Mar 6, 2018

How to use Visual Studio Code for web design

I won't update this article. It might be outdated.

To design web pages, you should really use a good text editor. Microsoft’s open source text editor Visual Studio Code (VSC) is such an editor. Here is how I set it up and which plugins help me having a good time while writing HTML and CSS.

I update this article whenever there is a new version of VSCode. (Latest changes reflected: January 2019 (version 1.31)


Installing VSC: You can download Visual Studio Code for free here. If you happen to be on a Mac, you should really use Brew to install packages. You can then just install VSC with brew install visual-studio-code. On Windows, chocolatey would be the equivalent package manager and choco install visualstudiocode the command to go for.

Always use latest version: Be sure to always update VSC to the latest version. Microsoft releases great new features every month and you do not want to miss a single one. Just use Code > Check For Updates…

Open Projects: To open VSC, always browse to your project folder on the terminal and fire up the editor with code .. This way, you open your whole project as one.

This is how a HTML5 Boilerplate project looks like after startup via code .

Use Cmd+P: To switch between files, you would usually use tabs. That might be okay when you have one index.html and one style.css file, but even with our example HTML5 Boilerplate and its many files, it already gets complicated. It is much faster and visually pleasing to use cmd+p with its typeahead functionality to quickly find and edit the file you need. Let me show you what I mean.

Use symbols to jump within file: Wonder, where you hid that h2 heading in your main.css? Well, you could browse the whole file or memorise it. Or you can just hit cmd+shift+o to quickly go to a definition within your HTML and CSS files.

This is how I would find my <h1> definition in main.css:

I just hit cmd+shift+o, type in h and in the typeahead list I already see the h2 definitions. Of course I can switch with the up and down keys.

Use Emmet: To massively speed up typing HTML, use Emmet. It is a shortcut-language which expands to HTML. You write h2>div*2 and hit Tab. It expands to the following.


Use this cheatsheet to learn all the commands Emmet has.


You can customise all your settings in Code > Preferences > Settings. Here are my most important settings:

{ // your settings file must begin like this
      "editor.fontSize": 14, // see note #1    
      "editor.lineHeight": 28, // see note #2
      "editor.wordWrap": "on", // #2
      "workbench.editor.showTabs": "off" // #3
      "editor.minimap.enabled": true, // #4
      "editor.minimap.renderCharacters": true // #4, no comma after the last setting!
  1. I prefer to have some space between my lines, so I double the linespacing. And I increase the font size so I can move away from my monitor a bit more.
  2. By default, words do not wrap at line endings. I prefer that they do.
  3. As described above, cmd+p is so much faster than tabs. Use this, not tabs!
  4. Minimaps helps you to keep a bird’s eye overview


There are a few VSC plugins that I can wholeheartedly recommend to you for web design projects.

Just install them with cmd+shift+p, type install and select Extensions: Install. In the search bar, type in the name and click on the install buttons next to the plugin.

  • beautify: This gives your HTML and CSS files auto indentation and makes them easier to read.
  • Bootstrap 4 & Font awesome snippets: With this installed, in every HTML document, you can just type b4 and you get a list of Bootstrap 4 snippets at your fingertips. Very handy!
  • cdnjs: Quickly add your favourite libraries from the command line. Just enter cmd+shift+p > cdnjs and search for something nice, for example Bulma.
  • Close HTML/XML tag: Does exactly what it promises. Helps you closing your tags
  • HTML Snippets: Another set of snippets, this time HTML5 semantic snippets. Has no prefix, just use the tag, so for examplefigure will spit out a whole figure set.
  • Material Icon Theme: Pure aesthetics, but your folder and files look a lot nicer with this one
  • Sublime Material Theme: Another eye-candy. See whether you like it. Most people do.

Notable Features

These are a few features that are relatively new and might help you more than they do help me right now…

Other resources

*How do you set up Visual Studio Code for web design projects? And which other plugins do you use on a regular base? Contact me

Categories: Tech