Learning to code and build websites is one of the most valuable skills you can master today. But as a beginner, all the new languages, frameworks, and tools can seem incredibly overwhelming at first.
Trust me, I‘ve been there! When I first started out as an aspiring web developer years ago, I was lost in a sea of confusion. But then I discovered code playgrounds. These online coding environments were total game-changers for how I learned and experimented with web development.
Now as an experienced web dev, I want to share my top playground recommendations with you. In this post, we‘ll explore what makes playgrounds so useful and review 8 excellent options to try. Let‘s dive in!
What Are Code Playgrounds and Why Are They Useful?
A code playground lets you write, run, and test code in your browser without installing anything locally. You get a quick feedback loop to see how code changes impact the output. Mistakes become learning opportunities instead of catastrophes.
Playgrounds remove a ton of friction from the learning process. There‘s no complicated setup or risk to your machine. You can tinker worry-free as you wrap your head around how web languages and frameworks function.
These hands-on sandbox environments accelerate learning through experimentation. You gain confidence cementing concepts from courses by applying them yourself. Iterating quickly helps improve understanding.
Playgrounds also facilitate sharing and collaboration. You can access code written by others for learning or work together on projects in real-time.
For anyone new to web development, playgrounds provide a safe space to get started. You can gain exposure before committing to complex local setups.
Now let‘s explore some top-notch playgrounds to boost your skills!
1. CodePen – A Social Playground for Frontend Experiments
With over 30 million registered developers, CodePen is one of the largest and most popular online code playgrounds. It brings together coding, community, and sharing.
While the editor works great for small experiments, CodePen really shines as an active social community. Users have published millions of Pens showcasing impressive front-end work and creative demos.
You can browse Pens for inspiration or fork examples to experiment with the code yourself. Copying working code from others then tweaking it is a great way to learn. You can publish your own Pens when you create something cool to share back with the community.
With a welcoming community and great editor, CodePen is my top pick for diving into front-end code as a beginner.
- Friendly social community
- Intuitive browser-based editor
- Instant preview of HTML/CSS/JS
- Import external libraries
- Templates to start quickly
- Share and fork millions of Pens
- Spinning up frontend experiments
- Learning from and sharing with others
- Frontend frameworks like React
2. JSFiddle – A Classic Playground for Code Sharing
JSFiddle has been around since 2009, making it one of the original browser-based code playgrounds. While the interface looks a bit dated now, JSFiddle remains popular for testing and sharing code.
While JSFiddle lacks some of the social features of CodePen, it makes collaboration easy. You can initiate coding sessions with real-time audio chat and simultaneous editing with others.
JSFiddle also makes sharing seamless. You can embed results along with source code into any webpage. The long-standing community provides great examples to learn from.
I suggest JSFiddle if you want a classic straightforward playground to create embeddable code snippets and collaborate with others.
- One of the original browser-based playgrounds
- Real-time collaboration through audio chat
- Create an account to save "fiddles"
- Easily embed results plus source code anywhere
- Active community with millions of fiddles
- Quickly testing HTML/CSS/JS
- Remote pair programming sessions
- Creating embeddable code demos
- A no-frills coding experience
3. CodeSandbox – Streamlined Coding with IDE Power
As a developer who loves using IDEs (integrated development environments) like VS Code, I‘m blown away by how CodeSandbox manages to recreate that experience fully in the browser.
The editor improves on basics playgrounds with intelligent code completion, customizable shortcuts, and built-in terminal access. It‘s almost like having a full dev environment without installing anything.
CodeSandbox combines the convenience of an online editor with the streamlined workflows of pro IDEs. If you want to complement courses with a rich hands-on coding environment, CodeSandbox is for you.
- Editor on par with desktop IDEs
- Smart autocompletion and shortcuts
- Import projects from GitHub
- Instant and seamless collaboration
- Templates for all popular frameworks
- Deploy or export projects with one click
- Full-stack web prototyping
- Developing with pro-level workflows
- Building fully-functional web apps
4. Repl.it – A Playground for All Programming Languages
Most online code playgrounds focus on front-end web languages…but Repl.it says why choose just one?!
Repl.it supports over 50 different programming languages including Python, Java, C++, and Go. It compiles and runs everything right within the browser.
The built-in IDE feels like a lightweight version of VS Code. You get features like autocomplete, dark mode, and customizable shortcuts to optimize your workflow.
Collaborating with others is simple with multiplayer mode. You can do pair programming together in the same Repl in real-time.
Repl.it removes environment configuration headaches. Whether you want to play with a new language or build a full-stack web app, everything just works with zero setup.
With extensive language support and a friendly interface, Repl.it lets you experiment worry-free across codebases.
