Code Editors Showdown: Sublime Text vs. Atom


Not every project or task needs a fully integrated development environment. That’s why code editors remain the primary tool in the developer’s toolbox. Sublime Text has been the undisputed champion of code editing for years, but GitHub’s Atom is a new contender in the ring. Atom is creating noise and making a run at the champion’s crown. Let’s put these two code editors to a head-to-head test to see how they match up.

Sublime Text


Sublime Text is a code editor that is easy to love. It is a sophisticated, mature, and stable application that is easy to customize. It is also speedy. The program loads in less than one second and has lots of themes and plugins available. No wonder it’s been the reigning champ! Here are the key features:

  • Flexible settings
  • Intuitive and concise design
  • Goto Anything function quickly locates files and code
  • Set hot keys for any action, including smart code commenting using hot keys
  • Set the position of the mouse cursor when you paste snippets
  • Split screen editing support
  • Use Tab key for navigating to placeholders and switching to the necessary sections
  • See a mini-map of the code
  • Stores your private settings in a separate folder
  • Displays hidden symbols (spaces, tabs) only when you display the code
  • Provides multiple selections and column editing
  • Lightning fast automatic file loading
  • 22 beautiful color schemes
  • Syntax highlighting for 45 languages and their modifications
  • Cross-platform compatibility
  • Sublime Text is free to download. The license for use is $70.

The technology world evolves rapidly but Sublime Text has remained basically the same since July 2013. Sublime Text 3 Build 3103 was released in February of this year and promises even better performance. That’s good news because Atom is hot, it punches above its weight, and it is a credible contender to the title of Best Code Editor.



Atom promises to be modern, approachable, and totally hackable. It was the brainchild of GitHub co-founder Chris Wanstrath who set out to create a code editor that was completely open and totally customizable. He succeeded. Since exploding on the scene it has been quickly growing and developing and gaining a devoted following.

The Atom interface looks shockingly similar to Sublime Text and that is actually a good thing, since it borrowed only the best GUI solutions from Sublime Text. On the inside, Atom is basically just a web app in Chromium packaging. The Atom core is based on CoffeeScript, it runs on Node.js, and the interface is a standard HTML page. Here are the key features that we like the most:

  • Open source code
  • Incorporates the best features from other editors
  • Written on HTML, CSS, JS
  • Easy to set as a web app
  • Node.js integration gives access to 50k+ libraries
  • Uses DOM and browser API
  • Created from 50+ modules around a minimal core
  • Flexible structure is easy to extend
  • Central repository for module sharing
  • File structure browser
  • Quick fuzzy-search through the project
  • Multiple cursors and selecting
  • Split screens
  • Snippets
  • Integration with Git and GitHub
  • A well-documented open API for plugin developers

Atom has a visual interface to set up plugins, read the add-on descriptions, and the number of installs. The learning curve when switching to Atom from Sublime Text is minimal. All of the keyboard shortcuts are about the same. There are many add-ons that can fully satisfy the needs for front-end tasks. The add-ons are amazingly easy to use. Atom doesn’t include an add-on manager but there is an add-on for that task as well.

In a nutshell, Atom is a Sublime Text editor that just got better.

The Verdict

Sublime Text 3 Atom
UI Not far behind Winner
Architecture C++ Node.js & Chromium +HTML,
CSS/Less, & JavaScript/CoffeeScript
Customization Highly customizable “A hackable text editor for the 21st Century”
Plugins and Extensions Tie Tie
Cost $70 Free
Quick Key Commands Tie Tie
Syntax support Winner A close second
Performance Winner Slower
Native Feature Set Winner Oh well…

Both code editors are great. They are fast and easy to set up for front-end projects. It will be interesting to see how Sublime Text reacts to the competition. The challenge may turn out to be continual improvements in both. We’re big fans of Sublime Text but we think Atom is a rising star that needs to keep on rocking!

1 comment

  1. Rees Gargi Dec 24, 2016

    Thanks, It helped. Using both sublime and atom. Later is new to me but I’m gonna give it a try.

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