Text editors are basically the underwear of programming. Are you a boy-shorts, bikini cut, or simple cotton granny panty kind of gal? Just as there is no “best” kind of panty, selecting a text editor is a similar matter of personal taste.
Regardless of your style, make sure to always choose a tool that is currently supported, with a community of users that can provide tutorials or general troubleshooting assistance. Many people find availability of keyboard shortcuts to be vital, as any time spent moving to your mouse is considered a distraction or wasted time.
Below is a brief summary of some of the most popular (and “free”) text editors for MacOS and Windows systems, to help guide your selection. Feel free to try a few on for the best fit.
Atom: An open-source editor that works on both mac and windows. Atom has a large community of supporters that provide plugins and customizations. It contains GIT controls, but is a little slower than many competitors. Every pane in Atom is modular, so you can remove, combine, and customize the tools that you like to see in the order you prefer them.
Sublime Text: Free to try, but continuing users are asked to purchase a license. It is known for being lightweight and fast, but still maintaining advanced tools. Sublime includes tabbed and split panes which are intuitive. Syntax highlighting and spelling fixes are easy with Sublime.
Brackets: Popular for its very clean UI. Brackets includes live-preview which gives you immediate access to your code in your browser window. It is reputed to be a choice editor for designers and front-end developers.
Visual Studio: There are versions for both Mac and Windows despite being developed by Microsoft. Some consider it to be faster than many alternatives. VSCode also includes a built-in debugger, refactoring tools, and GIT controls.
Vim: One of the first text editors that are still being supported. It has a community of religious users that value it’s comparatively draconian charm. It is considered a medium-weight editing tool, meaning that it does not completely suck resources but isn't light in its resource usage either. There is a bit of a learning curve to mastering VIM.
Emacs: Emacs is more of a collection of text editors that are extensively customizable and able to run a larger variety of languages. In addition to being a text editor, Emacs can also be programmed to run larger task tools such as accessing your calendar or collating your blog reading list. Given this, it’s a lot more complicated than editors listed above. If you are looking to run your entire life via keystrokes, learning Emacs might be up your ally.
Kate Hansen is a new-media artist and front-end web developer who is committed to efficient and aesthetically relevant solutions.
Her interested in web development began during her tenure as a Project Manager at the Office of Public Art where she led the redesign of a free database of local visual, literary, and performing artists.
During her time as a stay-at-home mom, Kate has graduated from Academy Pittsburgh, a full-stack coding bootcamp, and is currently working as a freelance web developer with a local artist to document her time in-residence with a refugee community in Pittsburgh.