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Atom vs. Sublime

The past week I decided to put Sublime in the drawer and only use Github’s new Atom for my coding. As great as Sublime is, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about software is that you gotta try new stuff out. That’s how I discovered Firefox (then called Firebird), Foobar, and even Sublime itself (after having been using Notepad++ for a long time). New stuff has the advantage of learning from the mistakes of all it’s older brethren, as well as filling in the gaps for missing things. So, out of sheer curiosity I forced myself to only use Atom to see how it went.

Pros:

Although only recently released as an alpha for Windows, Atom seems to be a very stable piece of software. It has not crashed on me once, and I haven’t run into horrible bugs that would hinder my use of it.

The UI and functionality is basically a mirror of Sublime, with a couple extra elements thrown in. One of these elements, which I absolutely love and wish Sublime could get, is the color coded sidebar which integrates with Git and highlights all changed documents for you. You also get the built in display of what branch you’re in on the corner, as well as a little diff counter AND within the editor itself you can quickly glance at lines that have changed from previous commits by the small highlight along the left margin (all of this which I think is possible via a Sublime package).

The plugin system is also very nice, with just about every plugin instantly ready to use after install. A little weird that there are no progress indicators for download though, as sometimes I’d sit staring at the icon and wait till it changed again to the checkmark.

Overall, Atom is a very pleasant editor to use. At the moment though, there is nothing absurdly “whoa” about it that would make me want to switch over from Sublime. More importantly though, it still hasn’t matched Sublime in one key area: speed.

Cons:

As you are probably aware, Atom is built with pure web tech. Node.js + Chromium lie under the hood, and as much as it pains to say this, it shows.

Sublime absolutely blows Atom out of the water when it comes to responsiveness. Be it typing within the document, switching tabs, or opening files, you will definitely notice the slight delays Atom’s web based foundation exhibits. It’s a shame honestly, and I hope one day things will speed up to at least imperceptible differences, but for now you can tell, and it’s a bummer. Mind you, this is supposedly with the new “React” editor enabled, which is suppose to help a lot, but either it doesn’t work in Windows yet, or that’s just how laggy things are with a Chromium based app.

Now let me be clear, it’s not that Atom is slow, it’s that Sublime is ridiculously quick. If Atom were your first editor, you might easily get used to it’s speed, moreso if you’re used to working in large apps (let’s say, something from Adobe). However, Sublime has raised the bar very high and I’m pretty sure for the time being, a non-native app will not be able to compete.

Now, I’m not a crazy coder anything, so my needs are small. Honestly the only real plugin that I *need* from Sublime, and is basically available everywhere, is Emmet. Another thing to note is that Atom is absolutely free, and if Sublime’s “shareware” version’s dialog popup annoys you to that extent, it’s a great alternative.

As for next week, I decided to also give Brackets a whirl. Now, I’m almost sure it’s going to suffer the same performance hit as Atom, but Bracket’s also seems to be trying to mix things up with new features and not simply mimic Sublime directly. We’ll see how that goes!

Posted July 19, 2014