This week I tried out a new text editor. For the last few weeks I’ve downloaded and installed quite a few. I’m working on a Windows machine so I’m limited in that regard. Some programs I’ve installed and just peeked into include Sublime Text, VSCode, Brackets, TweakStyle and Atom. I work with Notepad++ and Netbeans currently. I found what appears to be a bug with Sass processing within Netbeans that causes the compilation to appear in ways I don’t appreciate (and I can’t report at the moment because their new user registration is disabled for site maintenance!!), so I started looking to fix that via Notepad++ and while I’ve found programs that work, nothing that works exactly the way I’d like.
In addition, I’ve found myself a bit lost when I attend courses and programming events because everyone has a Macbook an uses Sublime Text or some other editor, so when I need help folks are clueless. That prompted me to look into other things. Doesn’t hurt to try.
I enjoy Notepad++, it loads quickly and has everything I need. Configuration can be tricky but nothing too difficult with a little Google. The interface is classic Windows which is not a problem but it would be nice if there was a way to skin it because I love the look of Sublime (and Atom) and wish there was a way to port that over to Notepad++. Also there were certain things that annoyed me, like the tree view looks icky and I’ve had a hard time adding projects, creating, returning to workspaces (whatever that means).
I installed every program I listed but I ended up really looking into Atom, because I read that some of the shortcuts are similar to Sublime which satisfies one of the requirements I would need in a new text editor. Also, it’s free and while I could use Sublime Text and deal with whatever trial issues folks run into, that makes me uncomfortable. I’m just not in the place to purchase anything right now so that is on hold.
I also read that customization was easier in Atom and while it’s tagged as a “hackable” editor, I rarely need that option. I’m very basic with my coding needs, I don’t care the color scheme of my syntax highlighting as long as it’s legible & functional. I’ve never modified that sort of thing in Netbeans or Notepad++, so yea, I’m easy to satisfy. It’s nice to have that option though.
I found a few Youtube videos providing high-level overviews of the programs functionality and spent some time going through them. The LevelUpTuts series is more comprehensive, but the DevTips series covered the basic well enough. I actually watched the latter first and some of the packages covered in LevelUpTuts were included there. Yes I watched every video lol. It’s helpful for me and thankfully most of the videos were short so it didn’t feel like a huge time commitment.
My thoughts: It’s a fine program, I plan to use it for upcoming projects, including my portfolio and we’ll see how that goes!
One issue I kept seeing in reviews and encountered during my testing was speed. A common complaint about Atom is that it’s slow. From my experience, on the first two uses (when I wasn’t even really coding, just opening the program to play around) it crashed. I’ve used it more frequently since and haven’t experienced any issues. I also removed the WordPress project that was open during the initial crashes, so maybe that’s too bulky for this program at the moment – another complaint of the program is that it can’t handle larger projects as well as other text editors. But I’m fine with that because I’ll probably use it to make smaller changes to projects initiated in Netbeans. I will say startup is slow and installation of packages as well, but once you have everything loaded, it’s cool. This is in comparison to Notepad++ which loads up quickly. It’s not enough to make me not use the program though. Most programs take a while to load up (HELLO Netbeans!).
I enjoyed watching the videos because they were helpful in just setting me up. From there I felt comfortable exploring on my own and pressing different buttons – so to speak. It covered shortcuts for productivity, installing packages, which are like plugins that enhance the functionality of the program, and reviewed some of the “must-have” packages. Some packages come with the initial installation (like tree-view which shows all the files in the folder of the file you’re working in). You can remove them if you want, but they’ve been added because of widespread usage.
Some of the packages I learned about (and might use in my own workflow) include:
- File-icons: Adds corresponding language icon images next to the files in your tree-view. So the HTML5 image next to html files and JS for Javascripe files, Sass images for SCSS, etc. I suppose it’s helpful for some folks :-), I’ll probably install it.
- Emmet: enables shorthand syntax for writing html. The LevelUpTuts video also referenced a cheatsheet in the Emmet documentation to get you up & running quickly.
- Linters: I only recently learned about linting and will write about it in upcoming weeks. But you can find any linter by searching “linter-[language]”. So if you’re looking for a PHP linter, you’d search “linter-php” and it should generate a list of packages.
- Highlight-selected: This is a feature a lot of programs typically have embedded but this package allows you to highlight text by double-clicking the word.
- Open-recent: Another feature most editors typically come packaged with, but this one adds it to Atom so when you open the File menu, you can then select recently opened documents without having to search through the Explorer.
- Git-plus: Enables you to use git commands within the Atom program, without ever opening up the command line by selecting Ctrl+Shift+P
- Git-diff: Marks lines where additions/deletions/modifications were made.
- Pigments: a color highlighter that allows you to visualize the colors in your code without toggling between a graphics editor and your code to make sure you’re using the right ones.
Some other packages I’ll need to research further include:
**after publishing I found this great review in my bookmarks. He provided links to so many packages. It’s a great resource. Still happy I went through the video.
**** since my last update above, I found another helpful post with recommendations for Atom packages WordPress development here.
For more shortcuts you can check this helpful guide.