First Impression: Sublime Text 2

Sublime Text 2

I got a chance to test drive Sublime Text 2 for a project. I’m a long time Vim user, but also I’m always on the lookout to challenge myself and look for new ways of working. I wouldn’t consider myself a Vim power user; only having taken the time to learn just enough to get by. So I was happy to get the chance to see what Sublime Text 2 offered.

There are a couple of things that I really like. Sublime Text 2 is fast, it launches fast, it opens files fast. No lag. This is important to me because one of the most frustrating things is to have my concentration broken by waiting, even for a moment, for my tools. I love the dark theme, monokai. It’s a nice combination of dark and subtle bright colors. The minimap is neat and novel, but I haven’t found myself relying on it.

There are also a couple of things that bother me. Key commands change across Mac and PCs, also the limited terminal version, and key commands tend to be more involved than with Vim.

Using ST2 across a Mac, PC and in a terminal on a server is a pain. Some of the key commands are different. Search again on Mac is ctrl-g, but F3 on Windows. Some commands switch between using control on PC and command on Mac. And some were the same on both platforms.

There are commands that take more time in ST2 than in Vim. With Vim I can delete a line with one hand ‘dd’, the ST2 command is ctr-shift-k. Either I use it two handed, or I hold control and shift and aim for the k with my pinky finger. Two handed wouldn’t be bad except that ST2 requires the use of the mouse. Overall I feel slower because I’m moving my hands between my mouse and keyboard more than with Vim.

Speaking of moving around the editing window; in Vim’s command mode I use h j k l to move around. With ST2 I find myself using Home and End keys, which work differently on Mac and PC. This has resulted in some very stressful if not humorous editing as I lose and refind my place.

Overall Sublime Text 2 is a very nicely engineered piece of software, but I still have yet to see what makes it so special. There are some neat things, but nothing that text editors like Vim and emacs haven’t been doing for ages. There are a couple of exclusive features, mini-map, but nothing that seems killer. I get the feeling that ST2 is aimed at power users coming from notepad++ or TextMate as opposed to users coming from VIM or Emacs.

If nothing else using Sublime Text 2 has inspired me to become a better Vim user. I’ve even found a Vim color scheme of monokai.

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