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On Text Editors — Part 1

Jesse Atkinson

This is the first entry in a six-part series on my history of text editors.


I've been a web developer for roughly nine years now. Four years as a student and five years as my career. In that time I've tried nearly every popular text editor and IDE out there. This is a detailed history of my journey and how I ended up using TextMate 2 as my text editor of choice. This article will not tell you to use TextMate 2. It will tell you my personal experience and journey. I ended up deciding that TextMate 2 is currently (as of December 15, 2014) the best text editor for me. You may end up choosing differently. I hope that this article helps expose you to some IDEs or text editors you haven't used (or at least haven't used in a while) and makes you curious about what's out there.

The Dreamweaver Phase

When I first started out in 2006, the choice was simple — if you wanted to make websites you used an integrated development environment (IDE for short) and the IDE you chose was Dreamweaver. Whatever your opinion of Dreamweaver may be today, in 2006, it was easily the best. Dreamweaver made starting projects incredibly easy and it provided you with a lot of nice boilerplate templates. To a new web developer, this was a dream come true. The other tools available to web developers (specifically front-end devs) were barbaric.

So Dreamweaver it was.

The Coda Phase

That is until Coda came along. In late 2009, I graduated from college with a computer science degree and in early 2010, I got my first professional job as a web developer. My peers and the internet seemed to agree that Dreamweaver was only for beginners (hint: it's not) and that I should move to a "better" code editor. The two options I heard over and over were Coda and TextMate. I downloaded the demos for both. Coda was gorgeous, elegant, incredibly well designed, and had everything I needed built right into it. TextMate was... a text editor. I remember staring blankly at TextMate wondering why anyone in their right mind would choose to use TextMate over Coda. I just didn't get it.

Coda suited me very well for that job. I was one of two web developers at the company. We had no version control. We updated the website via FTP. The server-side language was PHP, which Coda was built to work with very well. All was going swimmingly. Why would I ever leave? I still maintain that if you're doing websites as a freelancer or at a small agency for clients and your back-end is PHP, Coda is the best tool for the job.