Sublime Text 2

Being a nerd is an odd thing. We’re really particular about things that never even occur to The Normals. Take, for example, text editors.

For a web developer or a writer well-verses in Markdown, selecting the right text editor for the task is a Very Important Thing. IDEs and GUI applications often get in the way of development, and Word is almost always overkill for writing plain text that’s ultimately just going to be copy and pasted into a text field in WordPress anyway.

iOS Editors

On iOS, there’s an embarrassment of riches when it comes to text editors. You want one that syncs to Dropbox and has Mardown editing features? You have 18 to choose from. Me? I alternate between Byword and Elements depending on the task, and have started using Drafts to quickly capture text that I later want to edit later.

Desktop Editors

Text Editors on the desktop are a different beast altogether. I use them for a lot more than writing prose — working with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and scripting languages like PHP and Python are a daily occurrence. For a long time on the Mac there was TextMate, a highly customizable editor that became popular with web devs, but became stagnant after five years without a major update1. My copy never got much use since most of my work gets done on my work laptop and not the family iMac.

The text editor situation on Windows was bleak for a long time. Notepad++ was far better than the built-in Notepad, but was never something I felt like investing time into learning or looked forward to using.

I’ve even attempted to teach myself VIM on a yearly basis so I’ll know more than the basics, but haven’t been able to suffer through the learning curve to get to the point of proficiency.

And don’t get me started on Emacs. That thing is inscrutable.

Sublime Text

This brings us to Sublime Text. I can’t remember how exactly I first heard about it, but looking back through my email shows that I purchased my license for Sublime Text in March 2011, so I’ve been using it for at least 1 1/2 years at this point. It was a respectable version 1.x text editor, but even at the beginning, I was in it for the early beta version of Sublime Text 2. The final 2.0 version was released on Tuesday, and it is magnificent.

When you first open Sublime 2, it looks deceptively simple. Yes, it’s cross-platform2 and incredibly fast, but you don’t see much more than an empty screen where you can start typing text. But dig in, and you realize just how powerful of a tool this software is.

I’m not going to do a comprehensive review here, but I do want to run-down some of the notable features that makes this my favorite text editor.

Customization everything

The hundreds of settings and key bindings are both stored in simple json files that open right in Sublime Text. User files let you protect your customizations from any changes made to the Default file during upgrades.

You can also create macros, snippets, and auto-completions with similar configuration files — even on a per-file type or per-project basis.

Sublime Package Control

Sublime Package Control is a package manager you install into Sublime Text 2 that then lets you find, install, update, and remove other 3rd-party packages within the text editor. It makes adding new functionality super easy.

Minimap

The Minimap gives you a graphical representation of your entire file/document, allowing you to quickly “scrub” to the section you’re looking for.

Goto anything

Ctrl + P triggers the Goto box at the top of the window, which lets you open files, switch between files, jump to symbols or specific lines, or search.

Multi-selection

Multi-selection gives you multiple cursors on the page to very quickly make changes to multiple items.

Extensible via Python

Sublime Text 2 comes with a Python interpreter and console that let you extend the editor through the Python API. Python is a great scripting language and is very well-known, so expect many programmers to create wonderful extensions for Sublime Text.

Sublime Text 2 resources

Here are some good resources for learning how to use Sublime Text 2:


  1. A public alpha release of TextMate 2 was made available in December 2011, but a final version has yet to be announced. 
  2. Sublime Text 2 runs equally well on OS X, Windows, and Linux. 

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