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Is there a future for the Atom editor?

Ben Halpern on June 10, 2019

When Atom first came out, it was novel in that it was built on web technologies and therefore pretty flexible and exciting for folks who worked in ... [Read Full]
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I tried using Atom. It was bloated, hard to configure, and still didn't do what I want. Did lots, but all of it poorly.

I tried using VSCode. It didn't feel bloated, was easier to configure, and came closer to doing what I want.

That said, I use Kate on Linux, and Sublime on Mac. I like watching text editors come and go. My list of requirements is small, but surprising few products meet them.

 

Strangely, my experience with Atom vs. VSCode was the same. Atom was cool in theory, but hard to configure, bloated, and slow. VSCode just hummed along.

So, unless Atom can be refactored to be as sleek and performant as VSCode, I think it's bound to lose the editor war indefinitely.

 

So, unless Atom can be refactored to be as sleek and performant as VSCode, I think it's bound to lose the editor war indefinitely.

Definitely. And my thought is that of "is it even worth bothering to do?", speaking in terms of both being Microsoft projects. It just doesn't seem like they'll want to bother. I know there are some other IDEs built on top of Atom and maybe there is a purpose to the ecosystem.

Sublime still has a place in the ecosystem, so do VIM, Emacs, Jetbrain stuff, etc. I just don't know that Atom fits in anywhere that VSCode doesn't.

Strangely enough I had the exact opposite experience.
I find Atom very clear and simple, on the one hand I have this very powerful editor that I can extend almost indefinitely, but at the same time it does exactly what I need it to do and nothing more.

I personally found VSCode very bloated - lot's of icons everywhere, for a person who get's easily distracted, it was a horrible experience.

I have to say that if Atom ever goes away, then I am going back to vim.

I think my experience is probably skewed since I had spent a fair amount of time customizing Atom to my liking before exploring VSCode, but I found VSCode and it's extensions fairly difficult to configure compared to Atom.

 

So, I’ve been using Atom for a long time, and I never considered switching because I’m lazy. However, it is unbearably slow, so I decided to download VSCode just now.

Let’s just say, I like it a lot. RIP Atom.

Side note: VSCode automatically offered to install an Atom shortcuts extension, so the transition has been incredibly smooth.

Request: Hit me up with your favorite themes.

 
 
 

One Dark Pro: binaryify.github.io/OneDark-Pro/#/

What I missed the most after switching from Atom to VS Code was the Atom really good default theme.

 
 

I've been in Atom since the first public beta. It's simple and has all the features I need, I'm not looking for an IDE with tons of features, so Atom has been good enough for me, just text highlight, linting and a feature here and there.

When VSCode was announced, I was curious and tried to switch but I didn't like the UI in general. In those times VSCode was clearly faster than Atom, but I was too used to my editor to switch.

Time went through and more and more people kept moving to VScode, to the point that I receive social pressure to move from Atom as a regular basis, "VSCode is faster, leave Atom". I then tried to switch again, just to see if I could do it this time, but the performance difference is not noticable anymore and I still prefer the simpler UI (in my opinion) from Atom.

Atom has future as long as there are users like me, and developers willing to maintain it or keep giving it love.

Now, let's remember that Electron was originally named "Atom Shell", and some of the people maintaing Electron, also maintain Atom.

Having two good editors using Electron benefit all of us. It benefits people using only Electron, people that use Atom and people using VSCode because it keeps innovation and competition up!

 

I had an almost identical experience. Tried switching several times. Couldn’t though because the UI isn’t nearly as polished. It also isn’t nearly as hackable and doesn’t support UI themes. Worst of all, you can’t change those AWEFUL icons in the activity bar. I was however able to hack it with an extension that basically modifies the app with custom CSS. When you use it, VS Code says “Unsupported” in the title bar. I finally got it looking halfway decent borrowing a lot of design queues from Framer X. I tried packaging this all up, but it’s an MS product and they said they don’t like people changing the UI. 🤦🏻‍♂️

 
 

I tried so hard to get along with Atom. For me, the configuration difficulty was not the biggest issue but it certainly was one, for me the biggest problem was speed. It just never felt fast enough.

