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Jacob Herrington (he/him)
Jacob Herrington (he/him)

Posted on • Updated on

What Alternative Text Editors Does DEV Use? (Not VS Code 🐱‍👓)

Hey DEV!

I'm a huge fan of VS Code, and I use it for pair programming and occasionally when I want to use one of the awesome extensions that the VS Code community has provided.

However, I'm also a fan of diverse marketplaces. I don't really like the idea that the vast majority of developers I interact with use the same text editor.

I'm the kind of person that uses Ubuntu, Firefox, and DuckDuckGo. Not just because they are great tools (I think I'm having a better time on Ubuntu than the last year I spent on MacOS, honestly), but because I don't like the idea of a single company controlling a market.

For that reason, I wanted to start a conversation about alternatives to VS Code.

I use Spacemacs, which is a set of Emacs configurations that essentially combine the Emacs and Vim text editors. I really like that I don't have to do much tweaking out of the box, but I still have a lot of the power found in both Vim and Emacs.

Spacemacs 👽

A screenshot of Spacemacs

What alternatives do you use? Or, if you don't what about VS Code keeps you from using something else?

Top comments (156)

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

I prefer to see Vim as the one true editor and everything else as an "alternative".

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benjamindavies profile image
Benjamin Davies

What about "Ed is the default editor"

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

We do not talk of the Before Time.

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chasrmartin profile image
Charlie Martin

Which is obviously a mistake as Emacs is the one true editor

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jacobherrington profile image
Jacob Herrington (he/him)

Preach

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dylanjha profile image
Dylan Jhaveri

I still use vim :) with my own set of plugins managed by vim-plug.

ctrlp and nerdtree are my top two essential plugins.

I think the best way to get started with vim is the hard way, to copy settings and plugins one at a time from example vimrcs and understand each line that is going on. It takes more work, but I actually love being in full control of my editor.

I must admit, though 🙈 every once in a while I open up VSCode, usually it is only if I'm working in a large unfamiliar project. When there are lots of directories and files and I don't know the project structure, VSCode makes it a little easier for me to search and grep around.

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codenutt profile image
Jared

I think the best way to get started with vim is the hard way

agreed.

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geeksesi profile image
Mohammad Javad Ghasemy

it's not harder than emacs

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dawoodmorris profile image
Dawood Feyard M. Kaundama

That's true Jared, I will also give it a try, the hard way.

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jacobherrington profile image
Jacob Herrington (he/him)

That's probably true, but I like to introduce people to Vim inside of VS Code with the VIM extension. It's a great way to let people get their feet wet without committing a lot of time.

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codenutt profile image
Jared

I like that idea. It didn't work for me, though. I would fall back to what I knew and avoid using Vim motions. To me, it's like learning any language...immersion is key.

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joerter profile image
John Oerter • Edited on

I'm also a Vim user and totally agree that you have to learn it the hard way. I've tried to take shortcuts, but I've found that all the time I've invested reading the help and actually learning the ins and outs of how Vim works has been well worth it.

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dvddpl profile image
Davide de Paolis

I am spoilt and I know that it is pricey, but since I started I always worked in company that were using ( or allowed me to use) IntellijIDEA. Honestly over the years I tried Eclipse, Atom, Sublime Text, VS Code and - maybe was just me not getting the configuration and the plugins right - but i never felt so comfortable, and what's even more important - i was never so productive as when I am using Intellij.

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varunbarad profile image
Varun Barad

Finally found a Jetbrains user 🤩.
I have a background of Android development, so when I tried VS Code I just couldn't get used to it.
Since then I have been using WebStorm for web development and it hasn't failed me once.

It is true that WebStorm is much more resource intensive than VS Code but my system can handle it so I am happy with it.

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joebell1329 profile image
joebell1329 • Edited on

I've actually found that VS Code is way more resource hungry than Webstorm. After loading up a large project I'm working on Webstorm consumes about 700MB of memory whilst the same project in VS Code consumes 1.3GB of memory.

