Github brews text editor for developers

'Atom' builds on Chromium to offer text editor in a browser that won't browse


Github has released a beta of what it says is “ the text editor we've always wanted.”

Atom, for that is the software's name, is billed as “modern, approachable, and hackable to the core” and also “welcoming to an elementary school student on their first day learning to code, but also a tool they won't outgrow as they develop into seasoned hackers.”

Github's approach to the text editor is very interesting, as this description of the project shows:

“Web browsers are great for browsing web pages, but writing code is a specialized activity that warrants dedicated tools. More importantly, the browser severely restricts access to the local system for security reasons, and for us, a text editor that couldn't write files or run local subprocesses was a non-starter.

For this reason, we didn't build Atom as a traditional web application. Instead, Atom is a specialized variant of Chromium designed to be a text editor rather than a web browser. Every Atom window is essentially a locally-rendered web page.

All the APIs available to a typical Node.js application are also available to the code running in each window's JavaScript context. This hybrid provides a really unique client-side development experience.”

Really unique? And there we were thinking that uniqueness needs no modifiers.

Enough of such quibbling. What else can the software do?

For starters, it is “trivial to access the file system, spawn subprocesses, and even start servers directly from within your editor.” There's also this laundry list of goodies:

  • File system browser
  • Fuzzy finder for quickly opening files
  • Fast project-wide search and replace
  • Multiple cursors and selections
  • Multiple panes
  • Snippets
  • Code folding
  • A clean preferences UI
  • Import TextMate grammars and themes

There's also a long list of dev-friendly keyboard shortcuts and much more.

Github says they built Atom with Atom. Despite that, the tool's in pre-release mode, although there are plenty of packages one can access and a signup form for those who would like a beta invite. ®

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