If I remember it correctly, Atom and VS Code are both built atop Electron?

 

Yes, both are built on Electron.

Every time somebody on Reddit brings up how "Electron apps are slow and bloated", I like to think about how well-implemented software (VSCode) can work despite its constrained environment.

 

I feel that Microsoft has done an outstanding job of showing how well an Electron-based app can run by way of VS Code when done right.

 

I use and will use atom until the end of its days. When that happens, I'll buy and switch to sublime again. I don't like vscode and don't trust on its tracking and sniffing features

 

You can try Code-OSS. It is a version of VS Code without Microsoft's telemetry.

 
 

Going to add my 2 cents and personal experience.

TL;DR, I did switch from Atom to VS Code, and GitHub has mentioned multiple times that Atom isn't going anywhere.

Long version

I started using Atom in alpha. I did quickly fall in love with it and was a user even after a lot of people jumped ship after MS bought GitHub. I still like a handful of things about it better than VS Code (the find and replace layout, being able to search installed packages instead of either listing installed or searching), and running it on Linux (which I use on my own machine now) is far faster and less resource-intensive than running it on Windows.

It does still lag in some areas a little bit though, like when you do ctrl-p to find a project file. Takes forever to index a project (or it did last time I used it).

My reasons for switching were ultimately performance, simple/clean UI, integrated terminal, personal performance/consistency (I was using it at work already), and (yes, sue me) the available themes were alright enough to satisfy my ridiculous need to switch color schemes occasionally.

As for whether it's going anywhere, Lee Dohm has said multiple times that Atom is sticking around. And there are a number of users who settled on Atom even after messing around with Code, Sublime and other alternatives. They like that they can get Atom to do what they need it to do, especially when Code's API restricts them.

The discussion does come up occasionally though still with the users. I joined Atom's Slack group a while ago and haven't left yet despite the switch to Code. Heck I may yet give Atom a try now and again just to see what's changed.

 

After coding in XCode for a couple days, I’ll take a native app any day over hybrid. I’d rather have fewer node processes running. There is a huge hole in the market for affordable native IDE. WebStorm should be super performant but seems slow and clunky. There is a new Coda coming out. At least that’s something but will it live up to today’s standards?

 

When I was a student, I used atom for my projects and coding stuff. And it was 🔥. But frequently ran into performance issue, slow startup etc.

Now, I just use VS Code for every language I work with or wanna try. Its configuration and extensions are limitless. It just feels like that it belongs to you.

Honourable Mention: VIM
I also use vim for quick file edits as terminal always stays open so why don't just use it.

 

I switched from Atom to VSCode just about a month ago. I mainly use them for taking notes from courses and processes in markdown files.

Atom
Pros: really easy to use for me. Everything is logical and in the right place. I like having so many extensions, and how easy they are to find and install.
Cons: in markdown and preview, php snippets don’t really work. Not a huge deal at all, but I was going through a php course, and snippet after snippet the markdown files didn’t make sense anymore. The fact that nobody from Atom seemed to care frustrated me, so I downloaded VSCode. The only performance issue I ever got (and I promise I did work with more than just markdown) was scrolling at the same time in the markdown files and it’s preview.
VSCode
First of all, the confusion: why are there like 3 different versions, some paid, some free, and there’s also visual studio, why is it so complicated? Search for Atom and you get one simple page with one download button. Why, Microsoft??
When I finally downloaded the right one (after wrongfully downloading and going through the pain of installing visual studio on a Mac a week before) I had to, you guessed it, wait for updates and packages and stuff. Why is the install file not ready and complete? I want to download a piece of software, ready to go, not an installer to download 5 more GB of... stuff. Gosh. It reminds me of the “Get a Mac” ads from like 2009.
Rant out, let’s move on. Usability in VSCode was close to zero in the beginning. Where are the settings? Where do I get packages? What’s these bars here and there that I don’t need and why is the sidebar so big! It wasn’t easy. I’m slowly getting there, but the curve was a LOT easier with Atom.
I’m still fighting with VSCode, but slowly understanding how it works. I still have no idea how to install a package or get Git going on, and from what I read it’s possible to delete all your files without warning with a single click, which, what??... I’m still giving it a chance because everybody talks wonders about it, but definitely do not feel at home (or even remotely welcome) with it. It’s a process, and I hope one day I may get to even miss VSCode if I don’t have it.