- 50+ programming language support
- Lightweight browser-based IDE
- Multiplayer for real-time collaboration
- Web framework and database packages included
- Deploy full-stack web apps in clicks
- Free starter plan with paid tiers
- Trying new languages without installing
- Quick cross-language coding experiments
- Full-stack web prototyping
- Solo and collaborative projects
5. Glitch – A Playground with Personality for Building Apps
Most coding tools feel cold and clinical…but not Glitch! This playground brims with personality thanks to its cute mascot and cheerful interface.
Under the friendly exterior, Glitch packs impressive functionality. You can import projects from GitHub or create full-stack web apps from built-in templates for React, Vue, and Node.
Working in Glitch feels remarkably close to a local dev environment. You get features like version control, asset pipelines, and automated deployments – no complex installs needed!
Glitch combines friendly design, powerful tools, and a great community. The free tier also provides immense value. If you like personality with your coding, Glitch is for you!
- Fun and unintimidating interface
- Full-stack web development
- Asset pipelines for managing images/audio
- Automatic version control
- Starter apps and helpful community
- Extremely generous free plan
- Full-stack web prototyping
- Creative coding and generative art
- Beginners seeking a friendly start
- Building and deploying web apps
6. StackBlitz – The VS Code Playground in Your Browser
I love using VS Code as my code editor, so I was thrilled to discover StackBlitz. It recreates the VS Code environment right in the browser!
Like CodeSandbox, StackBlitz provides intelligent autocomplete, shortcuts, and extensions for a native IDE feel. The familiar interface makes it easy to get started.
Choose starter templates for frameworks like React and Angular. Import projects from GitHub or npm. Write back-end code in Node.js along with the front-end.
StackBlitz integrates with AWS, so you can deploy full-stack apps with a single click. There‘s also one-click embedding so you can easily share running code.
For those coming from desktop IDEs, StackBlitz combines that experience with the convenience of an online playground. You get the best of both worlds!
- Browser-based recreation of VS Code
- One-click project setup
- Import existing code from GitHub/npm
- Write and deploy full stack code
- Embed projects with one click
- Intuitive for VS Code users
- Full-stack web development
- Transitioning from a local desktop IDE
- Learning frameworks like React and Angular
- Building and deploying apps
7. Codeanywhere – Dev Environments in the Cloud
Most playgrounds only support front-end code, but Codeanywhere brings full development environments to the cloud.
Codeanywhere provides preconfigured containers modeled after real on-prem workstations. You can customize stacks with databases, runtimes, frameworks, and more.
Since containers mimic actual operating systems, you retain complete functionality. There‘s no limitations like only editing front-end code.
Codeanywhere simplifies transitioning to professional setups. You can master tools and workflows without messy local installs. The free tier lets you test the platforms before upgrading.
For collaborating, Codeanywhere‘s live sharing and manned server options surpass basic playgrounds. You can develop using enterprise-grade infrastructure.
If you‘ve outgrown basics playgrounds and want an environment mirroring real workstations, Codeanywhere is for you.
- Cloud-based dev containers
- Custom configurations with databases/tools
- Develop like a full local machine
- Built-in Docker and Git support
- Launch apps with one click
- Free and paid tiers
- Full control over dev environment
- Transitioning from simpler playgrounds
- Collaborating on advanced projects
- Modeling real on-prem setups
8. AWS Cloud9 – Robust Playgrounds Hosted in the Cloud
Most playgrounds lack the processing power for large-scale projects. AWS Cloud9 solves this by running sandboxed IDEs on Amazon‘s cloud.
Cloud9 environments get all the amenities of real dev workstations. You can install 50+ languages and frameworks for full-stack coding without local setup.
And by integrating directly with AWS services, you don‘t just write code in the abstract. Connect your projects to things like databases and file storage to mimic real applications.
While more robust than simpler playgrounds, Cloud9 is free for 12 months so you can test it out. The powerful infrastructure can scale from learning to enterprise.
If you need more muscle for bigger projects and want to learn AWS in the process, Cloud9 is for you.
- Robust cloud-based IDEs
- Language/framework support for full-stack
- Integrated access to AWS services
- Share entire environments instead of just code
- Free 12-month access to paid tiers
- Scales seamlessly as you grow
- Full-scale development on AWS
- Collaborating on complex cloud projects
- Transitioning from lighter playgrounds
- Building apps on AWS services
Part of mastering web development is experimenting with new technologies hands-on. Online code playgrounds remove common friction points and let you focus on learning.
Hopefully this overview gave you some helpful options to consider. Don‘t overthink it – just pick a playground and start building something! The hands-on coding will accelerate your learning more than any tutorial.
Learning to code takes patience and persistence. But by incorporating playgrounds into your routine, you can make tangible progress incrementally. The time investment will pay off tremendously in new skills and opportunities down the road.
So open up a playground and start developing your web skills today. Have fun and happy coding!