Review: Sublime Text 2 the premier text editor for programmers

Sublime Text 2 occupies the appropriate middle ground between a bare-bones text editor and a full-strength IDE product.

Although I don't consider myself to be a programmer in the professional sense, I do like to play around with scripts from time to time and even create the occasional one from scratch to serve a variety of purposes, namely in task automation and the like. Normally, I resort to the traditional mainstays in text editors, such as vi or perhaps even GNU Nano if I'm feeling lazy. God forbid would I write anything on Emacs, considering that I contracted the infamous "Emacs Pinky" phenomenon once and it's not fun.

Out of the box though, these editors don't have any kind of syntax correction, color coded text or auto-completion features. An IDE like Eclipse is an option. But I consider the likes of Eclipse for simple script kiddie work to be major overkill. So what application serves as a nice middle ground between the barebones editors and the full-fledged IDEs?


A clean an modern user interface

At the behest of a good friend of mine from Germany, who happens to be a Ruby fanatic, I was told to give Sublime Text 2 a whirl and see the difference. After installing the program and getting it up and running on Windows, I was greeted with an editor with a deceptively simple looking user interface. It almost had something of a Google Chrome vibe to it, thanks to its tabbed interface for opening multiple files and the simple layout. Once I probed into the context menus however, I unraveled what was arguably the most diverse set of options for any programmer-designed text editor.

A look at the vast array of supported languages

I was able to set color coding for my code, depending on the language I used. Sublime Text 2 supports nearly every programming language I can think of in this area. There is also this really nifty feature called the command palate. What it allows you to do is control the editor via a "Spotlight" mode. You press the CTRL+SHIFT+P keys and you can type pretty much any command or menu item you can think of in the box, which makes the need to search countless menu items and guess actions a thing of the past. From this area, you can type any kind of command and use it, such as an open / save operation, package management manipulation and further code analysis.

When dealing with any code itself, you have features like warnings, code completion, and an ability called "Multiple Selections," which allows you to make code changes en masse without breaking a sweat. The features really have to be seen to be believed.

Type, and you shall receive

Speaking of package management, Sublime Text 2 has a wealth of Python-powered plug-ins that you can download and install. The features that such additions can provide range from simple cosmetic modifications and color changes, to grammar handling, reformatting commands and other custom abilities which can be added to Sublime Text 2 in a snap, but not so easily in other applications. Building upon the app's already great expectations as stand-alone software, there's no denying the power and usefulness of such a setup. As you can guess, since the add-ons are written in Python, anyone can customize and add to Sublime Text 2's experience quickly and effectively.

Bottom line

At the end of the day, if you are looking for the appropriate middle ground between a bare-bones text editor and a full-strength IDE product, you now have a reasonable choice at hand. No more having to "choose sides" or make any kind of major compromises, like lack of speed or features. At the cost of $59 for a single user license that covers versions for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, you can be sure of an editor that will fit your needs, no matter the situation you're in. Don't delay. Give the unregistered version a spin and see for yourself how awesome Sublime Text 2 is. I wouldn't simply take my word for it.

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An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Cus...

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