 

There is only one version of VSCode

code.visualstudio.com/download

When I enter Visual Studio Code into the search engine the right site is shown right in the first result.
I never encountered the possibility to delete all files.

If you mean this VS code Delete my Unity project (OS X)(git clean all),it does ask for confirmation.

Visual Studio Code doesn't install another 5GB. If you want it to work right away, install the .zip file, unpack it, ready to use.

To use Git, I recommend using the Gitlens extension.

To install extensions. Managing Extensions in Visual Studio Code

 

Forget atom, the electron's future itself is in a pretty much flux state right now. In the early 2000s, no one would have thought even in their wildest dreams that an interpreted toy language like JavaScript will be used to write Desktop GUI apps.

And yet, they are being written today but is their performance acceptable? Atom is a cool editor but try opening a very long file or have multiple extensions for code completion in multiple languages, and it will start crawling even with 8 GB RAM!

Whether or not electron will succeed going further will depend on two factors:

  1. State of competing GUI components: Both Java and C# are light years ahead in performance than electron but they have two problems. Java is suffering from Oracle's neglect and apathy, whereas C# is platform dependent (WinForms/WPF don't run on Ubuntu or Fedora). However, Microsoft is working hard on bringing a WinForms/WPF equivalent in .NET Core and when that happens, electron's empire will stumble! But Microsoft may not do that after all because ironically, they are also invested in electron (VSCode and some other apps).

  2. State of hardware costs: Moore's law seems to have come to a standstill since a decade or so. In fact, the cost of processors and RAM seems to be going up instead of coming down! If this trend continues, people will make that effort to learn Java or C# or even Python (PySide/gobject) to go cross-platform instead of relying on electron.

 

I mean, VS Code is also an Electron app, and for the most part it flies. I have very few performance complaints, and I've used it as my full-time editor for like a year now.

As for comparing with editors built in other languages, two thoughts:

  • First, the fact that Electron is built on web technology means that writing plugins and language extensions and such is super accessible to anyone who already knows web tech, without needing to learn specific GUI packages or anything. And seeing that web tech is sort of slowly taking over everything, that's a big win for Electron.

  • Second, don't dismiss the performance gains of Web Assembly. The more WASM stabilized and popularizes, the less need there will be to move away from Node-based tech once you hit performance limits. You can even cross-compile existing libraries for processing-heavy tasks.

So I don't think VS Code (or Electron) is going anywhere anytime soon.

 

VSCode(or VSCodium, the actual free and open source version) is leagues ahead in terms of speed. While MS promised not to discontinue Atom, development has slowed down. I expect it'll be kicked soon enough in a couple of years.

On the other hand atom-shell or electron is the biggest thing that came out of Atom and it'll still be used in the foreseeable future.

 

I really loved Atom. It was my favourite editor for a while, beautiful and fast. But it didn't stay that way. It became a bloated mess, which made me switch over to VSCode as it was light and fast.
I'm seeing the same pattern developing with VSCode now. New features are being crammed in every other day.
The first signs of that bloated feeling has emerged in VSCode, much like those signs I saw in Atom just before the switch.

So has the time come to start looking for a new again?...

 

The thing is, even as more features are added, it is still zippier than, say, WebStorm (at least for me).

 

Oh yes, definitely.

