Did not see this coming…

I read a blog post the other day about Visual Studio Code vs. Atom. I was surprised to hear so much positivity about Code, but also confess that may be my experience-based choice of deafness to anything extolling the virtues of anything by Microsoft. And before you bust my chops on that, note the “experience-based” and accept that I may have a valid stance after over 25 years as a technology professional…. but, I digress.

I’ve been using Atom exclusively for about 18 months now, hours upon hours, day after day. I absolutely, and obsessively, love this editor. I have it tweaked and configured perfectly for my workflow and coding style.

I run 99% of my git commands within Atom via the git-plus package, and manage my repos with the Project Manager package. I have both vi/vim and ex capable command shortcuts and keystrokes, all of which reflect decades of motor memory and are very important for my productivity.  In fact, I’d say they are critical to it. Not long ago, my particular configuration hit a regression bug in the deprecated built-in vim support for Atom and it brought my productivity down to more of a bad limp in terms of cadence until I was able to migrate to the vim-mode-plus community package as a replacement; I had avoided doing so because that package, until recently, did not integrate with the ex-mode command package I relied on as well.  That’s all resolved now, but it sure did create a disturbance in the Force for a bit.

I use lots of other packages as well for linting different languages including Python, Ruby, JSON, CloudFormation, Ansible, and Terraform. I appreciate the easy-on-the-eyes color themes I’ve found, my current combo is Atom Dark for the UI and Gruvbox Plus for Syntax. Atom is just freaking great!

But, hey, I’m all for trying new things, just to say I’ve tried them. Especially when I see a lot of other folks buzzing about something…


Visual Studio Code is blowing me away.

I installed the latest Mac version and have been running it for 24 hours now, side by side with Atom. The interface is nearly identical to Atom. The command keystrokes and palette can be made the same by installing Atom keymap support. There are packages in the “Marketplace“, for free, that give me all the extras I rely on with my configured Atom environment. And, on top of all that, it’s faster and uses fewer system resources. It also has the feel of a true IDE and not just a fancy editor, with built-in debugging facilities, built-in git support, etc.

Now, I’m not about to jump ship completely from Atom. It’s been too good to me for that. But, I’m giving Visual Studio Code a solid trial run. I want to find its shortcomings and compare those with Atom.  And then I’ll make a tough decision.

Kudos to you, Microsoft. This may be the best product you’ve ever made.


CloudFormation Templates in Atom

I’ve posted before about my absolute love of Atom.  I recently was doing a lot of CloudFormation work and just started using atom-cform, a CloudFormation syntax completion plugin for Atom written by Diego Magalhães. It works great and is a port of the popular CForm package in Sublime Text, which I have missed since jumping ship from Sublime to Atom a little over a year ago. It provides real-time context-sensitive CF template scaffolding for everything from parameters to resources:


Another super-helpful CloudFormation plugin for Atom that does both CloudFormation stack validation and launching is Cory Forsythe’s atom-cfn. You have to have a working AWS configuration (the author recommends a working awscli install which is what I have) in place for both validation and launching as it hits the API in AWS. Simply bring up the command palette in Atom (Shift-Cmd-P on macOS) and select either “Cloudformation: Validate” or “Cloudformation:Launch Stack”. Key-bind those commands for added efficiency.

Atom (is) Smashing

Ask a developer or sysadmin about their favorite code editor and you’re likely to get a passionate reply, one that might involve several minutes of frank words and trash talk about any editor besides THE ONE. Up until recently, I was a diehard CLI coder, with vi being my editor of choice. With over twenty years of experience as a sysadmin, I grew up on vi-style text editing, to the point that as I would enter brief dalliances with GUI editors, I would make sure to get my vi-compatible key mapping in place. The  motor memory savings alone was worth the effort.

A few years ago, I switched to Sublime Text, which never felt right to me, despite it being quite usable, feature-rich,  and popular. The proprietary nature of the software always got under my craw given my FOSS roots. Then, one day about a year ago, I discovered GitHub’s Atom and I haven’t looked back since.

Atom is a near-clone of Sublime in terms of look, feel, and functionality and yet it’s open-source.  It has a vast and rich community of plugin development that is over 5,000 packages strong and growing. Package installation and management is done easily within the Atom UI but also customizable via configuration files. Here is a list of some of the installed packages in my current Atom installation:

  • atom-beautify
  • atom-json-color
  • autocomplete-json
  • autocomplete-modules
  • autocomplete-python
  • editor-stats
  • ex-mode
  • file-icons
  • git-plus
  • highlight-line
  • highlight-selected
  • linter
  • linter-jsonlint
  • merge-conflicts
  • minimap
  • monokai-json
  • pretty-json
  • project-manager
  • rulerz
  • Sublime-Style-Column-Selection
  • vim-mode
  • vim-surround

You’ll notice I have my vi keymapping support in there via ex-mode, vim-mode, and vim-surround. 😉

My favorite package in terms of productivity boost is git-plus. Git-plus allows you to execute git commands within the Atom UI as you edit files. I highly recommend it. So much so that I made this screencast to demonstrate how easily I was able to push changes to a GitHub repo of mine after making a quick edit to a README file.