Sublime Text - One Of The Best Text Editors Available Today

3/6/2013 9:27:08 AM

If you haven’t heard of Sublime Text, you are missing out on what is possibly one of the best text editors available today. Sublime Text is a simplistic text editor with an uncluttered UI a beautiful interface, and a powerful keyboard driven interface. It has very rich keyboard shortcuts that make reaching for the mouse unnecessary. It is also highly customizable and extensible with its own plug-in API.

Command Palette

Probably the most powerful feature of Sublime Text is the Command Palette accessible by pressing Ctrl+Shift+P. Think of it as a command line for Sub-lime Text.

Probably the most powerful  feature of Sublime Text is the Command Palette accessible by  pressing Ctrl+Shift+P.

Probably the most powerful feature of Sublime Text is the Command Palette accessible by pressing Ctrl+Shift+P.

When you use the aforementioned shortcut, what you see is a list of commands and their corresponding short-cuts, if any. The best thing about this list is that it is searchable. If at any point you want to perform an action, and you do not know the keyboard short-cut for it, simply open the Command Palette, and start typing the name of the action.

Let’s say you want to convert a sentence from normal case to title case. Open the command palette and type “case”. You should see a number of options for converting between different cases.

Install the Package Manager

Installing packages for Sublime Text is simple enough, and just requires one to copy the package files to the Sublime Text pack-ages directory. However there is a better way that integrates with the Sublime Text editor – Sublime Package Control.

Sublime Package Control is a package manager that allows you to download, install, update, and remove packages directly from Sublime Text. Of course you need to install the package manager itself first, but that too is simple enough. Visit installation instructions.

Sublime Package Control

Sublime Package Control

Once it is installed, you will notice new commands for managing packages in your Command Palette. Press Ctrl+Shift+P and then type install” and you will see Package Control: Install Package” as one of the options. Select it and after a short wait you will see a searchable list of packages you can install.


Now that you have the package manager, there are a few plug-ins you just need to install:

·         Prefixr: If you work a lot with CSS, this plug-in is a must have. It automatically adds the correct browser prefixes to CSS properties.

·         Sublime Alignment: This neat plug-in allows you to automatically align your code to the same indent level or align assignments around the “=”

·         SFTP: If you want to work on code directly on a remote FTP server.

·         Bracket Highlighter: Automatically highlights starting and ending brackets around a code segment.

·         Emmet: Formerly known as Zen Coding, this is a highly condensed way of writing HTML or CSS code.

·         Omni Markup Previewer: If you want to use light-weight markup languages like Markdown or Textile, this plug-in is must have. It exports such mark-up to HTML and shows a live pre-view in your browser.

·         Code Intel: This plug-in adds support for code auto-completion, function call tool-tips, and jump to definition, bringing it closer to an IDE.nettuts+ Fetch: If you routinely need to work with remote files, this is a handy package. Just configure your popular remote files, and this package will fetch the latest version for you whenever you want.

·         Color Picker: This allows you to tweak CSS colors with a handy color picker.

·         Sublime REPL: This gives Sublime Text an inbuilt REPL or Read Evaluate Print Loop or in other words interpreter. It supports a number of languages, from Python and JavaScript to F# and R.

·         Gist: If you use GitHub, the Gist plug-in will come handy as it allows you to quickly publish some code from a local file to a Gist. Once you have the package manager installed, just search for these packages using that and install them if you want. There are nearly a thousand packages available for Sublime Text that do everything from adding support for specific frameworks, adding support for VCS systems, changing the theme or color scheme, automatic Linting, adding support for more languages, and lot more.

Edit at multiple points

Another powerful feature of Sublime Text is multiple cursors. With multiple cursors active, you can type the same text in multiple locations at the same time.

To use multiple cursors, simply click in multiple places in your document while keeping the Ctrl key pressed. Wherever you click, a new cursor will be added, and any text you type now will simultaneously appear in all those places.

A keyboard shortcut for this is also available, press Ctrl+Alt+Up or Ctrl+Alt+Down to add another cursor at the same column in the line above, or below respectively. To get rid of multiple cursors, and switch back to a single one as you would obviously want to do at some point, just press Esc.

Multiple Selections

Just like you can have multiple cursors, you can have multiple selection as well, which let you modify multiple places at the same time.

Multiple Selections

Multiple Selections

The process of making multiple selections is simple. If you have some text selected, and you would like to select more text elsewhere, just drag and select that text while keeping Ctrl pressed.

This feature is a lot more powerful though. Let’s say you realize after writing a lot of text that you spelled ‘color’ as color’ and you were supposed to use the British spelling? Simply put your cursor over color’ and press Ctrl+D; this will select ‘color’ and highlight other instances. Now keep pressing Ctrl+D till all or as many as you want instances are selected. Then simply type in the replacement.

Modifying settings

You may find that Sublime Text doesn’t really have a settings panel like you might expect. There is no GUI for configuring the software, but what you do have is a rich set of configuration files that let you alter nearly everything about the software.

In the Preferences menu, you will find entries such as Settings – Default and Settings - User. Altering either of them will change the desired setting, but only the User set-tings will survive an update to a plug-in or of Sublime Text.

By default many “User” set-ting will be blank, but you can open the “Default” versions of the config files to see what set-tings are available to configure. If you want you can just copy-paste the contents of the default file in the user file and only modify the settings you want. This is recommended because this file has to be in a very specific format called JSON.

The settings are terse variable names, but the names are often self-explanatory. For example: “spell_check” sets whether Sublime Text automatically highlights spelling mistakes by default, you might want to enable it if you mostly work with non-code text; “highlight_ line” sets whether the line(s) containing a cursor should be highlighted. Most plug-ins will have their own setting, which too will be divided into default and user.

Change the theme

The default UI theme is pretty good, but you may have your own preferences, and luckily for you the theme can be changed. Installing a theme is simple thanks to the package manger, just search for “theme”. Switching themes however, requires you to edit the configuration files.

Select Settings - User from the Preferences menu. As we said before, this file uses the JSON format, if you don’t know what that is just copy the everything from Settings Default and make changes to that, we’ll assume that is what you have done.

Switching themes however,  requires you to edit the configuration files

Switching themes however, requires you to edit the configuration files

Find the line that says theme”, which by default is set to “Default.sublime-theme”. Change this setting based on the theme you installed. Try it with the popular “Soda” theme. Install the Soda theme using the package manager, and then change this setting to “Soda Light.sublime-theme” for the light version of the theme, or Soda Dark.sublime-theme” for the dark version.

Color Scheme

Like the theme, the syntax highlighting scheme used by Sublime Text can also be changed. Like themes, you can find color schemes using the package manager. Just search for scheme and you should see many of them.

Sublime Text has a simple UI for changing color schemes; they are all listed hierarchically under Preferences > Color Scheme. Some themes also include color schemes that fit with that scheme.

Make a plug-in

If all else fails you can always make your own plug-in for Sublime Text. You will notice that the Tools menu has a New Plugin...option. SublimeText plug-ins are written in Python, so you will need to know that a bit in order to do something useful. You can check out a tutorial here:

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