Best Developer Tools for 2021

In the past year, the world experienced unprecedented change. The global pandemic required us to shift the way we work and live in significant ways, blurring the boundaries as many of us shifted to working from home. As a result, we saw some new trends arise in our annual #MustHaveDevTools survey.

Development organizations are now relying more heavily on tools for communication, collaboration, and productivity. We saw the foundational importance of Git grow this year; empowering developers to collaborate on – and preserve the history of their code. We saw GitKraken and GitHub also become even more heavily relied on as the core tools developers need to be more productive with Git. Overall, we saw developers utilizing the top DevOps tools more than ever before to work more efficiently with less time due to balancing new challenges at home and work.

The #MustHaveDevTools for your Bug Out Bag

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For five consecutive years, this legendary cross-platform Git GUI for Windows, Mac, and Linux has taken the top prize. 🏆

With the popularity of Git (#3 tool on this year’s report) continuing to rise, it’s no surprise that tools like GitKraken, which help visualize the intricacies of Git, are also gaining usage.

And with newly released features in 2020, like issue tracking integrations with Jira, GitLab, GitHub, and Trello, this software development tool continues to help individuals and teams work more efficiently.

If you aren’t using Git with GitKraken, you’re doing Git the hard way. GitKraken's intuitive UI will have you executing simple & complex Git commands from day one!

VS Code is a sleek code editor that supports debugging, version control, and task running, giving devs the tools they need for a quick code-build-debug workflow.

This tool has taken the 🥈spot for four years in a row! As Microsoft continues to improve this lightweight development environment, we only expect usage to grow.

A free and open source version control system, Git is actively maintained and used by developers to track changes made to files.

⬆️ Up 3 spots this year, version control is more crucial than ever for remote teams to diligently maintain the history of their code and collaborate on new versions. After falling two spots to #6 in the 2020 Top Developer Tools Report, Git is back in the top 5, and ranking in the top 3 for the first time since the survey’s inception in 2017. 🥉

This collaboration tool helps simplify and expedite API development.

⬇️ Postman has skyrocketed 🚀 from ranking as the #13 tool in the Top Dev Tools for 2017 to the #3 tool in 2020, falling just one spot this year.

Visual Studio (2019) is an integrated environment that offers software developer tools for design and deployment, not to be confused with our #2 tool, Visual Studio Code.

⬇️ Down just one spot from 2020, this tool is still the most popular IDE on the list.

Over 56 million developers worldwide use GitHub to build and ship software.

⬆️ Up 1 spot from last year! After jumping 4 spots from #11 in 2019 to #7 in 2020, GitHub is climbing back to the top after ranking at its all time best at #3 in 2018. According to the 2020 State of the Octoverse Report, more than 60 MILLION new repositories were created on GitHub this year.

Docker uses containers to package software into standardized units for development, shipment, and deployment.

⬇️ Down 2 spots from last year, and another 2 spots from the tool’s best showing at #3 in the Top Dev Tools for 2019 report, Docker still ranks as the most popular container tool on the list.

This integrated developed environment is built for Java and designed to maximize productivity.

⬆️ The first of four ✈️🧠 JetBrains tools to make the list 👀 this IDE is up one spot from last year.

This set of software developer tools is built directly into the Chrome browser and enables devs to edit pages on-the-fly.

⬆️ After ranking its best at #5 in the Top Dev Tools for 2018 survey, Chrome DevTools is back up in the top 10, rising 5 spots from last year.

Written in C++, this free and open source editor is a Notepad replacement that supports several coding languages.

🔁 Welcome back! After missing the list in 2018, 2019, and 2020, this editor is coming back hot in the top 10! 🔥

The second JetBrains tool to make the top 20, this integrated development environment is made for Python developers.

⬆️ Up 8 spots from 2020! After resurfacing in the top 20 at #19 last year, and missing the list all together in 2018 and 2019, it’s great to see this popular IDE slither 🐍 its way past its #16 ranking in 2017.

Used by developers and non-developers alike, this lightweight communication tool is used by countless software teams across the world.

⬆️ Up 1 spot from last year, this messaging tool is used for collaboration by 53% of developers, according to the 2020 Stack Overflow Developer Survey. Communication and collaboration tools are more important than ever as many development organizations have shifted to remote work.

This free terminal emulator for macOS is designed to bring the “terminal into the modern age.”

⬆️ Rising three spots from last year after taking a hiatus in 2018, iTerm falls at lucky 13. 🍀

A text interface that processes commands to a computer program.

⬇️ While down four spots from last year’s #10 ranking, the command line isn’t going anywhere.

A well-loved and respected online community, developers come here to find answers to common programming questions and share their knowledge with others.

🔁 Missing the list in 2020, this tool is back in the light 🔦 and coming in at its best rank yet after closing out the top 20 in 2017 and ranking #18 in 2018. This is no surprise; as developers have become even more physically distanced, they’re coming together virtually at increasing rates via online community platforms, like Stack Overflow, to solve problems.

This free and open source text editor can be used with Git and GitHub directly.

⬆️ After suffering a steady decline since taking home the silver in 2017, this tool is finally recovering its position, up one spot from last year.

Sublime Text is known for a pleasant visual interface and user experience; it can be used for code, markup, and prose.

⬇️ Yet another text editor to make this list, this tool dropped a devastating 9 spots from 2020 after ranking consistently in positions 7-9 since 2017.

This PHP integrated development environment supports Symfony, Laravel, Drupal, WordPress, Laminas, Magento, and other frameworks.

⬇️ Another treasure from JetBrains, this IDE fell 8 spots from last year after not making the list in 2019. Could the decline be due to competition from fellow JetBrains’ IDEs?

An integrated development environment made for JavaScript, WebStorm offers intelligent code completion and error detection.

*️⃣ New to the list! The fourth IDE from JetBrains to rank; it has been on the market since 2013, but this is the first time it’s making our top 20. This is likely due to JavaScript maintaining it’s stronghold as the most commonly used programming language for the eight year in a row, according to the Stack Overflow 2020 Developer Survey.

This integrated development environment gives software developers the tools they need to create applications for Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Apple Watch.

🔁 Closing out our top 20 is our sixth and final IDE. After ranking #19 in 2017, Xcode failed to make the list in 2018, 2019, and 2020.


The results of this report were generated from nearly 8,500 votes in a survey created by GitKraken to solicit software developers’ top 5 tools for 2021. Our findings, combined with industry insights and trends, indicate that developers have quickly adapted, and in many ways, strengthened community connections by coming together to collaborate and solve new challenges introduced by the global pandemic.

According to GitHub’s 2020 State of the Octoverse Report, 35% more Git repositories were created than last year and 25% more contributions were made to open source projects. It’s clear, developers are working more, and as a result, tools that increase efficiency and productivity are of greater importance now more than ever.

This is further supported by GitLab’s Mapping the DevSecOps Landscape 2020 Survey Results that shows the top changes made to software development processes have been continuous integrations (21%), source code management (15%), automated testing (15%) and continuous delivery (15%). Without a doubt, DevOps tools are enabling development organizations to streamline their workflows.

It’s time to add these top developer tools to your bug out bag so you’re prepared for the unexpected challenges and exciting opportunities 2021 has in store.

GitKraken has taken home the top prize for 5 years in a row. Stop double-checking your work in Git; GitKraken will give you peace of mind knowing you aren't getting your repos into a bad state.