This is going to be a very technical blog post about something most people have never even considered; the humble text editor. If words like IDEs, intellisense and syntax highlighting don’t mean a thing to you, feel free to skip to the next blog post. On the other hand if you’re a die-hard TextMate user or a Coda addict, read on.
It’s not often the text editor gets a mention which is odd considering that as developers we spend the better part of our working life (and a fair portion outside of that) pecking away at one. Here at 383 Project we have free reign in choosing our text editor of choice; some go for the aging TextMate while others prefer the all-roundedness of Coda’s Panic. But a newcomer has arisen that challenges these, offering much of the same power while being faster, fresher and flush with updates; Sublime Text 2.
The best way to describe Sublime would be TextMate’s simple interface, with the guts ripped out and completely reworked. Even though it’s still in “beta” (and what isn’t nowadays), it comes with an impressive feature-set. Project support is built in, Preferences are available in the form of a simple JSON file (meaning you can share them between machines), and all your common commands (go to file, go to line et al) are present and accounted for.
Search in TextMate was notoriously slow, even giving rise to grep-based plugins, but in Sublime even searching across large codebases (think Zend or WordPress) is near instant. The improvements don’t stop with just speed however; the floating minimap provides a visual overview of your code that while at first seems intrusive quickly becomes a brilliant reference point.
Being able to reuse existing TextMate themes and plugins is a massive boost, but Sublime really comes into its own when using the Package Control system to easily find and install new plugins. Some of our favourites include:
- SublimeCodeIntel provides IDE-like intellisense to automatically suggest and complete code references. This brings the biggest feature that often draws web developers to a full IDE into an app that uses infinitely less memory.
- Soda Light Theme offers a light-version of the default Sublime theme. Combined with the colour scheme from Coda or Solarized, you can have an aesthetically pleasing set-up in minutes.
- ZenCoding brings Zen HTML completion to Sublime, making writing HTML a breeze. Type div.container>ul#menu>li*5>a+span, hit tab and your HTML is there waiting for you.
- UberSelection takes the standard column-selection and gives it a massive shot in the arm. Select portions of text and update them all. Tied into the find and replace functionality, it makes updating large blocks of code a doddle.
Sublime Text 2 doesn’t do everything but it is seeing a lot of updates, something that can’t be said for TextMate and co nowadays. It may not be to everyones tastes, but if you’re itching to try something new or tired with the same-old, give it a try.