Code Editor Review: Sublime Text

As a designer and developer, I’m always trying to find the best possible tools to do my job and to have fun with it. I’m both a PC and Mac user, Notepad, Coda, Textmate, Dreamweaver, Komodo and Aptana are some of the many editors I’ve tried but none of those made an impact as big as Sublime Text.

Although it is still in beta, Sublime Text is in my opinion the best text/code editor in the market which is available for Windows, OS X and Linux. There is nothing like trying and seeing for yourself but its features, aesthetic, usability and price (although it has an unlimited trial at the moment) made me want to write about it.

“Sublime Text is a sophisticated text editor for code, html and prose. You’ll love the slick user interface and extraordinary features.”

Interface

Sublime Text interface

Sublime Text interface

Themes

The first impression that will pop into your mind is how amazingly beautiful the Sublime interface is. I was especially impressed while using Windows because usually editors are only visually appealing under Mac OS, however, I would say Sublime Text is unique in this matter. Changing themes takes two clicks (for real) and by default you get 22 to choose from but you can download more themes if you like.

Minimap

Although the interface itself is extremely beautiful, usability and functionalities are even more impressive. Imagine something you would like to see in an editor and you will probably find it in Sublime Text. Let’s start from the basics and that would point us to the default layout. Sublime Text comes with a minimap which is available at the top right corner showing you every line of code you may have. However with the minimap my favourite part is that it made me stop using the scroll bar to scroll down the page because you will be able to do it much easier using the minimap. If you don’t like you can simply hide it.

Panels/Groups/Screen Modes

Talking about the good stuff, one of my favourite features is that Sublime offers you the possibility to display as many files as you want through one-to-four panels so basically you can see four files at the same time. If you have more than one file open, Sublime will automatically create groups and you can  send a file to a group or select a group using the option focus. In the other hand, if you have a peaceful and calm personality and you like to keep things quiet you can use the Full Screen Mode (F11) or Distraction Free Mode (Shift+F11) which will hide all tabs forcing you to focus on your code/text.

Sidebar

Finishing the important aspects of Sublime interface, one last and also common feature is the sidebar. Sublime has it all and you if you don’t like tabs you can use the sidebar or vice-versa. You can also change everything from its original position.

Features

Sublime Text - Multiple selections

Sublime Text - Multiple selections

Multiple Selection

Although it’s a simple functionality, one thing that surprised me was the multiple selection option which does precisely that. Offers you the possibility of selecting multiple lines simultaneously and honestly I’ve never seen an editor with such possibility. This is something that helped me choose Sublime as my number one editor because I believe the small details design the big picture.

Auto-complete/Snippets

While expecting nothing less, Sublime brings you the auto-complete feature. However if you’re expecting the fantastic Dreamweaver-like auto-complete you can stop right there. Yes, it support snippets so write html and press TAB and the entire HTML head element appears. However, the auto-complete option itself is achieved by pressing ctrl+space which gives you a list of possible words based on the ones you have already written and this is where I feel it needs a bit more work because it does not give you a list of hints. This means you need to know how to code, so if you’re expecting a big help while writing your HTML you will find a hard time doing it.

Python/Community

Not satisfied because that option you really wanted is not there or isn’t great as you imagined? Don’t worry because you may have a way to make it look good. With Python plugins you can add as many features as you want to Sublime and if you’re not comfortable with Python you have a great and big community in their forum to help you out.

Customization

Every toolbar, mouse scroll speed, keyboard shortcut, etc can be customized at will so feel free to make yourself comfortable!

Complete Features List

  • Side by side multi-pane editing
  • Minimap: see your code from 10,000 feet
  • Full screen mode: use all your pixels, all the time
  • Nothing but text mode: the text, the whole text, and nothing but the text
  • Syntax highlighting for many languages with C, C++, C#, CSS, D, Erlang, HTML, Groovy, Haskell, HTML, Java, JavaScript, LaTeX, Lisp, Lua, Markdown, Matlab, OCaml, Perl, PHP, Python, R, Ruby, SQL, TCL, Textile and XML supported out of the box, and more available for download
  • Multiple color schemes, with several included, and many more available for download
  • Bracket highlighting
  • Auto save: never lose your changes, not even if the dog thinks power cords are tasty
  • Fully customizable key bindings, menus and toolbar
  • Rich key binding language including sequenced key bindings, regular expression key matches, contextual bindings and parameterized bindings
  • Python plugins with a rich API
  • Rich selection of editing commands, including indenting / unindenting, paragraph reformatting, line joining and much more
  • Multiple selections: Simplify many tasks that used to require macros or regular expression
  • Column select
  • Regular expression search and replace
  • Incremental find as you type
  • Preserve case on replace
  • Bookmarks: Makes navigating through long files a breeze
  • Spell check as you type
  • Bracket matching
  • Commenting and uncommenting blocks of text
  • Asynchronous file loading, so you’re never blocked when loading files off slow network drives
  • Macros
  • Snippets
  • Auto complete
  • Repeat last action
  • Build tool integration
  • Automatic build on save
  • WinSCP integration for editing remote files via SCP and FTP

Video Analysis

DevHQLessons made a good video analysis about Sublime Text which I recommend. Check the video below.