Personally I don't really like full blown IDEs, I prefer middle weight editors with "just enough" features and super snappy responsiveness.

 

I am still so newbie in this world I cannot give a very reasoned answer. However, I went through the same change as you did.
I first started with Atom because the course I was doing recommended it. Af first it looked cool. But of course, I didn't have anything to compare with.
In the meantime I also started learning C#, so I had to used Visual Studio. I was so happy about the performance of Visual Studio (the contextual help, the way the things display on screen, etc.) that I decided it to change to Visual Studio Code.
I am not able to put it down into words, but for me Visual Studio Code feels more "solid" than Atom.

 

To be honest I've been using Sublime over Atom and once I found out about VSC I rarely even open Sublime. The only time I do open it is if I need to modify one file on a fly vs using vi.

Future for any of editors? I think it comes to user preference. Some use git, some use bitbucket and some still use SVN :)

 

I just want to point out that Bitbucket is no VCS. You can host your code on Bitbucket from Git and Mercurial.

 
 

I used Atom for a couple of years, but it seemed to get slower and slower--even small files were making it chug after a while. I finally gave VS Code a try, and haven't looked back.

I think Sublime Text could've still been a real contender, but their release cycle was way too slow and the add-on process wasn't user friendly at all. I think it still has better performance than the other two, but it's just not as extensible.

 

I downloaded Atom & PlatformIO to do custom builds of Marlin 2.x for 3D printers.
Every time I start Atom my computer becomes unusable for about 10 minutes.
It's probably re-indexing files that it has indexed many times before but didn't bother to cache the data.
Basically, I consider it to be unusable.
I'll switch to something more suitable to professional development.

 

Without knowing other editors, I started playing with VSCode but at the begin there was too much UI distraction. I like to use keyboard shortcuts more than mouse. Until I discover how to make it more minimalistic (which was not too difficult indeed but it took me some time to learn). Even in this screenshot, there are still a few things to remove.

I like the user/workspace based plugins activation and settings. I use them only when necessary, depending the project/language. I can customize anything I need. I guess, but I haven't verified, that disabling some build-in unnecessary plugins can help to improve performance.

Nope, I am not a MS fan boy (it is the only MS product I have) but I spent some time tweaking with settings and finally adopted the product.

my vscode

 

Really funny, Atom is way better than VS code. Atom has been a huge success.
This year it actually ranks higher than VS code, try googling text editors for linux or something similar, atom will be the first option on all recent articles.

But seriously, both are now microsoft's so what is the point?

 

I tried Sublime but switched to Atom because, Sublime failed horribly in proper code block folding, which they must fix asap.

Atom has similar functionalities as Sublime. One major drawback which I'm seeing is that it runs on top of Chromium (the same code that runs Google Chrome), which is a performance hit. (Or perhaps being Chromium-based is what makes it a hackable IDE.)

Honestly I am still yet to try VSCode.

 

I'm more than a little peeved that Atom is pestering me to try VSCode. I've gone to great lengths to divest myself of Microsoft products, and now my open source editor of choice is bothering me to try their product. I've read that VSCode is open source, but the binary version everyone downloads has telemetry that phones Microsoft's mothership. Anyone remember "Embrace, Extend, Extinguish."?? Don't delude yourself that this dog has changed it's spots. I'm not interested in being their product.

 

I would love to see Atom evolve into a beginner-friendly code editor. Its UI is already super welcoming. Imagine new developers having a code editor that explains code for you, can help you look up documentation etc etc.

 

VS Code definitely feels less bloated and seems easier to navigate. That's the main reason I switched. However, (and this may sound peculiar) I love the name Atom for an editor as well as the Atom logo and much prefer both over VS Code. Let's face it, the name "VS Code" along with its logo are kinda lame.

So, what if MS ditched the Atom editor but migrated its name and logo over to VS Code? Huh? Huh?

I'm sure it will never happen, but man, the Atom name and logo are sooo much cooler IMHO!

