Programming editors, like music, are a matter of personal taste and I don’t hope to convert anyone here today. I would however like to bring something to your attention which I discovered at the weekend.

I’m a “Notepad++” man. I don’t particularly like the look of NotePad++ but it is fast and flexible and has colour-coding. It’s a Windows only program but has lots of plug-ins. It is my favourite editor. Well, it was.

I’ve recently been toying with other editors such as Atom but invariably I last a matter of hours with new things before finding bugs – which I am very good at, unfortunately. I think the first issue I had with Atom was Javascript refactoring but there were other issues which, all in sent me scampering back to NotePad++

There is of course Visual Studio – and that’s very nice for Windows users if you can handle it being slow as molasses – I can’t. Life is way too short to sit and wait for it to start up.

Then there is Sublime Text 3. I started warming up to that too – but again little niggles I didn’t like.

Until recently I figured I may as well stick with NotePad++ but for a chance trip to see my friend Jonathan. As always when we meet up he has stuff I’m not up to speed with and vice-versa and so it was that in the course of conversation he asked me if I was using Visual Studio Code?

My immediate reaction wasn’t totally positive – thinking it would have something to do with Visual Studio and hence “tarred with the same brush”. Anyway, being Jonathan I could not dismiss this out of hand so I asked him to show me what he was on about.

Well, things have certainly changed at Microsoft, haven’t they! Presumably partly due to Steve Ballmer disappearing off the scene?

Visual Studio Code is an editor – simple as that – a code editor. I’ve been playing with it for hours now and done some major upgrades to one of my nodes with it.  This fast, free (and importantly advert-free) clean multi-panel editor appears to have everything that Notepad++ has – and VERY much more. The first thing I noticed on pulling in my JavaScript Visual Studio Codecode was the really nice colour coding and the dark theme. The second thing – and in all honesty one of the main reasons I’m attracted to this – is the really good Intellisense.  Was it that or the document formatting, turning my spiders web of a program into a very neat job at a button-press.

Or was it the gob-smacking list of extensions? Or the GIT integration, file compare… whatever, I’m a convert.

There are some features you might not believe if you’ve not kept up with Microsoft… extensions for debugging via Chrome (yes, that’s the competitor’s program) or the (untested by me) stunning fact that this editor is also available for the MAC and LINUX !!! What!!???! In my case I’m happy to stick with editing in Windows.

So – free, better than what I’m using now, fast, flexible and supported by Microsoft Why wouldn’t I be impressed. If you give the editor a go (which takes no time at all in Windows), you might be too. Integrates no problem as the primary editor for WinSCP.



27 thoughts on “Editors

  1. Okay, it works fine on System 2 (Kodi so Ubuntu based) but fails on System 1 (Debian). Not sure of the differences but I think I’ve found a few bugs. I’ll test it out on system 2 but I really need it working on system 1.

    I found the emacs plugin and I’ll continue to test with System 2

  2. Visual Studio code a Windows only program?

    I like Scite over any of the free ones that are packaged in Linux distros. Not sure if it is a Linux only program. It has colour and lots of configurations that can be done.

      1. Followed the download link and the Penguin was there. Have installed it on the tablet and will have a look.

        Always looking for the next bigger and better thing. Nice to be able to broaden my knowledge.

        Thanks for the link.

        PS. VS Code is available for all platforms.

    1. Scott

      ‘Visual Studio code a Windows only program? ‘
      No there are versions for followers of the penguin and the apple.

  3. Well I did think it was half decent, then people around here started calling it VB Code and that’s totally killed it for me. Can we please get a rebranding on this editor and call it Visual Studio Code ?

  4. Like you I’ve been happily using NotePad++ but when I was struggling to debug a Node-Red custom node, I was advised to use Atom or VB Code. I tried Atom being none MS!

    It certainly helps though I wish there were server based tools for debugging. My previous experience with Javascript has been browser based and there are FireFox plug-ins for stepping through the code and watching variables etc. With Node-Red it often hangs with no error messages.