Sublime Text 2: Best text editor ever?

Conclusion

I’ve made a very quick and rough review of Sublime but it should be enough to make your eyes shine. So if you’re looking for a powerful solution Sublime Text is for you. You can try Sublime through the unlimited trial or buy it for only $59.

Download Sublime Text

Ruben D'Oliveira

I am a Portuguese UI/UX designer, visual designer and writer. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and Multimedia and I'm addicted to web technologies and design. Feel free to check my work on Behance or Dribbble. You can also follow me on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. James Brooks says

    I’d like to point out that Sublime has “Vintage” mode which is a Vim like mode, a starting point at least, it doesn’t implement everything…

    Under C/C/Objective-C etc, Sublime can switch between header and source files by right click option.

    Don’t jump the gun, Sublime is well worth trying if you haven’t already.

  2. says

    I currently use Code View of Adobe Dreamweaver. I like Project Management, Auto code completion and some time it’s easy to make table by it’s WYSIWYG tool.

    How Sublime Text 2 can improve my coding speed? other then the Multiple selection.

  3. lou says

    Best editor ever made is Emacs, hard to use when you don’t know it but so delightful when you master the shortcut and use extensions available for everything possible with an editor.

  4. Wafiq says

    This is nice, i was using bluefish over notepad++ just for the wordpress auto complete but still always find myself returning to dreamweaver or aptana, i like speedy and light so the latter don’t cut it.
    Thanks, i looked at this before and thought allow it but your review made me install.

  5. mrchief says

    Looks nice indeed. Multiple selections is great! I miss vertical selection though :(

    • mrchief says

      Strike that. It has vertical selection ala column selection, just that uses different keys and mouse buttons (shift + right click as opposed to standard alt+left click)

  6. Christian Sciberras says

    Yet another code editor with yet another set of features other editors already have.
    Sadly, there’s nothing new.

    Worse still, the one I currently use does more things than this one.

    Why am I so critical about it? Because it’s reinventing the wheel, that’s way!
    I am also very disappointed in seeing that it doesn’t have more features which I need and which current editors lack.
    Sorry, but this just looks like a waste of time to me.

  7. Jan says

    And it loads amazingly fast. As an Aptana user i’m not used to screens just popping up without some kind of preloader. Will surely recommend this to people, thanks !

  8. Maksim Galkin says

    jEdit have many features introduced in ST2 such as multiselection, incremental search, a lot of plugins, custom themes. It is written on java.

  9. EB says

    Visual Studio is light years ahead of any IDE out there.

    However, if your server code isn’t C#, F#, or VB then you’re kinda out of luck. It would be sweet to see a PHP or Ruby addition to VS, but I seriously doubt we’ll ever see that.

    • says

      I’ve used Visual Studio for a long time and in my opinion it belongs to a different league. It’s also a lot more heavy and often used for the languages you mentioned. If I’m going to work for instance with CSS/HTML I would never consider VS for it.

      • Tim Rowe says

        Actually, Visual Studio doesn’t give anywhere near as much support for C++ as it does for other languages. So although C++ is supported, Visual Studio isn’t such a major player there.

  10. Craig says

    Great alternative solution against Dreamweaver! Just tried it on my iMac. The auto completion works well. Will use this soft definitely!
    Thanks!

    • Naruki Bigglesworth says

      It suffers from a really crappy search/replace dialog, especially regarding regex support, search within selection, stay within column selection, etc.

      Plus you need to be a PhD to figure out how to sort lines in it.

      Both of those are second nature in something like TextPad, but Notepad++ has some nice features TextPad doesn’t.

      I find myself switching between the two, and wish someone would just merge the good stuff.

  11. says

    Thanks for the tip! After few days of testing and doodling with Sublime Text I’m gonna say byebye to NotePad++ on PC and BBEdit on Mac. The WorkBench theme (good ole Amiga times) gave me some deep flashbacks, awesome! :D

  12. says

    Tried it out.
    What I am looking for in a IDE are the ability to:
    1. Automatically tidy up my PHP with a code beautifier.
    2. When I type PHP I would like some debug help and code completion assistance.
    At the moment Sublime Text just looks to me like a turbo Notepad

  13. Timothy says

    Great features! but quite expensive :( I have been using tsWebEditor for a long time. It’s free and works well.

  14. Lehnhard says

    I respect the decision from everyone to use the tools of his choise. In my opinion vim macvm or gvim for windows is the best editor I ever seen. Tryot out.
    And the best thing it’s free