Why Sublime Text 2

About six months ago I made the switch to the text editor Sublime Text 2 for programming, writing, and finite element model editing. I was tired of switching between TextMate on the Mac and Notepad++ on Windows, so I began looking for a cross-platform tool and Sublime Text 2 won.

I want to document the reasons for my decision in case anyone is in a similar situation as me. This will not be an exhaustive argument—just the (roughly) chronological highlights through which I became a happy Sublime user. Here we go:

  • My profession (structural engineering) is primarily a Windows shop. As far as I know, there are no commercial structural FEA codes that will run on OSX. Dr Drang may counter—he rolls his own FEA code.
  • Thus, as much as I love the Mac, ultimately my (foreseeable) professional trajectory is aimed at Windows.
  • TextMate will never be available for Windows.
  • I hated the transaction cost moving between text editing on the Mac and editing a finite element input file in Notepad++ on Windows. The context switch (different keybindings, the location of window buttons, etc.) was becoming more frustrating by the day.
  • I started looking for a cross-platform text editor for programming, writing, and FEA model editing. Sublime Text won because…
  • It’s the most Mac/Textmate-like tool available on Windows. It has the TM vibe.
  • I needed to get up to speed almost immediately, which ruled out vim or emacs (neither of which I have any experience with, neither of which I had time to learn while finishing my PhD).
  • I like that user customizations live in a text file. I was live with my favorites Solarized (light) and Anonymous Pro within minutes.
  • There seems to be huge momentum in the Sublime community from Textmate defectors. Sublime was at the right place at the right time while everyone grew tired waiting for TM2.
  • There are troves of Textmate bundles that can be easily ported to Sublime packages.
  • Sublime is, in its own right, a very serious text editor with powerful text manipulation tools.
  • The minimap is such a great tool when editing a 40,000-line finite element input file.
  • The LaTeX packages provide everything I need on that front.
  • I like how it handles reloading log files during my simulations.
  • It is very actively developed.
  • It’s expensive enough to give me some level of confidence in its business model and viability.

So, there it is in a nutshell. I know there are some decent alternatives, but after kicking the tires for a few months, I am sold. If you are on Windows and still pushing forward with Notepad++, Textpad, or Notepad (most engineers I know, sadly), give Sublime Text 2 a look and see if it doesn’t give you some powerful new tools to get your work done.

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