VS Code vs. Atom: Which is the Best?

VS Code vs. Atom: Which is the Best?

IDEs and Text Editors have come a long way, from punch card machines to top-of-the-line IDEs with support for plugins powered by Artificial Intelligence, acting as a personal companion, ready to guide at every step. The journey up until now has undoubtedly been an interesting one.

For any professional, proper tools are pivotal in ensuring that their work is done efficiently and is of the highest quality. Similarly, a proper IDE or Text Editor is necessary for a programmer to ensure that the developed product is effective, efficient, and of high standards.

While we discussed the difference between VS Code and Sublime in our last review, today we are discussing VS Code and Atom. But which is better for daily development and projects belonging to numerous categories? Deciding which to choose can often become confusing, as both provide features that are hard to pass.

We will help you decide the best option in VS Code vs. Atom.

VS Code IDE Review

Announced by Microsoft on April 29, 2015, VS Code is a powerful integrated development environment created by Microsoft. It is incredibly versatile, supporting all the best web development languages, like JavaScript, Python, HTML, CSS, Java, and more.

Loved and used by many developers, it is one of the most popular source code editors. The Stack Overflow 2022 Developer Survey showed that more than 74% of developers prefer Visual Studio Code as their default coding environment, compared to Atom’s 9.35%. This gives VS Code a significant edge in the VS Code vs. Atom race, at least in terms of popularity among developers.

Some of the most notable features of VS Code include:

Powerful Syntax Highlighting – One of the most prominent features of VS Code is that it contains one of the best syntax highlighting implementations. It quickly identifies errors and provides additional cues, such as unused variable highlighting, which makes it easier for a developer to debug, refactor, or write clean code.

Code Completion – Code completion makes the developer’s life easier and increases productivity. Instead of looking up documentation now and then for every other thing, VS Code’s built-in powerful code completion feature, commonly known as “IntelliSense,” provides the developer with valuable and accurate suggestions at every keystroke.

Debugging Support – VS Code also supports setting up debuggers without extensive configuration or hassle. With built-in debugging features, debugging is as easy as pointing VS Code to the debugger’s executable. After which, you can debug your code from VS Code with all the necessary functionality to ensure a smooth debugging experience.

Extensible – One of the most essential features of VS Code, extensions add additional functionalities to the already great Text Editor. VS Code currently boasts around 30,000 different extensions created by its users, each enhancing the text editor uniquely.

A screenshot of the VS Code startup page

Pros:

  • Great Language Integration – Install the extension for your desired language and start coding. It’s that easy
  • Git Integration – Built-in support for source control, push and commit right from the editor
  • Clean Interface – Nice UI/UX, uncluttered and light on the eyes
  • Open Source – Active development and maintenance from a variety of developers and users

Cons:

  • Unexpected Crashes – Some extensions can cause problems and crashes, and rooting out these errors and bugs is hard.
  • Memory Management – Eats up a lot of memory compared to other text editors, mainly due to the editor being developed in electron.
  • Launch Time – Also tied to extensions, longer launch times with numerous extensions

Overall, VS Code is great for both beginners and advanced users alike. While there are plenty of powerful features, getting started with just the basics is easy. Now, let’s discuss Atom.

Atom Text Editor Review

Announced by GitHub on February 26, 2014, with the first beta version (v1.0) released on June 25, 2015, Atom is a free and open-source text and source code editor available on Windows, Linux, and macOS. “A hackable text editor for the 21st Century”, Atom boasts itself as a fully customizable text editor in workflow and user interface terms.

In the  Stack Overflow 2022 Developer Survey, Atom ranks at number 12, compared to VS Code, which tops the list as the most used IDE/Text Editor. This is a massive blow to Aom, at least in terms of popularity in the VS Code vs. Atom debate.

It is also worth mentioning that GitHub has already announced its decision to discontinue Atom, and it will reach its end-of-life on December 15, 2022.

