Nick Jackson

Developer of the interwebs, advocate for technology for good and awesome, enjoyer of fine ales and good food.

Unleash the Text Editor!

16 Apr 2014

Wondering why I’m blogging about this? Read more about my quest for badges!

This is a bit of an odd blog post, since although I’ve been using text editors for many, many years I have recently moved away from my trusty standby and am giving a new one a whirl. That comes later though…

Back when I was first learning the craft of building websites I, like many others, did all the work in Notepad on Windows. It was not the best tool for the job by a long shot, lacking pretty much every single feature other than the ability to edit text. I then quickly worked my way through FrontPage (which didn’t last long) and Dreamweaver (which only fared marginally better) before making my way to the sunny uplands of Notepad++. After several years of that, I found my way to Aptana.

When I went to University I moved from Windows to a Mac, and was fortunately able to keep using Aptana through the power of cross-platform software. Aptana (and Visual Studio for the work I did in .net) saw me through the first two years of university. However, it never felt quite right for me — it was sluggish and didn’t quite behave how I expected. At this point I discovered the wonderful Coda, which was my development environment for my last year at university and the time I remained there doing various bits of work for the University’s ICT department, and later research work.

When it came to a new job I felt that I needed a new text editor. Coda was still good, but couldn’t quite cut it any more. What I opted for was Sublime Text, which initially seemed daunting (as learning any powerful new tool does) but which very quickly came to be my favourite editor, doing everything that I needed and offering enough customisability that I could make it behave exactly as I needed. One downside is that Sublime isn’t cheap, but since I spend all day working in it I may as well pay the money for a decent tool.

Most recently, however, I was invited to take part in the beta of Atom, the text editor which is being built by some nice folk at GitHub. It’s still rapidly evolving, but so far is proving to be a capable alternative to Sublime. That said, I don’t know how well it stands up against the upcoming Sublime 3, and it lacks Windows and Linux support (although apparently they’re coming). It is, however, just as flexible and customisable as Sublime whilst still addressing a couple of niggles. If it keeps on improving and doesn’t cost an extortionate amount when it’s released I will most likely jump ship.

Bonus Knowledge: Staring at a text editor for a long time can be really, really painful on your eyes. This is especially true with the default colour scheme of most editors, black on white. If you’re serious about getting your text editor to be something you want to use rather than something you loathe opening, take a look at custom colour schemes. My scheme of choice is the wonderful Solarized (dark variant), which offers all the syntax highlighting colours that I need without burning my retinas.

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