The Living Thing / Notebooks : Text editors

I’ve used a lot of text editors. I like zipping around in a light 2-stroke text editor, as opposed to IDEs and word processors, both of which make me feel like I am a stowaway trapped in the bilge of someone’s supertanker.

Here are some you might like, arranged in order of decreasing relevance to my life.


Atom — made by Github, very extensible in a mainstream language (javascript), open source. Probably the hottest hotness at the moment. Powerful. Slow and RAM-hungry. I use it a lot despite this, because it is extensible and vibrant.

Notable extensions


Textmate — The shiny, sporadic Mac-OS editor that the Rubyists used to use. Now open source, but with an intimidating codebase that few seem to want to touch. Famous for painstakingly re-inventing wheels that look nearly exactly like the old wheels but are a little bit rounder, although they do occasionally explode and replacement parts can take four years to arrive.

Textmate I also currently use, because I was using it already, and there are some things it does better than Atom (search, tab-triggered macros.)


vim —

“The bartender’s smile widened. His ugliness was the stuff of legend. In an age of affordable beauty, there was something heraldic about his lack of it. The antique arm whined as he reached for another mug. It was a Russian military prosthesis, a seven-function force-feedback manipulator, cased in grubby pink plastic.”

Runs everywhere, most notably your legacy campus computing cluster.

Thanks William Gibson for the quote.


Texshop is a macOs specialised editor for LaTeX.

Sublime text

Sublime Text — The UI-oriented cross-platform text editor that took over when the guy who made the previous trendiest text editor (Textmate) went AWOL for 3 or 4 years. I feel bad for the creator, who held the text editing world together solo for years with a genuinely impressive product and now has all these free competitors backed by large corporations, drinking his milkshake. Still has, IMO, the best UI out of everything here.

I don’t use it.


LightTable — pretty, open source, revolutionary IDE-like live-code inspection. Language support is deep but narrow. (clojure, javascript, python). There is an effort to port it to Atom-shell, the underlying engine for the Atom editor.

I’ve used this when I was learning clojure, but that is over now.

Miscellaneous others

I would mention emacs but it’s not a contender for me. From experience, it only stokes my weakness for yak shaving; and in any case I like my workflows less specialised than the exotic ones that flourish in the rich parenthetical mulch of the tropical emacsystem. See above re: IDEs etc.