Atom, is one of the webs newest text editors. Created by the team at Github, atom is meant to be versatile and customizable to any coder’s needs. Atom is based off the Atom Shell which combines the Chromium framework and Node.js to make a full-fledged desktop app. Atom is highly customizable through a diverse package library and an easy method to create addon packages. Atom is open-source software and is completely free.
Currently there are prebuilt Atom packages for Mac, Windows 7 and Windows 8. Simply go to Atom’s website and download and install the software. On a Mac, Atom can automatically update itself. On Windows, it is recommended to install Atom via Chocolatey in order to get updates until it comes out of Alpha.
Working With Atom
While using Atom, you will notice that the interface is very similar to Sublime Text and Text Mate. The developers at Github were very thoughtful at keeping the interface clean and easy to use.
Atom also offers really nice information about git out of the box. This includes showing the current working branch in the bottom right of the window as well as the status of files (unstaged changes, new files, staged changes, etc..) in the sidebar. This is a really convenient feature that does not come native in any other text editor that we know if (props to Github).
Extending Atom’s through Themes and Packages
Atom is a really useful text editor out of the box. What makes it really powerful is its unlimited potential for extensibility. This can be done through both themes and packages.
Configuring Atom Themes
Installing a new theme for Atom is very simple. Go to their Theme Repository and look around until you find one that suits your needs. My favorite theme is Soda Dark UI. Once you have decided on a theme, go to Atom’s preferences and click on the Themes tab. Enter the desired theme in the search bar, then click install. Once installed select the theme in the UI theme dropdown.
You can also install what is called a Syntax theme, which changes the colors of the syntax highlighting. My personal preference is to used the Solarized Dark syntax, as this is what I use in the command line and in other text editors.
Configuring Atom Packages
Packages are how you add new functionality to Atom. Packages do anything from adding file icons to autocompleting WordPress functions. For a complete list of all available Atom packages, check out Atom’s Package Repository. You install packages in Atom very similarly to how you install themes. Go to Atom’s preferences and click on the packages tab. Search for the package you want and click install. Note that all packages have settings pages which will explain the package in more depth as well as some sample use cases.
While Atom is still in its infancy as far as text editors go, it has the potential to be as widely used as some of it’s competitors. The fact that it is open-source, makes it much more appealing to open-source developers – plus its free! Stay tuned for more Atom tips and tutorials.