Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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My history in text editors

Text editors (and by extension IDEs) are a programmer’s best friend. I thought I’d look back at a number of text editors I’ve used over the years. (I grew up with Windows, so I won’t list vim/emacs/nano here, even though I’m at least a bit proficient with vim by now. That is, I know how to exit vim.)

  1. Notepad – of course, the default editor in Windows. The one we turn to when all else fails. It used to be pretty bad at handling UTF-8 and probably just gives up on large files, but for quick and dirty work, it’s sufficient.

  2. Crimson Editor – relatively useful. First editor I used with multiple tab support and find in files. The first team lead I worked with (who I affectionately call “boss” to this day), recommended this to me mostly because she thought the dog icon was cute.

  3. UltraEdit – a very powerful editor, lots of features. We mostly used it back then for the superior UTF-8 handling and for the ability to open very large files. However, it has one glaring flaw that prevented me from using it too much: It’s not free.

  4. Notepad++ – I think this had roughly the same if not slightly larger feature set as Crimson Editor. But it was well-maintained and received regular updates, even up til now. (The latest update was a few weeks ago.)

  5. Eclipse – ok, I’ll include IDEs in this list. Most of my early career was in Java web development, and our IDE of choice was Eclipse. Slow-as-hell, always-compiling, unforgiving Eclipse. It had a rich features set, but again, hella slow, even among Java IDEs. Still, I spent enough hours with it to become fairly proficient with it and I even published a few internal blog posts on the most useful shortcuts and how to get the most out of the IDE.

  6. Visual Studio .NET – I actually had experience with the older Visual Studio versions, since we had a few legacy VC++ programs we had to maintain, but that was minimal at best so I don’t have much familiarity there. But then we had a C# project and I used VS.NET for a while. I didn’t care much for the C# language, but I did enjoy that VS.NET was way faster than Eclipse and especially enjoyed how good the Intellisense feature was.

  7. Atom – when I left my long-time job and started considering other directions to take my career, I considered using Atom because it was open source and I had long wanted to get into open source, and I figured what better way to get involved than to help improve your own tools right? Sadly, while I liked Atom’s feature set, I was turned off by its incredibly poor performance and loading times.

  8. Sublime Text – Sublime is so good. Extensive feature set, good performance. Only downside is that it’s not free, although it was so good I considered actually paying for version 3 at one point. Luckily I didn’t before deciding to try out my current text editor of choice:

  9. VS Code – VS Code is great. It’s free and it’s open source and it’s cross-platform. It has a good feature set. It’s super extendable and it has a vibrant extensions ecosystem. It performs reasonably well. I’d say not as fast as Sublime on startup, but way more tolerable than Atom. Once it’s loaded it’s blazing fast. It also inherited my favorite feature from VS.NET, Intellisense! Microsoft did a good job with this one. And I was able to have my first pull request for VS code merged into the codebase a few weeks ago! (I can now officially claim to be an open source contributor? Lol) I’ve only been using VS Code for a short while (less than half a year) so I’m sure I have yet to tap into its full potential, but I feel it’s deep enough that it will greatly improve my workflows as I gain more mastery over it.

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praise be to the great roy tang!


On a side note, quickly found out that you cant do the instant font resize via Ctrl+mousewheel (which was possible in SublimeText)

Could you do another blog entry on your configurations and extensions you have good and bad experience on? Thanks!

I don't usually need the font resize, but there's Ctrl + and Ctrl - available I believe. I haven't used VS Code long enough to have an opinion on extensions yet, maybe a follow-up post later down the line.