    I had one issue with Atom and I got good response from Atom support and the author of the suspect plug-in. It turned out that the source file (previously edited with NotePad++ ) was corrupted. I retyped the module and it was OK. I also had some other ex NotePad++ modules that I noticed were playing up and were fixed by retyping some lines, though I could not visually see any corruption. Strange.

    If Atom plays up more I will try VB Code. With so many Atom plug-ins (I have 77 core and 12 community packages) it may be a recipe for problems. Thanks Pete for your thoughts.

    1. I think there is node.js debugging in Chrome (chromium?) browser. I think that’s been the recommended debugger. I can’t recall if that extends to Node-Red (I think it might).

  5. Editors is the one area where I will not change. I’ve been stubbornly using the same keystrokes and features (split window & macro code in emacs) since 1978. Though I do use vi in an env. where that’s all I can get. Whenever I try to change I find myself not thinking, just hitting the familiar key strokes and interrupting my programming flow. And yes it’s a problem. I’ve not found an IDE that works well with my style of programming

    1. VB Code has keyboard extensions that emulate popular editor’s keystrokes – emacs and vim included. Why not try it? What do you have to lose? Intellisense and live debugging are only a few of the things you have go gain.

      1. I will check out the VB Code for the debugging. Not familiar with Intellisense.

        While I do need a better debugging env for JS I can tell you the keyboard emulation is not the only point. There’s a lot more to emacs than C-A, C-E, C-W, C-Y (C = Control and those keystrokes mean something to emacs users). 🙂

        Besides 50 years (good grief) of using the same editor keystrokes means I can’t unlearn them. Often causes issue in MS Word.

        1. For what it is worth Neil – I said the same about WordPerfect after getting used to it’s weird keystrokes… but of course today I would not touch it with a bargepole.

          Intellisense- well that’s a term used by Microsoft (and no doubt others) for semi-automatic code completion. I used the term assuming others would understand.

          To give you an example… I opened an existing .JS file of mine – which immediately displayed in full glorous technicolour. As I started to edit, it became obvious that the editor knew all about my variables and objects. As I started typing up some use of an object it would suggest autocompletes using the list of available methods in the objects. It knows about matching braces etc and there are plugins so it knows about CANVAS, JQUERY etc but out of the box it already knows about Javascript reformatting, renaming symbols, popping up definitions and prototypes etc… I have used lots of editors and I’m sold. Not QUITE got this running on the Pi yet but as I use WinSCP I do most of my editing on a laptop anyway.

          1. I’ve not had good luck with autocomplete kind of drives me nuts at time (and gets in the way). Might be my programming style. I sometime zone out and I don’t actually look at the monitor. I’m programming in my mind. Folks who have watched have said it scary.

            I prefer to keep my hands on the keyboard and not to lift them to move the mouse.

            If I can figure out autocomplete then I might not need the split window as much.

            Now having said that I’ll dl vb code and give it a try.

            1. Excellent – costs nothing – easy to install/remove…. I’m loving it (as they say at McDonalds)

              1. Anyone know how to get it out of always on top? I’ve resorted to giving it’s own Window but I’m not too happy with that.

                I’m loading the emacs binding now and I’ll hook it up to node-red (I hope). I may need to load some more but we’ll see.

                1. If you mean the VS Code window always on top of other windows – not on my PC – works just like other windows.

                  1. It’s related to the Debian problems. The vscode running from Ubuntu is working properly. I did try the git repos but it doesn’t hook up to the market (I hate that term). I may need to retry that again.

                    At the moment I’m trying not to judge on a local problem. There are certain new features I want that I don’t think I’ll see in emacs so it’s worth a try but I’m very stubborn with the keystrokes part. 40 years of muscle memory will do that to you.

  6. I used it a year or so ago when I was toying with nodeJS putting some noddy POCs together to see what I could achieve starting from zero in nodeJS.

    The things I liked about it was linux suport, it’s ability to line step debug node js code and it’s really nice integration with git. There were a few things that didn’t quite feel intuitive though and I can’t remember what they are now, so I sort of drifted away from it.

    I do agree though – it’s a nice attempt by MS at a cross platform editor.

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