves recording your coding session, and casting it out to any number of participants, generally in real-time.  There is the presence of a console and a full rendered view. In addition, JSBin has support for HTML, CSS and JS preprocessors like Markdown, Stylus, Sass, SCSS, Less, Coffeescript, TypeScript and the React Library. Users can simply drag & drop files and clone projects as they please.

5. Codeply

Codeply is a web-based HTML/CSS/JavaScript editor that’s integrated with top frameworks. Codeply makes responsive web design and frontend development easier by enabling you to leverage the responsive framework of your choice, with options such as Bootstrap, Foundation, Materialize, UIkit and Skeleton. Save yourself the stress of rummaging through documentations, or searching for code examples. You now pick layouts, snippets and elements right from the editor. This unique feature makes it possible to quickly learn, prototype and build responsively using the framework of your choice


Programmer. Writer. Avid reader. Scientist. Introvert. Wannabe-entrepreneur. Food l❤ver.


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    Nice little article. All this was new and interesting to me. Thank you!

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