 

The fact that they bought GitHub does not affect the license nor team of any project on GitHub, generally. Though Atom is by GitHub itself, they have their own team. Atom won't "slide into obscurity" for any reasons other than why any other program would, such as if its maintainers do not keep up with the community (pull requests, issues, and feature requests). The core audience for Atom will probably use it even if it doesn't get every feature, if the trustworthy maintainers and license remain in place.

 

At first I'm using Atom but then I felt it's very slow, then I switched to VSCode. And later on I felt slow too on VSCode specially on project with large files. It takes too much of my computer's resource and I realize..the hell it's an application with webview so expect it will consume more memory and cpu usage specially on watching files.

In the end, I choose more lightly text editor which is not webview based. I found myself compfty using VIM 😁, it's fast, handy and has a lot of cool and helpful plugins.

But then if I have to choose VSCode or Atom? I'll go for VSCode.

 

I've used and have on my system Brackets, Atom, and VSConduam. All three are terribly slow. I keep up with them to see if they ever will speed up. I mostly use Sublime for major editing and nnn (a file browser) with neovim running the SpaceVim configuration as my quick editor. Neovim, even with the large configuration of SpaceVim, loads and runs faster. I'm looking forward to trying out Oni 2 when it comes out. I'm thinking it will be the major editor going forward!

 

Initially when I first started coding I used Atom and I loved it because it looked very "simple". But 17 months ago I switched to VS code which just worked for more complex coding compared to the HTML I was doing on Atom. I have uncountable an amount of extensions to boost my productivity, on Atom I think the market place is dipping due to many people migrating over to VS.

 

I used Atom for 2 week a few years back. Didn't like the feel of it. VS Code is starting to dominate the editor market now. I'm on the fence about that. I like a diverse set of tools, and centralization can be terrible for growth.

 

I started from Atom before switching to VSCode. I think your oversight is spot on. Eventually, Atom will merge with VSCode. A lot of VSCode features were similar to Atom, at least when I first tried it.

 

I use Atom quite often. I prefer having an efficient configuration which I don't have to change at all.
So I have atom configured for nodejs server development and then I use vscode for front-end development, specifically configured for Vue.
I've found that vscode often has too many default configurations that are different than what I need and requires more time to set up than Atom

 

All my juniors use Atom. I introduced them to VSCode but it could not replace Atom because of ease of use and familiarity. An added bonus for us is we useCloud9 which is Atom.

Is there are future for Atom? Yes absolutely. Do I like Atom? No, not really.
I prefer VSCode over Atom, though I prefer MacVim overall.

I don't see them retiring one editor over the other. Microsoft owns Github but Github still runs like its own company. We aren't going to see Atom axed.

 

Atom was definitely the less intimidating editor for me when I was first starting out in front end and I think that means it still has some kind of future. I actually had no real interest in switching until I landed my first professional role where most of my colleagues use VSCode. I can't really see myself switching back.

I still use Atom occasionally for personal projects or small static websites. Its UI (imo) is a little nicer, so I'm unwilling to let go completely.

 

My problem is that VSCode is incredibly hard to write plugins for. The plugin API is very narrow, and a lot of the things I want to do are just plain not allowed.

Atom is incredibly easy to use, and I've never had performance issues (besides the giant file thing..). When people say "it's bloated" what does that even mean??

My daily driver is NeoVim, but my new workplace pairs 100% and no one else uses VIM. I'm looking at the more "friendly" editors to aid in pairing. VSCode basically isn't extensible, Atom doesn't seem to get much love so I don't want to hitch my horse to that wagon..

Neither are acceptable options.

 

been using Atom for a while. seriously started thinking about switching to VSC after reading your posts and all the comments. But I don't necessarily hate anything about Atom. hmm... don't know what I should do.

 

I use Atom. No complaints, but my needs from an editor are mainly just syntax highlighting, not requiring as much thought as Vim, and something I can stick with across Mac, Windows, and Linux (otherwise I'd be using Notepad++). It being made by not-Microsoft was a selling point at the time I started using it though.

