Moxley Stratton

Code Blog

Considering a Switch to the Atom Text Editor?

You’ve probably heard of Atom, Github’s new text editor. Read these checklists to help you decide whether it’s an editor worth switching to.

General Pros

  • Open Source
  • High-quality extension and enhancement infrastructure
  • View is programmable using good old HTML DOM and CSS
  • Well-known API model (NodeJS)
  • Built-in Github integration
  • Built-in, light Git integration
  • Realtime Markdown preview
  • Seamlessly tracks external file renames while the file is open
  • Browse archive files, like zip or tar.gz, like Emacs does.
  • UI and editing features basically a clone of Sublime Text
  • Free, while in Beta.

General Cons

  • In Beta. Some rough UX details.
  • No keyboard macros
  • No command documentation
  • Difficult to discover available commands
  • Currently only works on OS X (Windows and Linux planned)

For Sublime Users


  • Package manager is built in
  • Deep customization API
  • Fine-grained commands
  • Complete pane splitting and pane navigation
  • Smarter indentation of pasted text


  • 2-3x slower, 2-3x more memory than ST3 (realistically, it’s not as bad as it sounds)
  • No “Jump Back” feature, as found in ST3
  • No auto-highlighting matching strings of selected string
  • Can’t open file in existing window, unless it lives within the window’s directory
  • Missing key bindings for many search & replace operations

For Vim and Emacs Users


  • Modern Application and UI, contemporary key bindings
  • Easy to learn
  • Built in Package manager, and standard package formats
  • View is good old HTML DOM, CSS
  • CoffeeScript is arguably better than eLisp and Vimscript
  • Editor API reaches deep into the editor
  • Project-wide fuzzy file finder, built in, fuss-free
  • Buffer-wide fuzzy symbol finder, built in, fuss-free
  • Project-wide string search
  • Large number of homerow-close key bindings (many of them are Emacs compatible)
  • Pane splitting on par with Vim and Emacs
  • Multi selections
  • Code Snippets


  • Editor API doesn’t go as deep as Emacs. Lacks rich callback API that Emacs has.
  • No cursor history, so no command for going back to the last location without using bookmarks
  • No cursor navigation around, or editing operations on, symbol definitions (e.g., methods)
  • Unlike Emacs, no built-in shell console (package under development)
  • Keyboard navigation of file tree is cumbersome, but will likely improve over time.
  • Missing a lot of the cool text navigation and editing commands available to Vim and Emacs