Entry-Level Text Editors

4 minute read

Every programmer, developer or web designer needs to have their own environment to work in. For most this is an IDE or text editor. As one starts to learn a programming language they often start with a simple editor. Whether this be Notepad, Notepad++, gedit, WordPad or TextEdit, this is not the final resting place for a development workflow. Rather one should focus on what suits their workflow well and allows for maximum efficiency by considering options. Since this is an entry-level list there will be no mention of paid programs such as Sublime Text or more advanced program for end-users such as Vim (don’t be fooled, while Vim’s web design may look archaic it is certainly a very powerful tool in an experienced programmer’s arsenal).

Why you should use a specialized text editor:

An entry-level casual programmer or developer without ambitions to make their new hobby a career may assume this list to be irrelevant to those who will not need to be consistently editing as work. However these text editors pose a significant advantage to beginner users if one not more than that of the advanced users. With various features such as color-coding and formatting for easy reading as well as features check and down to simply telling you the errors in your code (this one is especially useful in Java and C++). While interfaces and options may be more plentiful which could possibly overwhelm a

The List

CodeGif

Screengrab of Visual Studio Code

Visual Studio Code— As the newest release on this list Microsoft’s electron based take on a text editor dubbed ‘Visual Studio Code’ (not to confused with Visual Studio 2017 its IDE equivalent with many complex features) boasts some of the best debugging features on this list as well as well as a feature called a ‘command palette’ which allows users to see a list of every function that can be executed. This editor is the best choice for a developer who works extensively or mainly with the .NET libraries. As a new program Code just recently added support for extensions which leads to a limited library. However unlike other names to be mentioned Code comes complete with all basic necessities when it is downloaded, so there is no messing about with packages and plugins. While this may come a convenience for some it could be limiting in terms of easy configuration to others.

Platforms: Windows, Linux and macOS

Link: code.visualstudio.com

BracketsGif

Screengrab of Brackets

Brackets— Next up is Adobe’s open source text editor ‘Brackets’. This editor’s focus is purely on web design mostly in the front end. This means it is practically very difficult to efficiently program in Java or Ruby or Python or C++ or anything other than good old HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Although for an exclusively front-end web designer this tool may serve perfectly for basic static websites with a touch of JavaScript. This is because while Brackets is limited in languages it is feature rich in the ones it focuses to support. For example one item that will lure many a web designer is a feature that allows you to find and edit matching or referred CSS and JavaScript from the HTML without navigating around. This is a feature I have not seen executed very well in other text editors without packages or any fiddling. Although if you do not plan to work exclusively with the three basic web design languages than steer clear of Brackets.

Platforms: Windows, Linux and macOS

Link: brackets.io

AtomGif

Screengrab of Atom

Atom— Lastly is GitHub’s editor ‘Atom’ which like the rest of this list is open-source. Similar to Code, GitHub’s option is built on their framework Electron. The key feature of Atom is its packages as well as ‘hack-ability’. While Atom is a decent text-editor with support for a wide variety of formats, its prime attraction is it’s packages. Atom has by far the best community support in terms of packages. Atom is the best for varied long term use because of its customizability. Another attractive aspect of Atom is its Git integration and command line default packages are well executed (which has come to be expected from GitHub). Atom is also good for web design and editing blogs on platforms such Jekyll or Ghost. This is not only because GitHub’s co-founder developed and created the Jekyll system, but because Markdown is well supported. Atom’s greatness is not limited to its vast support, but it also boasts a killer spellcheck package that is added by default in Atom (believe it or not this feature natively lacking in many other editors including those on this list). All in all Atom is the catch all text editor for those who do not need to use .NET and ASP Frameworks or just want to focus on web design without touching other forms of programming. This editor is perfect for those who want to run a blog by themselves on a static platform or just general hobbyist developers who want to customize their environment for maximum efficiency.

Platforms: Windows, Linux and macOS

Link: atom.io

The Conclusion

All in all while these editors have their similarities they are built for different people with different needs. While there is no true winner it will be exciting to see what each of the programs holds for the future. What is important about all of these types of programs is they remain light weight like the ones in this list. Things to look out for in the coming months or years are Komodo Edit and ICEcoder (the latter is especially neat as it allows for seamless coding in-browser and is extremely light weight).

Thanks for the read,

Siraj