Join us in this short review of some of the most popular code editors available for web developers.
Using the right code editor is the perfect way to ensure an efficient and productive development workflow. Modern code editors can not only speed up the development process but also provide you with an extensive set of tools that reduce the number of steps you need to take in order to accomplish certain tasks.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the best, modern and cross-platform code editors that you can use right now.
🏊Let’s dive right in!
Table of Contents
1. Visual Studio Code
Visual Studio Code is a free, open-source and cross-platform code editor developed by Microsoft. Based on the 2017 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, VS Code is one of the most popular code editors, being used by more than 24% of the developers.
It features a comprehensive suite of editing and debugging tools, lightweight integration with other services and it’s also very extensible.
The new Live Share function introduces powerful pair programming capabilities that enable you and your team to collaborate on the same codebase with ease and without the need to configure any development tools, environment settings and so on.
Additionally, VS Code features a solid Git Integration, powerful Intelisense, syntax highlighting for some of the most popular languages and many more awesome features.
If that’s not enough, you can easily enhance and customize VS Code using an extensive collection of available plugins provided by Microsoft or created by the community.
2. Sublime Text 3
Sublime Text 3 is a both free and premium, cross-platform code editor, that’s not only lightweight & blazing-fast but also extensible.
You can download it for free from the official website and use it as long as you want during your undefined evaluation period with the expectancy to purchase it for only $80.
By default, Sublime Text 3 provides basic autocompletion, syntax highlighting and code folding functionalities. However, using the Sublime Text Package Control you can extend it and add more features including debuggers, new themes, intellisense support and many more.
The latest version of Sublime (3.1) also features improved memory usage (in some cases up to 30%), text rendering with ligatures support, user interactions, syntax definition and new color schemes.
Atom is yet another free, cross-platform and open source code editor that was developed and released by GitHub.
By default, Atom provides syntax highlighting, code completion and code folding and has native support for dozens of different programming languages.
It also has native support for GitHub and comes packed with a built-in package manager that you can use to search, install or create your own packages to extend its default functionality.
Similarly to VS Code, it also features a powerful pair programming tool called Teletype that allows multiple developers to join an isolated session and work together.
Atom can also be extended using Atom-IDE which is a set of optional packages to extend and add more language integrations, context-aware language completion and more.
Vim is a powerful open-source terminal editor that’s considered to be the “One Editor to Rule Them All” and comes pre-installed on almost any UNIX-box. It’s 100% keyboard-driven (but you can also use the mouse if you’d like) and it’s not meant to look good, but to be functional.
While it’s extremely powerful, Vim presents a very, very steep learning curve. However, once mastered, Vim shows extreme productivity improvements like handling tasks that took a while to getting them done in an instant with just a few keystrokes.
Right out of the box, Vim doesn’t do much other than handle text pretty well. However, extending it with plugins, scripts and fine-tuning it to match your own preferences, Vim will prove to be a very powerful weapon in your coding arsenal.
Compared to other graphical editors like Visual Studio Code, Sublime or Atom, Vim uses just a fraction of the system’s memory and loads in an instant while delivering the exact same features (if configured well).
Emacs is another UNIX-based code editor written in Lisp that’s battling Vim in terms of usability and extensibility.
By default, it features content-aware editing modes, including syntax highlighting for many file types, complete built-in documentation and an introductory tutorial for new users.
It’s highly customizable and it has first-class support for Lisp and other functional languages and if you’re familiar with Lisp, you can get your hands dirty and extend it yourself as it’s completely free and open-source.
You can customize Emacs as you see fit and introduce functionality beyond code editing including project planning, using it as a mail client, news reader, calendar and more.
Similarly to Vim, Emacs presents a steep learning curve that can take a while until you get comfortable using its full power.
However, unlike Vim, Emacs does not come preinstalled on every Unix box and the memory usage is slightly higher than of other editor’s available, especially if you’ve extended it with plugins.
SpaceMacs is a community-driven code editor based on Emacs that features syntax highlighting for major languages, testing and debugging tools.
It tries to bring the power of both Vim and Emacs by allowing users to choose their own preferred editing style.
SpaceMacs is built on top of four important principles: Mnemonics, Discoverability, Consistency and the ability to be “Crowd-Configured”.
This way, using SpaceMacs you can be sure that each key-binding is organized using consistent, mnemonic prefixes (p for project, etc) that can be intuitive and easily discovered.
SpaceMacs also has a very active and helpful community that you can join, contribute and get help from other members.
Notepad++ is an advanced code editor that was released in 2003 and is available only for the Windows platform.
It not only stood the test of time, but also became the 2nd most popular code editor in the StackOverflow Developer Survey for 2017 being used by more than 34% of web developers.
It’s blazing-fast and supports various programming languages out of the box, but it’s best known for being a brilliant HTML editor.
Some of its features include tabbed editing, supporting external plugins such as macros, smart syntax highlighting, compiler integration, autocomplete and indentation among many others.
Brackets is an open source, cross-platform code editor developed and released by Adobe under the permissive MIT license.
Brackets also comes with basic standard features, including auto-completion, syntax highlighting for many programming languages and support for quick editing and various pre-processors.
Another powerful native feature is the Live Preview option that allows developers to open current HTML documents inside Chrome and get a real-time preview of how the document is rendered in the browser.
It also includes an “extract” feature that allows developers to pull colors, measurements, gradients, fonts and other important data from a PSD file into a ready-made CSS file.
Finally, Brackets is highly customizable being able to extend its core functionality with the use of extensions available in the official extensions registry.
TextMate is considered to be “the missing editor” for Mac OS by brigding UNIX underpinnings and a graphical user interface.
Even though it’s open source, TextMate is still a commercial product released under the BSD license and has a decent price tag of $60.
It comes by default with powerful native features including find and replace, column selection, foldable code blocks, code completion, basic syntax highlighting for dozens of programming languages and many others.
TextMate also stands strong in terms of community and the available documentation and both are great places to find official plugins, themes or even submitted by other users.
10. Coda 2
Coda 2 is a powerful code editor for Mac OS and iOS developed and released by Panic Inc, the same company that brought us Transmit, Prompt and more recently Firewatch, the game set in the Wyoming wilderness.
It’s currently priced at $99, but you get to use it for free during a 7 days evaluation period.
Coda is a powerful code editor engineered for performance and efficiency. It showcases a modern and intuitive UI and comes packed right out of the box with utilities like code completion, syntax highlighting for various languages, MySQL support, local indexing and many more.
It also features a powerful built-in way to open and manage your local and remote files and an integrated terminal for quick access. In terms of documentation and support, Coda doesn’t fall short and has a very active community.
If Coda’s default functionality is not enough, you can also choose to install and extend it using an extensive collection of plugins developed by both Panic Inc. and the community.
Choosing the best code editor is definitely a subjective topic. However, I think it’s best to give each of them a try for a few days and see which one works best for you.
Once you find the right one, make sure to stick to it, master all its ins and outs and in time it will definitely prove to be your best code editor that makes you most productive.