I have blogged on the merits of text editors in the long distant past and I thought that it was about time that we dedicated a little bit of time on this most sacred of flame wars again. I will try to be as objective as possible (whilst simultanously not being objective at all).
So with some new boys in the mix, I will take a look at the big players and leave you free to comment on which ones you prefer and why.
This is a free up to a point editor. You can use it indefinitely, I believe, for free but it will keep reminding you to pay for it. There are some fantastic features including multi-cursors, the mini-map on the right hand side and others. However, my opinion is that it isn’t significantly awesome enough to warrant forking money out. Some people swear by it and feel that the price is justified. For myself, I have taken the features I like most and found plugins/workarounds in other editors that make this an unecessary product.
This is one of the more recent additions to a viable list of editors. It looks about as beautiful as a text editor is going to get and is easily extensible using web technologies. Which means that it is accessible to the non-bearded amongst us.
Where Atom really lets itself down is in its footprint. It is based on the chromium project and it feels more like a heavy duty web browser than a text editor. It uses a lot of resources and is not one for those who have a slow running PC
No summary would be complete without notepad++, this is the most ubiquitous editor after notepad. It has good syntax highlighting, remembers what you had open last time and is highly customisable with a good network of plugins.
I like notepad++ and almost always install it. However, as with sublime, it really isn’t ground breaking. It isn’t the type of editor that you want, or could, spend all day in. It’s a great increment over your basic notepad, but other than that it will always be a bench player.
Now we get on to the really big hitters. Vim is a great, lightweight editor that allows you to do most things from the home row of your keyboard. It has a huge following and people often say that they are immensely productive when using vim in comparison to the others in this list.
I have tried Vim several times to try and like it. However, each time I have found the learning curve just too high. I find it counter intuitive the fact that Vim forces you into two modes and I find it hard to get over that. However, if you have the time to put into Vim, I’m sure the returns are good.
This is the GNU entry into the list. Possibly the ugliest of the editors in it’s vanilla skin, there is very little that this editor cannot do. I have seen people work almost exclusively in emacs from ftp, shell, coding and even organizing to do lists using the venerable org-mode.
This editor will also have a high learning curve especially for some shortcuts that you will have gotten used to. It will also force you into a love/hate relationship with your ctrl key. However, there is so much good in Emacs that it isn’t hard to see why it has survived all these years.
Personally, as much as usual I use Emacs and now whenever I get onto a new computer I install my backed up init file and I am quickly back into a powerful texteditor/IDE.
On the flip side, the learning curve is large and coming from a VIM background I can imagine the way that emacs handles shortcuts would be nothing short of irritating.
So what editor should you use? Really the one that you are most comfortable with. There are great benefits to spending a little time with either Emacs or Vim as they will increase your overall productivity and are really lightweight in comparison to most other IDEs and Editors. But if you are only in your editors for a limited amount of time then really notepad++ is the best choice for out of the box features and unobtrusion.
But then we could all start using butteflies real soon.