Also, though it takes a while, when Webstorm has indexed the project it makes it very snappy to search / navigate around.

Huge fan of Webstorm to be honest. So many things just work nicely out of the box.

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jacobherrington profile image
Jacob Herrington (he/him)

That is unexpected. Cool though!

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varunbarad profile image
Varun Barad

Agreed. Once WebStorm finishes indexing then it knocks every ball out of the park. No competitions 💪

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seanwash profile image
Sean Washington • Edited on

+1, another Intellij/Webstorm user here. I use Intellij mainly for Elixir development, and Webstorm for any JS related work.

They keyboard navigation is so good! I've tried to go back to vscode a few times and just couldn't make it stick. Once you get used to doing everything with the keyboard in Jetbrains apps it's hard to feel as comfortable in other editors.

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dubakaroly profile image
Sándor Károly Duba

I started using WebStorm about 5 years ago. I love it. I also tried many other IDEs, but no one of them was such as useful as WebStorm.

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Tomislav Buljević • Edited on

Long time PHPStorm user here. I completely understand you, man. It's a great tool, and just the plugins alone are worth the money I'm paying for the tool. That's actually the only software I invest my money into.

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jacobherrington profile image
Jacob Herrington (he/him)

I used RubyMine for a bit, but I didn't love it. I've never really been one for full-fledged IDEs though.

Do you work on really large codebases? I've heard that's the best time to use a true IDE.

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snowe2010 profile image
Tyler Thrailkill

I love using RubyMine for any size project, even single scripts (using the scratch file functionality). RubyMine just does an amazing job linking together classes and allowing you to jump into documentation and source code of gems you're using. I've used RubyMine for projects ranging from single files to 10k lines of code.

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codenutt profile image
Jared

My journey looked like a lot of web devs that have been around for like 5 years:

Dreamweaver -> Sublime Text -> Atom -> VS Code -> Vim

I'm stuck on Vim now and I doubt I'll go back.

I wrote a whole article about it if you're interested!

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mauro_codes profile image
Mauro Garcia

After reading your article a few weeks ago, I started learning vim :D

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codenutt profile image
Jared

Awesome! Enjoy

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jacobherrington profile image
Jacob Herrington (he/him)

Cool, thanks for sharing!

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demg_dev profile image
David Mendez Guardado

i use Vim and gVim with the same configuration

set number
set expandtab
set tabstop=4
set softtabstop=4
set shiftwidth=4
set autoindent
set textwidth=160
set guifont=hack\ 8
syntax on

set nocompatible
filetype off 

set rtp+=~/.vim/bundle/Vundle.vim
call vundle#begin()

Plugin 'VundleVim/Vundle.vim'
Plugin 'morhetz/gruvbox'


call vundle#end()
filetype plugin indent on

colorscheme gruvbox
let g:gruvbox_contrast_dark='medium'
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ryanolsonx profile image
Ryan Olson • Edited on

Nice! So you pretty much just use Vundle to get gruvbox? This looks similar to my config (except I just use my terminal to set colors).

filetype plugin indent on
set ttimeout
set ttimeoutlen=100
set backspace=eol,start,indent
set ruler
set autoindent
set expandtab
set shiftwidth=2
set softtabstop=2
set tabstop=2
set path=.,**
set wildmenu
set autoread
nnoremap <silent> <space> :set relativenumber!<cr>
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csys profile image
Cheuk Yin Ng

Hello fellow gruvbox user!

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jacobherrington profile image
Jacob Herrington (he/him)

This is super minimal! Do you use a file browser like nerdtree?

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demg_dev profile image
David Mendez Guardado

nop, i just like this way, i try to install the filebrowser but i fail hahah, maybe a bad configuration :(

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codenutt profile image
Jared

Might have something to do with Vundle, I don't think it's well maintained anymore. I suggest taking a look at vim-plug

Btw, that is reaaaallly minimal lol nice 👍🏻

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eaich profile image
Eddie

I switch back to Atom every so often. I hide all of the nonsense menus and statuses and I find it to be cleaner than VSCode.

