This is one of the most controversial topics for programmers: editors. We spend innumerable hours with this kind of software. It’s our basic tool. It’s where all the magic happens. For others it might just look like yet another word processing tool but we know it’s different. Way different.
Due to the importance of the tool we feel the need to use the best and only the best that’s available. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as asking Google to find it. There are several options and different approaches. Each of the best editors offers various benefits and every programmer has different needs. Therefore, there’s just one way to find the perfect editor for yourself: give each one a try. Not just for hours or days. For months. To get a realistic impression of an editor and its capabilities, let alone master the tool of choice, you need to use it for a long time.
Six years ago I started to learn PHP. I’m not sure about my very first days but I remember the decision to give PHPEdit by WaterProof a try. It’s done a good job and it took a while until I stumbled upon Eclipse PDT. As far as I can remember PDT had a couple of cool IDE features more than PHPEdit so I switched. At university we wrote a lot of Java in Eclipse. There, I started to look for ways to improve my editing speed. I soon had to learn that I had only scratched the surface of what’s possible until then. I discovered refactoring, snippets, useful keyboard shortcuts and much more. At some point in time Eclipse started to annoy me. Launching it took too long for my taste, waiting for tooltips to appear got on my nerves and the whole thing was just way too bloated. I felt the need for something fast and lightweight. That was when I spent days in research. gEdit, vi and emacs looked geeky and promising. TextMate was rather uninteresting as I didn’t care about Macs back then. I decided to learn vi and used it for about half a year as my main editor. Then I switched to emacs for a couple of months. At the moment of writing this post I’m a happy TextMate-addict. What will I be using in a year or two? Still TextMate? Emacs or vi again? I have no clue but I’m curious.
This is the first of multiple posts about this topic. I’m going to provide in-depth thoughts about each of the editors I’ve used for a reasonable amount of time. I’ll list what I liked and write about the reasons to look for another editor. The editors I’m going to write about will be Eclipse, vi, emacs and TextMate. If you liked this post and you’re interested in the upcoming articles please feel free to subscribe via RSS, email or follow me on Twitter. Thank you!