The Humble Text Editor
by Josh Hornby
April 8, 2013
In order to learn HTML and CSS, you will need somewhere to write your code and build your websites – this is where the text editor comes in to play. I firmly believe that one text editor is way above the rest, but I will review my top two, starting with my personal favourite.
Sublime Text 2
I use Sublime everyday and I love it – its simplicity, feature set and cost make it stand head and shoulders above the competition. Unlike many other text editors on the market Sublime does one task very well instead of many tasks to an average standard. Simply open up an HTML or CSS file and you have a beautiful canvas to start working on.
Sublime Text works for Mac, Windows and Linux and costs the grand price of nothing. Personally, I have bought Sublime as I use it so often that I wish to give the developer something for his efforts. For all intents and purposes, however, Sublime is free, and I’m not sure there are many better free pieces of software on the Internet.
Some of the features I love are available through ‘Package Control’ – this allows you to install plugins which aid to your workflow. For example, I have installed a custom theme, a SASS plug in, and a number of debugging tools for when I am writing Ruby code. Browsing GitHub will show you the vast number of plugins on the market for you to download. Once you have found a plugin you like, you can simply install it via the Package Control menu, directly in Sublime, and you are done and ready to use it. The video below shows just how easy it really is.
Sublime also has great search functionality called `Goto Anything` – I have copied this section from their website as I feel it sums the feature up better than I can:
Use Goto Anything to open files with only a few keystrokes, and instantly jump to symbols, lines or words.
Triggered with CMD P, it is possible to:
Type part of a file name to open it. Type
@ to jump to symbols,
# to search within the file, and
: to go to a line number. These shortcuts can be combined, so
tp@rf may take you to a function read_file within a file text_parser.py. Similarly,
tp:100 would take you to line 100 of the same file.
Once you have become comfortable with this you will find your workflow speeds up and you spend more time coding and less time searching for files or parts of your code.
While there are more fantastic features than I could list here I do find one or two things annoying and hope these will be fixed in the next version, Sublime Text 3 (You can find out more about this on their website http://www.sublimetext.com/3.)
For example compared to the next text editor I will talk about auto-completing is useless. It’s hard to describe and the only way you will find this out is by using the product but essentially this just means you have to spend more time coding as it won’t give you hints to what it believes you want. However this can be a good thing as you learn more about the syntax and are less dependent on the editor. Another annoyance is the lack of being able to control a file structure, for example if you save a file in the wrong place you cannot simply drag and drop from the task bar build in to Sublime, instead you have to go to the Finder/Windows Explorer and carry out the move from there.
With those weaknesses aside you will be using Sublime to edit and create files and for its simplicity and ease of use I would recommend this highly to anyone.
For a long time I was a huge Coda fan, and being honest I still love it and one day may start using it again, but a few things hold me back.
I am using a late 2011 MacBook Pro. It’s a fantastic machine but whenever I run Coda suddenly everything starts to heat up and it begins to use a mighty amount of memory. This slows my machine down and together with the heating up, is not my favourite combination. This was the reason I left to use Sublime. With Sublime you will never notice it’s even running; it just sits in the background and allows you to do whatever you have to do.
Coda is a one-stop web design app. Everything you need is in this piece of software, from text editor to databases to deployment. If you are after a one-trick does all piece of software then I think you may have found it.
Autocompleting in Coda is second to none; nine times out of ten it’s giving you the correct ending to the syntax you are typing. When I made the switch over to Sublime this was, and still is, the main thing I miss.
Diet Coda is a brilliant iPad app and AirPreview is a really cool feature where you can use your iPad as a second screen. Once you hit Save you can see the changes right there on the iPad’s screen. Also with Diet Coda you can pretty much code a entire basic website up without ever going near a computer. So for coding on the go it’s somewhat perfect: http://panic.com/dietcoda/
As I have mentioned above. the memory usage is my main downside, but if you have a super powerful Mac then this may not be an issue for you. All Coda products are Apple-only, sorry Windows fans. Furthermore, while the all-in-one web design app contains a lot of features you will never use, such as FTP (File Transfer Protocol – we will cover this in the coming weeks), it doesn’t have any built-in version control. It’s amazing that in 2013 the powerhouse of text editors doesn’t support version control. (If you have no idea what version control is don’t worry we will cover that later).
Coda is far too big for me to sit down and go through every little detail, so take a look here and also check out this review. This is a fantastically well written article and it’s a good read for anyone thinking of buying Coda 2.
Both apps are fantastic in their own right. If you own a Windows machine then I’d say go with Sublime. Although a Google search will bring up many alternatives, I find them ugly and hard to use. If you are on a Mac then I’d recommend you to first download the free Sublime and use it for the tasks over the coming weeks. If you find it lacking or too simple, then maybe Coda is for you?