Atom IDE

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abhisofriendly profile image
abhishek sharma

yes it is the only issue with atom is takes more time to lot the project and lot of ram other than this it can easily beat vscode

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scotttesler profile image
Scott Tesler

I don't think this is the case anymore with the new versions.

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tterb profile image
Brett Stevenson

It still feels like it takes a bit longer to load projects and will freeze up every once and a while when you try to open a large file, but the cleaner interface and time I've already invested in configuring it exactly how I want is what has always kept me from transitioning to VS Code.

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scotttesler profile image
Scott Tesler

Maybe try the nightly build. I've been using that and it loads extremely quickly.

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tterb profile image
Brett Stevenson

Cool, I'll definitely give that a try!

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elfsternberg profile image
Eλf Sternberg

Emacs. I have co-workers younger than my .emacs.el file.

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yaser profile image
Yaser Al-Najjar

Notepad++
Simple and minimal; yet super powerful.

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jacobherrington profile image
Jacob Herrington (he/him)

Do you use Notepad++ for more than just scripts? I've been away from Windows for some time, but I used to use it to write some small scripts and SQL. I felt it would struggle with a larger project, what has your experience been?

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yaser profile image
Yaser Al-Najjar • Edited on

I do lots of stuff in Notepad++

  • Writing articles

  • Writing my daily tasks (todo list apps are time consuming, time gets wasted just playing with the UI)

  • Organizing ideas (like before making a feature in an app, I write all the correlated stuff to do)

  • Outlining whatever before start to write (like before sending an email, I list what should be included and what should be highlighted)

I love the idea that you can check whatever line (like a checklist) or open a new tab or switch between tabs with ctrl+tab or close it just like web browsers or auto-save any letter you write... it's just awesome!

I actually keep it open all the day, it has lightweight footprint on memory and cpu.

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lechurn profile image
lechurn

Glad to see there's another Notepad++ fan.

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abhisofriendly profile image
abhishek sharma

I had some experience with notepad++ for web development but when i code php when into js framework project notepad++ just true garbage piece of software .. moved to sublime and vscode

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sativaphoenix profile image
Darryn Dumisani Ph☻enix-92

I love sublime as much as you love this notepad. I rely on notepads and spoken words captured at work. Tabular notes are my favourite

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bradwellsb profile image
Bradley Wells

Notepad++ here as well, on Windows. Haven't found the need to switch

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deciduously profile image
Ben Lovy • Edited on

I've recently started messing with Doom Emacs. I began my Emacs journey as a Vim user with Spacemacs, then started fresh and rolled my own config from scratch, and now I want somewhere in between. It "just works" but is also closer to just regular ol' Emacs than what I got with the Spacemacs system. I'll probably stick with this for a while. Screenshot from the repo:

Doom emacs screenshot

(and VS Code ofc)

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jacobherrington profile image
Jacob Herrington (he/him)

I took a look at Doom Emacs when I picked up Spacemacs and it looks promising. I'm always afraid of spending too much time configuring stuff, so I've just stuck with Spacemacs!

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deciduously profile image
Ben Lovy • Edited on

Pretty much. Vanilla Emacs was fun but man was it unproductive. I don't find Doom Emacs to require significantly more tweaking than Spacemacs, YMMV.

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adriengiboire profile image
Adrien Giboire

Vim.

I tried a couple of times to switch to Emacs w/ Evil because I, too, think Emacs + Vim is probably the best editor. Think is I always had issues finding the alternatives the few plugins I use in Vim. And in the end, I ended going back to Vim :)

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benjamindavies profile image
Benjamin Davies

I was put off by how you needed a separate plugin for evil mode in dired

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jacobherrington profile image
Jacob Herrington (he/him)

Vim is super nice for simplicity, but I am afraid of spending too much time in config files! That has always kept me away from using it exclusively.

