To every developer in this world, the closest thing to their heart is the text editor of their choice. Over the last few years many new text editors has come into the market in both free and paid model, but unfortunately not all of them were able to make a real dent on the developer community. I remember in my college days we uses to use Notepad++ as our beloved text editor, as at that point of time it was one of the popular and free text editor with a lot of features for coding. But as time goes on, the entire development community started to lean towards sublime text since it’s launch.
Honestly I didn’t start using sublime text from its early days, because to every developer changing the IDE or text editor is really a huge deal and if there is not any significantly new features, most people will just ignore it. I started using Sublime Text from its v2 release and I must admit that there was a lot of learning curve that I had to overcome to actually take advantage of most sublime text awesome features.
Then after few more years Github comes with their own open source fully hackable text editor Atom and automatically it started to gain popularity among the nerd community. Though atom editor had a lot of issues when it was in beta, but after their initial stable launch, most of them has been fixed. So, I gave it a try few weeks back. Like I said earlier, changing the text editor is really a very frustrating to any developer, but I still used it just to see how does it feel after using sublime text for years. So, here’s my opinion on this.
I must admit that sublime text doesn’t come with a real good-looking minimal and flat designed user experience. But the best part of sublime text is that as it is some immensely popular, there are hundreds of theme that you can install to make your sublime text user experience just the way you want it. I use the material theme with my sublime text as I simply love it.
On the other hand the real benefit of the atom editor is that a lot of the things that comes out of the box with atom which you need to manually setup or install in sublime text. It can be treated as both good as well as a bad thing. If someone likes an old school design, he might not install any other theme on top of his sublime text, but if he goes with atom, he has to change the theme to a more old school look.
Still, personally I feel that the syntax highlightation color and the padding between each tab looks better in Sublime Text with Material Theme, though you will get an almost similar theme from atom out of the box. But again, in the end it’s up to your preference about with which one you are more comfortable with on daily basis.
Out of the box atom does have more things inside it than sublime text but if you look closely, both of them are just barebones text editor if you don’t install your required modules or packages to make it work exactly the way you want it. Now the problem with setting up any of those is that finding out the right package that you will fulfill your needs. Generally when you search for any package you will see there might be tens or hundreds of similar packages doing almost similar thing but in a sightly different way.
So, you literally have to try most of those to see which one is the right fit for you. Now this is a very time-consuming task. That is why it is very important that you keep a note of your installed/favorite packages somewhere in case you need them in future again to install in some other computer. Now if you are already a sublime text user like me and have spend a lot of time setting up your text editor exactly the way you want it, trust me you don’t wanna redo again for some other text editor. Trying to find some similar packages which will fulfill your need. It’s really a boring and time-wasting work.
But one thing that I must need to mention is that atom comes with its in-built package installer; unlike sublime text where you need to install the package installer to install third-party packages. Honestly to me it’s not a big deal, but for some it might be.
Performance is the most important part of any IDE or text editor that is being used by the developers all the time. In this case, sublime text is way ahead of atom, even with its stable first release. I’m not saying that atom is a bad text editor, but first of it it is huge in size compared to sublime text and after installation, the size even become bigger. Now none of these are any serious deal breaker, but the main problem starts when you have a few file opened up in your text editor and you are constantly jumping between them.
In situations like this, you will almost never feel any lag on sublime text, no matter how many files are open at the same time, but with atom, you will start to feel some lag, which you can easily notice. I hope this problem will get fixed in the upcoming stable release, but for now in terms of stability I will go with sublime text (my opinion).
Third-Party Package Availability
Now as I said earlier, whether you go with sublime text or atom, out of the box both of them are just a barebones text editor, which make these things awesome are the third-party packages other developer built for these text editor to make the life simple are easier. As of now, for both the text editor there are thousands and thousands of package available to install, but the problem is that for many of them the developer just stop working on it and make it unstable with the future releases or the package has some unresolved bugs.
But as sublime text is an older text editor than atom which was accepted by the developer community for years, the variety of packages in sublime text is wider than atom. What I’m trying to mean is that there are some unique packages in sublime text that has no exact similar alternative in atom. Now if you use that package on daily basis, then opting to atom would be a huge deal breaker.
For example, as a WordPress developer, I use the package called WordPress Auto Completion in my Sublime Text to auto complete most WordPress functions, hooks etc. To me, it is a huge time saver and increase my work production. Also the best part of this package is that the developer of this package always update it with the new functions that come with each new releases of WordPress. When I started testing out Atom, I looked a lot for any atom package that has the same features and which gets updated with each WordPress release, but I didn’t find any. Those packages which were quite close to this one, was pretty old and not exactly what I was looking for.
Now you might say, why don’t you build one package for your own? Well, honestly because I don’t have that time. So, just this one simple package unavailability was more than enough to stick with sublime text. May be for you guys it will be some other package, or may be not, who knows?
Shortcuts and Functionality
I must admit that both the text editor has a ton of shortcuts and functionality to make your work done faster and in most cases the atom shortcuts are someway very similar to sublime text. Also in both editor you can customize them and add your own custom shortcuts, but as I said earlier, with atom many features comes out of the box, but for those same set of features you need to install third-party packages in sublime text. In case you are new to sublime text and don’t know how to take full advantage of its functionality, I will highly recommend you to watch this YouTube playlist which helped me a lot to learn many crucial things about sublime text and understand how powerful it is.
In case you are looking for an Atom editor tutorial like this, I’m pretty sure there are hundreds of tutorial on YouTube for atom editor. The reason I’ve shared the above tutorial playlist is because I’ve personally watched it while learning sublime text and it helped me a lot learning many amazing and advance things about sublime text. So, as I watched it, it know it will definitely help many people, in case you are super happy with sublime text and want to know many more advance functionalities of sublime text.
What Sublime Text Packages you personally use?
Well as I said earlier, for both sublime text and atom, there are many packages to choose from and that is why sometimes you need to try out couple of similar packages before you can understand which one are going to fulfill your needs. So, every time I decide to use any package with my sublime text, I add there details about it in a gist file so that in future if I need to remember the exact name of those packages I can easily find them. In case you are wondering what exact packages and themes I use with my sublime text editor, here is the gist file for you.
I hope you guys will like it and one way or another it will help someone down the line who may not be familiar with these packages. Also as a developer myself, I will highly recommend you to donate some amount (if you can) to these developers as they are spending a lot of time on building open source packages to make yours and my development life easier. Trust me each donation matters to keep the development ongoing.
In the end I must say that both Atom and Sublime Text are awesome text editor with a ton of features and third-party packages to make your development life a little easier. But if you are currently using sublime text on daily basis and already spend a lot of time choosing and installing your favorite packages, it really doesn’t make any sense to move to Atom as it doesn’t provide any exclusive features that will make your development life more easier or which is not available on sublime text. Also when it comes to the load taking ability, Sublime Text can take a lot more load than Atom. One thing that I love most about sublime text is the feature that when you open sublime text, you will see your files exactly the way you left for the last time, regardless of whether or not you have saved them.
But if you are just thinking about using a new text editor and don’t use sublime text or atom, both of them are really good choice. You just have to spend some times learning it’s shortcuts and features along with finding out the packages you want for your development environment. So, if you can’t just make your mind between sublime text and atom, my personal suggestion would be to go with sublime text but even if you go with atom, you really can’t go wrong as both of them are insanely good text editors.