zen of coding

IDE’s are a thing of the past, and ST is here to save the day

I love sublime text.

I’ve been an IDE user for years. NetBeans, Eclipse, Komodo, phpStorm, phpED, Aptana… I’m sure a few others. I’ve given them all a fair amount of trial over many years.
It seems that because of the nature of what IDE is supposed to be, they are inherently subject to be “bloated”. They can be pretty fast, and many of them I really liked (NetBeans has been my favorite for a while). Still, all of these IDE’s pack a lot of features and lose out on the subjective speed and light feel. (I’ll talk about that later).

Most of my day is spent decoupling things, REST frameworks are kicking ass, everyone is trying to be thinner, lighter, faster, otimizied, minified, cached…

Then we get back to an IDE which tries to couple source control, DB, web services, editor (and all the fun and complex features that come along with it), debugger, a built in web server (?)… well that’s a long list already.
Some IDE’s are good at many things, but aren’t excellent at any one. Some are so good, they just cannot be reasonably fast.

So what did I do?

If the main focus of the day is coding, I, definitely, need a great and fast editor. I’ve used vim, textmate, coda, notepad++, aforementioned IDE’s and finally sublime text.

Sublime “feels” fast.

It’s a subjective matter… I cannot tell you how long it takes in milliseconds to complete a certain task, but the fact that I can access any file in the current project almost instantly, by following some easy keyboard shortcuts, makes the whole experience seem seamless, pleasant and fast flowing. Things never “hang”, but instead respond fast and quite naturally. It kind of does what you expect it to do. And does it elegantly.

Code auto-completion.

This is always tricky when dealing with frameworks and complex applications. I was able to achieve what I need with a few plugins, which is a really nice extensions system for ST (sublime text). Cannot say that it’s perfect, but I may find better ways to utilize some plugins and so far the issues are negligible. My requirements were simple however, as long as what auto-complete suggests makes sense and it nicely stays out of the way, I’ll be happy.


I always thought that I am simply not getting something, but random buttons and icons of IDE’s had always bothered me. The infamous search button of Eclipse is just sad. Also, I don’t really understand if some developers really click on a designated button to indent a bunch of text (or perhaps I’m not getting the purpose of the button), but either way… it’s an overkill that I can live without.


That being said, we are focusing on a code/text editor (for the most part). Paragraph and font formatting is rare and should never be in the way, but text and code editing must be the main focus… and that’s where ST shines!
Multi-line editing, speed and focus on basic features like formatting and selection is what makes ST so easy to love. Everything is naturally and easily accessible through some shortcuts. Sure, you can do all the same stuff with the mouse, but if you spend most of the time with your fingers on the keyboard the keyboard shortcuts are so much faster than re-adjusting your brain and limbs for another input device … a “mouse”…


Yep, you have to learn some shortcuts to be most effective. (Although, that’s true for any editor or IDE). ST makes it almost a natural desire to learn the shortcuts. The interface makes you think “How can I do this faster?”. What’s best, is that usually there is a good and logical answer.
After a week or so of usage you should be flying through multi-line editing, file searching, complex replacements, find and select features, etc., etc.
Then you’ll have loads of fun picking the right set of plugins and features to make your experience perfect just for you.


Pretty much everything in the editor, including all the plugins, is configured by editing some JSON files. We all like JSON syntax because it makes everything very clear, human-readable and quite simple. Not to mention, the granularity of “default” and overrides of “user” settings is effective and just makes sense. It is an excellent way to extend and customize ST to your needs.

I like to have everything integrated

If this is your stance, then I guess ST is not going to suit your needs. I do not suggest to overload ST with plugins to mimic an IDE. A minimal set of plugins is great to accomplish things and stay behind the scenes. KISS. That’s the whole point of ST.

Do you tab between apps?

I often switch from console to IDE; although in NetBeans it was very easy to use the built-in terminal… yeah… but in Ubuntu I already like “Terminator”, which is the tool I use for my console-based stuff. I know some shortcuts there and I have things setup the way I like. I don’t really need another tool to do this job. To me, that’s where an IDE loses its value a little.
As far as DB management, I can kind of say the same thing. I’ve yet to find an IDE which also has excellent DB management features…
To be fair I can’t really say that your typical MySQL clients are all that great (and no, using command line is only good for very quick tasks). Well, even then, what happens once you start using MongoDB, for example?

What about Windows?

I really like that ST looks, feels and works the same on all platforms. IDE’s are generally more popular on Windows (and while Visual Studio is actually nice), most Windows IDE’s are just a way to tie things into an uncomfortable OS and add some elements dictated by the vendor. Customization is minimal and while the IDE has certain power you lose your freedom of choice of the tools. Again if integrated-everything is what you need (for example in .NET development), then clearly we have a distinction in the type of environments typically required for open-source and PHP/JS/Ruby/Python development with emphasis on git, console-based tools (capistrano, sniffers, crons, bake, rake, fake, etc.).
Windows generally lacks a pretty terminal, good console-based tools, things were (and still are) pretty cludgy when it comes to system paths and all. Permissions and package management is not even considered when developing. That’s where the IDE’s picked up the slack in Windows (Similarly to bundled packages like wamp, xampp and friends. I think for Windows they are perfect).
Yet even on Windows even the best plugins for popular IDE’s aren’t quite as nice as a stand-alone TortoiseSVN, for example.

So IDE’s are pointless?

On nix* based systems and Mac’s we have awesome tools that already do the required job. They are typically well designed and well suited to do their main task. Considering that over the years most of them have matured and the developers were using them in conjunction with IDE’s quite often anyways. IDE’s, just like any bulky systems are becoming a thing of the past. Scaling vertically by bunching everything into one basket is not the modern approach. More baskets — more stuff.


By decoupling your editor, console app, browser, version control, DB client you are likely to improve personal performance, because you will be using specific tools that can help you accomplish specific tasks. Find a good workflow and patterned approach when switching between them as needed. If you learn a few tricks in ST your coding and editing productivity alone will increase dramatically and to me that’s a reason alone to use it.

To answer the question above the IDE’s are a dying breed because we are all moving away to lighter and faster technologies. Development environment should be no exception.

p.s. Just a quick note that ST uses the concept of projects, which some other text editors simply lack, and makes the use of them in a very simple and effective way… once again.

  • elemindsnc
    • teknoid_cakephp

      words cannot describe it.

  • Bob

    Vim users will laugh that 20 years later people are finally getting it and thinking they are on the cusp!

    • Jeffiekins

      20 years? Vi is 40 years old! I rarely use any feature of Vim that Vi lacked. And CTags put many IDEs in their place for speed and flexibility.

    • i’ve used both vim and vi for many years during my sys admin life… feature-wise, neither of the tools comes close to sublime text. yes, both are fast and with shortcuts you can do a lot and be very clever with it… but 20 years did pass. time to move on ;)

      p.s. i still use vim when i have to edit something on the server. but i’d never use it to develop a complex project.

  • clod

    Also I suggest to look at Codelobster: http://www.codelobster.com

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