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adriengiboire profile image
Adrien Giboire

I did lose my self at first. But the thing to do is start fresh and see what's missing in your workflow. 99% of the time, there is something out there. It will grow with time but you don't need much at all to be productive.

I might give Spacemacs a try one day. Who knows.

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tobiokanlawon profile image
Tobi Okanlawon

I use Atom. Landed on atom after trying out most of the major editors when I was tired of ST3

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jacobherrington profile image
Jacob Herrington (he/him) • Edited on

I used Atom for a while!

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tobiokanlawon profile image
Tobi Okanlawon

Why did you stop? Slow loading speed?

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keptoman profile image
mlaj

I started with notepad (for about an hour), then notepad++, then sublime text 2/3. And I still use it today!

I don't see why everyone loves vscode. Sublime helps me work very fast and efficiently.

Why do y'all like vscode?

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carc1n0gen profile image
Carson

My number one reason to reach for vscode over sublime is breakpoint debugging of pretty much any language you can think of.

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jacobherrington profile image
Jacob Herrington (he/him)

That's super handy tbh

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jacobherrington profile image
Jacob Herrington (he/him)

There is a strong argument to be made for everyone sharing a platform and benefitting from universal plugins and extensions. VS Code has a ton of great extensions that are extremely easy to install.

I used VS Code with Vim for the better part of a year. There are also some great tools around git and stuff that you can download.

I came from Sublime Text 2, I felt like VS Code was comparable in most ways and better in a lot of ways, so I stuck with that until I started playing around with Spacemacs.

It'd be hard for me to pick many editors over VS Code if I was being purely objective, especially when I'm recommending an editor to others.

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sd_devto profile image
SD Dev.to

This. For me, VS Code hits that sweet spot. For what it is, I find it hard to beat.

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dawoodmorris profile image
Dawood Feyard M. Kaundama

I use Sublime Text. I fell in love when I was to insert a few lines of analytics code into over 2000 files! Its Ctrl + Shift + F feature for find and replace in files even in multiple directories is so cool. Plus the Ctrl + D for multi-line editing, and of course its smart code completion because am too lazy to type the close

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jacobherrington profile image
Jacob Herrington (he/him)

Yeah ST had a lot of cool features that now feel necessary!

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alexrdz profile image
alex rodriguez

Vscodium. It's VS Code without the telemetry/tracking.

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jacobherrington profile image
Jacob Herrington (he/him)

That sounds really interesting! Thanks

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ahferroin7 profile image
Austin S. Hemmelgarn

Vim with Powerline in most cases for me, together with the stock netrw file browsing script that comes standard as part of the runtime files, with the following reasonably simple vimrc on top of the stock config:

set ambiwidth=double
set autochdir
set autoindent
set autoread
set background=dark
set nocompatible
set copyindent
set display=lastline,uhex
set errorbells
set expandtab
set fileformats=unix,dos,mac
set foldenable
set foldmethod=syntax
set incsearch
set laststatus=2
set list
set listchars=trail:-,tab:>-,nbsp:_
set modeline
set mouse=a
set mousef
set number
set preserveindent
set scrolloff=2
set shiftround
set shiftwidth=4
set showcmd
set showmatch
set noshowmode
set showtabline=2
set smartindent
set smarttab
set splitbelow
set splitright
set wildmenu
set winheight=5

syntax on
filetype on

py3 from powerline.vim import setup as powerline_setup
py3 powerline_setup()
py3 del powerline_setup

Depending on what, exactly, it is that I need to do though, especially if it's large batch operations, I'll just use ex from the command line, or occasionally an interactive Python session (if I'm manipulating structured data in ways that ex just isn't good for).

Part of why this works for me though is that I specifically don't want my editor doing things for me. I have no interest in auto-completion (I find it wastes more of my time than it saves), or doing full IDE-style integration with my build system (because, you know, I've got a plain shell open in another terminal window that I can use to interact with the build system). I just want basic auto-indentation, basic syntax highlighting, and basic indentation-based code folding with usable static presentation features (line numbering, display of whitespace when it wouldn't be visible, etc).

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