What code editor to choose

Photo by Christopher Gower on Unsplash

“Code is Poetry” a phrase which was coined by WordPress, the popular content management platform which needs no introduction. Code is the poetry which the machines or more specifically, computers understand and love but can’t write on their own. Although recent developments in Artificial intelligence have created algorithm and machine learners which can generate their own code and algorithms, most coding is still being done by developers and programmers.

A code can be written even in an application with most basic functionality like the Notepad or a text editor but choosing the right code editor would help you in being more efficient and productive and achieve faster results.

Here is a list of some of the most popular code editors which are suitable for beginners as well as professional developers.

According to Stack Overflow’s 2021 Developer Survey we have found out these results :

Stack Overflow’s 2021 Developer Survey

Framework for ranking code editors

If you’re thinking about switching text editors, or if you’re new to coding, I have found some pros and cons of the most popular tools and distilled the findings into a concise framework to help you with your decision.

It has specifically compared user experience, performance, extensibility, and learning curve across code editors and assigned a grade based on the following rubric:

  • A: Excellent, superior in all ways
  • B: Good, has a few minor issues
  • C: Satisfactory, lacking in several important areas
  • D: Poor, significant issues or reasons to proceed with caution
  • F: You’ve been warned

After comparing each code editor based on these metrics, the final results are given below:

(source)

Now let’s learn about some of the editors in depth weighing their features one by one…

1. Visual Studio Code

Visual Studio Code is a free, cross-platform, open-source code editor developed by Microsoft, initially announced back in mid-2015. VS Code has quickly gained significant popularity within the development community and is now the most popular development environment, used by 71.06% of the nearly 82,277 respondents in the 2021 Stack Overflow’s Survey.

VS Code’s out-of-the-box setup natively integrates features you would typically find in some of the more full-fledged integrated development environments. VS Code includes an integrated terminal, debugger, and source control, which supports Git by default. Even VS Code’s built-in intelligent code-completion tool, IntelliSense, is surprisingly robust.

VS Code UI

The activity bar provides quick access to these features, in addition to a search tool and a shortcut to the extensions marketplace. As a result, searching across an entire codebase and discovering new extensions is easier and more intuitive than searching in Atom or Sublime.

VS Code offers around 8,000 extensions, owing to its fast-growing community of contributors to its ecosystem. VS Code makes it easy to find, research, and install extensions straight from the editor’s marketplace. The community of developers dedicated to building extensions and expanding VS Code is remarkably robust.

2. Sublime Text

Sublime Text is a proprietary, cross-platform code editor, initially released in 2008. Sublime Text is the third-most popular code editor, used by 20.47% respondents in the 2021 Stack Overflow Survey.

Sublime Text offers a more traditional code editing experience that emphasizes simplicity and ease of use. Unlike VS Code, the out-of-the-box setup does not include an integrated terminal, debugger, or source control. And if you’re not willing to pay for the $80 license, Sublime frequently reminds you to purchase one, a nuisance in a world with plenty of free editors.

Sublime Text UI

Sublime only offers around 4,500 packages and lacks a preloaded package control tool.

Atom and VS Code, both open source, are easier to extend, have built out large developer ecosystems, and are updated regularly. Whereas Visual Studio Code and Atom have thousands of contributors and a large team of maintainers, Sublime Text relies on a much smaller team.

When it comes to performance, Sublime Text edges out VS Code, Atom, and other editors. Sublime Text is well known for being lightweight, speedy, and responsive. If performance is your top priority, Sublime Text loads, manages, and navigates large projects incredibly well.

3. Atom

Atom is a free, cross-platform, open-source, code editor developed by Github and initially released in 2015. Atom has attracted a sizable following, used by 12.94% of respondents in the 2021 Stack Overflow’s Survey.

Atom, like Sublime, offers a more familiar code editing experience without an integrated terminal and debugger. Atom is, however, tightly integrated with Git and Github and provides seamless source control. Atom offers around 8,000 packages, owing to its large community of developers and to the ease with which packages can be built and deployed. Hackability and usability are core to Atom’s mission and design philosophy. Even so, Atom is approachable and straightforward; it’s easy to get up and running.

Atom UI

Why has Atom struggled to compete with VSCode and Sublime? Despite its noticeable speed improvements over the past few releases, Atom still lags behind other editors due to its slow file loading and switching times. Working with large codebases, like the Linux kernel or the Android open source project, can cripple productivity.

4. Vim

Vim is a free, cross-platform, open-source code editor, first released in 1991. Despite its age, Vim was used by 24.19% of respondents in the 2021 Stack Overflow’s Survey.

Used almost entirely through the command line, Vim is radically different. It’s depends on the keyboard and shortcuts, which can be a power tool for experts, requires the longest learning curve. Much like Sublime Text, Vim is known for its top-notch performance. Having been around since the early 90s, Vim has had the attention from the development community needed to become a dependable development tool.

Vim UI

Vim is highly extensible and offers a whopping 17,000 plugins, but finding, installing, and managing extensions can be difficult. Without a central marketplace, users are responsible for either selecting a plugin manager or manually setting up each plugin, a stark difference from Visual Studio Code and Atom.

Vim has built an unbelievably passionate community and developer ecosystem, but the learning curve is frequently regarded as steep and raw. If you’re up for the challenge, learning Vim will take significant time and patience.

5. Notepad++

Notepad++ is a free, open source code editor built for Windows and first released in 2003. Notepad++ rivals Visual Studio Code in popularity, used by 29.71% of respondents in the 2021 Stack Overflow’s Survey.

Notepad++ removes many of the more complex features of VS Code. It’s far simpler, without too many bells and whistles, but lacks much of the elegance of Atom or Sublime Text. Notepad++ only supports close to 600 plugins, far behind the thousands of extensions offered by almost all the other popular code editors, and lacks an easy-to-use marketplace.

Notepad++ UI

Most likely owing to the application’s simplicity, Notepad++ is lightweight and fast. You’ll notice feature limitations far before performance issues. To new users, Notepad++ is an easy-to-learn tool for your most basic text editing needs, if you’re willing to overlook its outdated look and feel.

Finally, these are the editors which I find sufficient for making you choose the right one for you. Feel free to check out some other editors too which may be more useful in some other ways.

This is me signing off… 🚶

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