Editor Wars

10 Feb 2016

This was originally intended to be a ‘my text editor trumps everything in the market’ post. A little retrospect on the points to write forced me to change my tone and views. Comparing text editors is futile, just like comparison in itself is futile.You can compare text editors the same way you can compare cars. A McLaren may be faster but a Volkswagen may be cheaper. A SUV might look awesome, but your garage can only fit a hatchback. See where this is going?

Fighting over which text editor is better seems a bit juvenile now. There was a time when Vim vs Emacs was a legitimate debate. Vim was easier and ubiquitous. Emacs was just immensely powerful. There was also a time when Vim & Emacs vs rest of editors was also a legitimate debate. Sublime Text 3 and Atom have made that futile too. Right now it is more or less a debate of whether GUI is better than no GUI. Debating that is just stupid.

The only reason people use Ubuntu despite being a Linux based system is because it is a GUI. It may not be as polished as a Mac, but it’s a start. So telling someone who is just starting out to code, or even an experienced coder, that they are not real programmers because they don’t use Emacs or Vim is terrible. Most coders today, born in the late 80s and 90s, and brought up with a healthy dose of Windows and Mac are not going to be comfortable switching to a terminal or terminal like editor. Some may be at home with the terminal, and hence those editors. Some may not be. It is a matter of personal preference and one’s comfort zone.

Your job should also be factored in when choosing a text editor. It makes sense to learn Vim when you are a DevOps engineer. Working on Clojure? Emacs is the way to go. Working on the web? Pick Atom. Like Python much? Use Sublime Text. Of course you could use any of them for any job. Like I said, it’s a matter of what is in your comfort zone and what gets the job done.

You may notice that I haven’t mentioned the terms extensible and shortcuts. That is because with these text editors, it is irrelevant. For any of these text editors, you have to learn shortcuts and they are extensible as well. As for packages, there are plenty of them for all of them. With a little effort you can write one as well.

So please, don’t be an editor evangelist. I am guilty of that crime, but I have stopped. You should too. If someone does want to switch to an editor you use, by all means teach them. Take them through the incredible journey you once took. Just don’t bully or browbeat them into using your editor. That’s just bad.

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