 

I recently migrated to use VSCode when coding in Rust, but just because the Language Service for Rust the client side is implemented for VSCode since it has the LSP specification more updated compared from other editors out there.

For other languages that I use more frequently (Python, C, Janet, Carp and Zig), I still use Atom, because it has support for native support tree-sitter highlighting. Tree-sitter is a technology that allows to have more powerful parser, commonly used, but no limited, to highlight code, it has a more performance than regex based highlight engines and can do partial update of the code Abstract Tree, so it can update fast enough to update the code highlight as the user insert more code, it also has the advantage that is easier to maintain a highlighter for a given language than a using textMate grammar

Because the the devs for the tree-sitter support for languages try to get as much close as possible on what would be the high level parser of a language, it can tokenize more stuff easily than textMate highlighters. It gets much more close to a Semantic Highlighting because of that.

My hope is that VSCode natively implements tree-sitter for highlight code, since Github uses a lot tree-sitter and now that Github belongs to Microsoft. When it happens (if it happens) I can fully migrate to VSCode like I want to.

 

I was an Atom user for the most of the time, and at some point with certain amount of plugins installed it started to become very laggy and slow. Switched to VSCode, installed same amount of plugins if not more, no speed decrease at all, plus it offers quite a few additional benefits over other editors by default.

 

I used Atom briefly and Sublime, but for the most part, I was on VS Code since the very early days. Even before you could add extensions to VS Code! The main reason being was we were working with TypeScript (TS) all the way back in Fall 2014 and at the time, VS Code was the editor with the best support for TS.

Having said that, VS Code implemented a lot of similar functionality as Sublime/Atom and it's just gotten better and better each release.

I would deem Atom a success pre-MS GitHub acquisition. I imagine they could keep two competing products, but it'd probably make sense to put all their efforts into one editor, and that would probably be VS Code.

 

I started seriously using Atom about 2 years ago (was using Vim before that and still do from time to time) and I'm pretty satisfied with it. Sure it's not lightning fast but it's usually not an issue.

I tried a few times switching to VSCode but I just can't stick with it, I just prefer the "look & feel" of Atom. I'm also too lazy to change my habits without a good reason and I don't have a good reason to switch for now.

Also a lot of people are trying to pressure me into changing it so that's a motivation to stay with Atom, I don't like giving in to peer pressure.

That being said I think there is a future for this editor because it still has a solid user base and a lot of people use it as their main editor/IDE, I don't really see it going away soon.

 

I still love vim, it's useful and powerful. I have tried Atom.But I think it's a little different to use for me

 

I liked Atom, but actually ended up switching to Vim. When I finally tried VS Code, I was hooked and dropped Vim.

I love VS Code, I never felt that about Atom.

 

I switched from Notepad++ to Kate to TextMate to Sublime to Atom. I tried switching to VSCode, but found it harder to use and the plug-in selection inferior (because it displays 100s without any guidance).

So for now I am stuck (and mostly happy) with Atom. I have so many plug-ins for so many languages configured and so many keyboard shortcuts setup, that I can live with its slowness, most times.

And while VSCode might be a good next step, Sublime is still so much faster.

 

I can switch back to atom if it becomes as performant as vscode :)

 

After Microsoft took over Github I stopped using Atom, but not because of the possibility of being "ignored" by Microsoft: I had a problem with Atom and a plugin and VS Code didn't.

 

I'm super excited with onivim2. Also the idea of another indi editor like sublime is more than appealing.

 

I switched from Atom to VSCode after Atom just plain stopped opening all together due to all the plugins I installed, and that was on a fairly powerful PC (i7 processor, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD)

 

VSC is one hell of an edior. right? Never looked back. Sublime is my rebound text editor.

 

doesnt Atom and VSCode both consume more memory than sublime? I have been using sublime since the day I was born. :p

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