How I Develop Websites Without an Internet Connection

Let’s start this off right: I am a hack. An amateur. A hobby web developer who occasionally gets talked into building websites for other people. That being said, I spend an inordinate amount of time designing and developing sites of my own and a few client projects, and if I’m going to spend time doing something, I will try my best to work smarter, not harder. 

Being dependent on an internet connection to do development work forces me to work when said connection is available, not when I want to work. During a stint of traveling a few months back, I started researching local development options and the process has been so beneficial to my workflow. Here’s how I do development without an internet connection:

1. I use TextMate ($55) for code editing. Use whatever you’re comfortable with here, but I’ve grown to love TextMate for its flexibility, user interface and integration with my ftp client of choice, Transmit ($30).

2. MAMP (free) is an app that installs Apache, PHP and MySQL as a local server environment on your computer. I point MAMP to a document root at /Users/~/sites and keep my files for each project in separate folders there. A browser sees whatever is in that document root as http://localhost:8888/ by default. MAMP also allows of full installs of WordPress and ExpressionEngine without the need for setting up hosted databases, so I have the freedom to develop fully-functional, content-heavy sites locally.

3. Fluid (free) creates site-specific browsers for any URL. Each Fluid app is treated like a unique application. I create a Fluid app for each project with the URL structure of http://localhost:8888/projectname/ (which is pointing to /Users/~/sites/projectname in the Finder.) I like being able to focus on one project at a time and keep it quarantined off from the rest of my recreational web browsing.

4. But what about everyone’s favorite browser Internet Explorer? Using a combo of Darwine and ie4osx (both free), I can run IE6 and IE7 beta as an X11 app on my Mac. I have Parallels ($80), too, but I typically don’t need to boot a full Windows install just to see what IE is doing with a website. ie4osx is awesome in its simplicity.

It’s a work in progress, and I’m certainly still learning, but separating my development from the internet-connected browser has set me free to make websites whenever I want to. Web dev is now no different than sketching or playing in Photoshop or writing an article. And it’s possible thanks to mostly free technology.