I recently made the switch from Sublime Text 3 to GitHub‘s Atom editor. Whilst I was tinkering around last year with the initial Atom preview releases I was only now ready to make the move. I have to say that their 1.0 release video had quite some impact on giving it another shot too :)
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What’s it about?
For many the great GitHub integration is what it’s all about, tho for me this wasn’t the main reason to jump ship. Whilst I am using Git in the bigger projects I also do small “occasional” hacking, with just local git repositories and especially without the need for complex branching. Hence this article is more of a guideline on how to setup Atom for the “Sunday” hacker, rather than the full-stack Palo Alto engineer. Much more, this is just how I use it as a simple WebDeveloper. Your needs might be very different. The last note (promise!) is that I am aware that all of this can be achieved using Sublime Text as well. Most of the Atom packages are actually just ports from ST packages. I still made the move because, well I guess I just wanted to try something new and so far I’m quite happy with it…
Start from scratch
First, if you used the preview version of Atom early I think it’s best to start fresh as a lot of packages that used to be community packages have moved to core and for me it seemed to be the right thing to do. Since all configuration and third party packages are saved under “.atom/” in your home directory just go ahead and delete that from the command line.
rm -R .atom/
Atom 1.0 will greet you with a nice splash screen on start. The first you will notice is that Atom is actually a lot more user friendly than Sublime Text. A lot of the essential features are shipped right out of the box. For me the only required settings change was to enable the Preview Tab functionality.
Preview Tabs allow you to open files, have a look at the code and then open another file, whilst automatically closing the previous one, if no code changes have been applied.
Since Atom is package based, some of the settings are actually done within the core packages individual settings. In this case the setting is hidden within the Tabs Core Package.
Go to Settings -> Packages and search for Tabs. Then click Settings. There you’ll find the option to enable “Preview Tabs”.
The main reason that made Sublime Text the editor of choice for so many of us, was the extensibility provided via packages. Atom follows this approach and their website already lists more than 2000 Community Packages. Here’s is my list of essential packages.
Love it, or hate it, but don’t say it’s not useful at some points. I personally love Bootstrap especially for it’s grid system and use it pretty much all the time. This package adds autocomplete for Bootstrap code and also ships with Font-Awesome and Glyphicon snippets. No need to search through cheatsheets anymore! What’s especially handy is the boilerplate snippet. Simply type in “html-” and you’ll be presented a HTML5 boilerplate with Font-Awesome and Bootstrap CDN’s loaded.
Whilst Atom-Beautify does a great job at indenting and formatting the code, your CSS is probably still a mess with properties in random orders. CSSComb solves that problem by arranging CSS properties in a logical order and even indenting browser-prefixes for improved readability.
A color picker is often quite useful. I still make heavy use of OSX’s Digital Color Meter but I think it’s good to have something else around within the editor.
Now this is actually something I never managed to do in Sublime Text, but in Atom it just works. Pigments pulls in the HEX, RGBa or HSL value and applies it as the background colour of your code. Great if you’re like me and can only tell the colours of two values, #000 and #fff…
I am somewhat surprised that this package hasn’t been rolled into Atom Core yet. With over 100.000 users, there surely is some demand for it. It’s functionality is pretty simple and if you’ve worked with Sublime’s Projects and Workspaces before you pretty much know already what’s coming. It allows you to save different window sets with its open files for each project and lets you switch between them easily. Pretty much a no-brainer to use it…
The last package in my list is not as polished as the other ones but if you’re a developer working with WordPress, the auto-completion for functions hooks and methods sure comes in handy. It won’t replace the codex any time soon tho…
There you have it, my take on Atom and why I made the switch from Sublime Text. Please let me know in the comments if you are considering making the move and if you know of any Atom packages that make the experience for Sublime users better!