Atom is still a good choice for basic web development projects. Some of the most popular features which Atom brings to the table are:

Customizability – Atom is fully customizable in almost every aspect. It gives you complete control over how and where an element should be placed and how it should look. If you know a bit of CSS, you can tailor Atom to your preferences by modifying the CSS style of almost all UI elements. Along with changing the user interface, you can even go as far as customizing syntax highlighting colors, and adding new functionalities using JavaScript and HTML.

Built-in Package Manager – Want to install a new package? Instead of going through all the hassle of manually downloading, installing, and configuring a package with your workflow, let Atom take care of the nitty-gritty details for you. You can install packages from your IDE using Atom’s APM (Atom Package Manager). 

Packages – Another great feature of Atom is that it supports packages. Using open-source packages developed and managed by users worldwide, You can add many new features and functionalities to Atom. You can also create your package from scratch and share it with the world. Atom currently has around 382,875 packages developed by users worldwide.

Flexibility – Atom was developed with flexibility as one of its primary objectives. As such, Atom provides its users with complete control as to how they want their workflow to behave. Should it be as minimalistic as possible? Or should all the required extensions be just a click away? You can customize it however you want it to behave.

A screenshot of Atom’s startup window

Pros:

  • Plugins Ecosystem – A large number of plugins to add more functionality and tweak existing settings. You can also create your plugins and share them online with other users.
  • Community – Has a dedicated and supportive community, helping beginners transition from other text editors to Atom.
  • Package Manager – Built-in package manager lets you manage packages easier. Instead of manually handling packages, let Atom handle them for you.
  • FTP Integration – Seamlessly integrate FTP in Atom using remote FTP.

Cons:

  • Cluttered Welcome Screen – The welcome screen can sometimes be overwhelming and cluttered, especially for beginners.
  • Slow Launch – This can take considerable time at the initial launch. It can slow down the computer if opened with other memory-intensive applications.
  • No Sync – No option to sync settings and customizations across devices.
  • No Future Support – Atom will no longer receive any updates or support after December 15, 2022. This will definitely stop anyone in their tracks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is lighter, VS Code or Atom?

Compared to Atom, VS Code is faster, lighter, and less prone to bugs. Alongside every feature Atom has, it contains extra features which can make the developer’s workflow more efficient. VS Code works wonders, especially if you are a web developer and code mostly in Typescript or JavaScript.

Is VS Code based on Atom?

Although both VS Code and Atom are built using Electron, they are not necessarily the same. This can further be seen as there are many differences between the two, ranging from UI to overall workflow design.

Is Atom still relevant?

Atom will be discontinued on December 15, 2022. After which, it will no longer receive any updates or support. Over time this has resulted in a decrease in the overall “relevancy” of Atom, as updates are necessary, be it to incorporate some new technology, security patches, or bug fixes in general.

Conclusion

This article discussed which text editor to choose in the VS Code vs. Atom debate.

Choosing the text editor is a personal preference. It entirely depends on your preferences and taste. You will come across many developers sharing their opinions and trying to convince you to use a specific text editor. All these “recommendations” are just personal preferences and opinions. When you are just starting out, you should focus on the best way to learn first.

Instead of procrastinating on whether to go for VS Code or Atom, pick one and start working on your projects with it. As you work on different projects, frameworks, and languages, you will encounter errors, bugs, and other anomalies, which will help you ultimately decide which one you prefer. After you are done with one, it doesn’t hurt to try the other option. Perhaps you will like it more than the one you picked up before.

The text editor coming on top in the VS Code vs. Atom debate depends entirely on the developer. Some would opt for VS Code, and some would like to stick with Atom. The bottom line is that instead of procrastination, try out the options yourself and see which suits your needs best.

Tyler Von Harz

I am a computer and software nerd. I love working on new projects that involve taking something apart, troubleshooting, coding, writing, or developing. I started my journey down this path as a kid and opened my first computer repair shop at 18. I also own and operate a web development agency and a Youtube channel for coding.

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