Posted 18 August 2009 by Brendan Kidwell

Offline Web Development Packing List

I'm going away on vacation this week. (Yay!)

Where I will be staying, supposedly they have free Internet access, but you can't always count on that. Just the same, I'd like to be able to bring some personal projects with me in case I feel inspired. If I do get motivated to work on these projects, I need access to tools and documentation that I normally get online

The following is a list of what I was able to find that may be useful:

XAMPP for Linux
XAMPP for Windows

If you're accustomed to having your development files on a remote web server, the first thing you have to do to work offline is to get your server environment installed locally. If you're using the LAMP stack, just download XAMPP from one of the links above and install it (offline) when you need it.

If you're targeting some other web hosting platform, such as IIS or ColdFusion or J2EE, make sure you get <em>that</em> installed and working correctly instead!

I was scratching my head over downloadable documentation for HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. There are a few complete downloadable references for HTML and CSS to be found online (notably at w3c.org, where the HTML and CSS specs are maintained), but JavaScript is a problem. The closest thing I could find to a complete and free JavaScript reference was at the Mozilla Developer Center. Unfortunately, they don't offer any way to download their documentation wiki.

A tip on Stack Overflow points out that the free Aptana IDE for web programming includes built-in offline documentation for HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and the browser's Document Object Model (DOM).

Here's what to do:

1. Download Aptana and install it in your system.

2. While you're still online, start up Aptana immediately and you should be prompted to ask if you'd like to install any additional plugins. Install the plugins for all the client-side technologies you'll be using, even if you won't be using Aptana as your editor. This way you'll be sure to get offline copies fo the appropriate manuals and API references. Your choices for client-side technology plugins include:

  • Aflax
  • Adobe Spry
  • Dojo
  • Ext JS
  • jQuery
  • Microsoft ASP.NET Ajax Controls
  • MochiKit
  • Mootools
  • OpenRico
  • Prototype
  • Scriptaculous
  • Yahoo! User Interface (YUI)

3. (Optional) If you won't be using the Aptana IDE to edit your source code, create a launcher script in your Aptana application folder to start up Eclipse (upon which Aptana is built) directly in the Aptana Help documentation:

# folder containing Aptana
PROGDIR=`dirname "$0"`
# classpath argument for Java
CP=`find plugins/org.eclipse.help.base_*.jar`
if [ ! -f eclipse ]; then
 # Copy AptanaStudio eclipse launcher file to
 # 'eclipse' so that standalone.Help doesn't fail.
 cp AptanaStudio eclipse
echo Launching Aptana help. Do not close this window until you are done
echo browsing the documentation.
java -classpath "$CP" org.eclipse.help.standalone.Help -command displayHelp

3a. And create a .desktop launcher file:

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Aptana Help
Comment=Browse Aptana Help including HTML/CSS/JS docs
Exec=/usr/bin/xterm -e ./launch-aptana-help.sh

The script in Step 3 will only work on a Unix host, or a Windows host with Cygwin installed. The script in Step 3a will only work on a Unix host with a modern desktop environment (GNOME, KDE, XFCE, etc.)

To find the reference documentation I've been referring to, launch the help using the launcher script I gave you above or from Help → Help Contents in Aptana Studio, then go to Aptana Studio Help → Reference.

The documentation packages listed below are available in PDF and HTML files for offline viewing.


  • “CFML Reference” PDF
  • “ColdFusion Developer's Guide” PDF

J2SE (core APIs)
http://java.sun.com/javase/downloads/index.jsp “Java SE 6 Documentation”

J2EE (servlets, JSP, etc.)
http://java.sun.com/javaee/reference/ “Download the Java EE (number) API Specifications”


The documentation comes Microsoft's IDEs. Be sure to install at least the Express Edition of the IDE for the particular technology you're using, and be sure to choose to install the documentation when you get to that option.

Download the 389MB archive, or browse and download individual PDF files.

Documentation should have come with whatever distribution of Perl you're using — unless you have only XAMPP. If you don't have a full standalone version of Perl installed, go install it now. If you are using a mainstream Linux distribution, be sure that you have the package perl-doc installed.

  • Your favorite IDE or text editor.
  • A working copy every piece of your project(s): source code, documentation, build scripts, etc.

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