Sublime Text: A Review & 5 Cool Features

A quick internet search will reveal the growing popularity of Sublime Text 2.  

There are a lot of good code editors out there, so why is this one on so many favorites lists?  It’s feature rich, customizable, and extensible. Sublime Text 2 combines the most useful capabilities of all the other editors out there in one attractive package.

Your choice of editor will depend on personal preferences and the specifics of the current project, but Sublime Text 2 is proving to be an excellent overall editor especially revered by front-end developers. Including me.

Here are my five favorite features…

1.Multiple cursors.  

There are several ways to use this feature.  It’s basically a way to quickly and efficiently find and replace multiple pieces of text, without needing to open the find and replace windows.

Place your cursor in a word, and click command D.  This highlights the entire word.  Next, click command D again to highlight to the next occurrence of the same word.  Repeat as desired, OR, click control-command G to highlight all the instances of that word.  Now you have a cursor at every matching word.  As you type replacement text, it will appear at all of the cursors at once.

You can also highlight a clump of text and choose shift-command L to place a cursor on each line, or use the option key with the mouse to select by column, or just make selections holding the command key! Fast and awesome!

2. The Command Palette.

With an editor this powerful, with so many options, it’s unlikely that you’ll remember all but your most commonly used commands.  Sublime Text 2 makes this manageable by offering a command palette with fuzzy search.  Just click command-shift-P and type in a few letters of whatever you’re searching for.  For example, if you would like to set the syntax to CSS, type css and you’ll see the option show up.  Highlight some text, type in ‘title’, and you’ll see Convert Case: Title Case.  Type in ‘wrap’ and you’ll see HTML: Wrap Selection With Tag option.  Another nice time saver.

3. Snippets.

Sublime Text 2 has an amazing capacity for extensibility and customization.  One of the handiest tools is snippets.  Depending on the syntax you choose to work in, you’ll find a library of basic snippets that can be dropped in, rather than typed out manually.  And of course, you can write your own to suit your needs.  These can be used for boiler-plate text, code, links, anything you’re likely to reuse, and they are very easy to create, organize, and insert.  You can create a keyword to combine with the tab key for fast insertion.

4. RegEx.

Sublime Text 2 supports the use of Regular Expressions.  You’ll need to activate them in the search panel, then you’ve got all the power of Regex at your fingertips. If you’re not an expert at Regex, it’s very worthwhile to learn some basics – you WILL save yourselves hours of slogging through text changing something you can use RegEx to fix in minutes.

5. Distraction Free Mode.

This feature is for those times when you don’t want to see menus, navigation, formatting options, just a clean empty screen to write in.  Choose Enter distraction free mode from the view menu and all the clutter goes away.   (Don’t get stuck there forever!  The keyboard shortcut is a toggle – when you want to return to ‘distraction’ mode, use control-shift-command-F)

A sign of a great editor is how much you can accomplish without using a mouse.  The mouse will always slow you down.  Sublime Text 2 stands out for how easy it is to perform a multitude of tasks without stopping to grab the mouse.

Warning:  You may need to up your caffeine intake to keep up.

I’m leaving off some great features – GoToAnything, Vintage Mode, Plugins, Command Line, and more… see Sublime’s site as well as the unofficial documentation for more detail.  Tuts+ has a full course to help you get the most out of your Sublime Text 2 workflow.  Enjoy the sublimity.

Please note: We are mostly a Mac shop.  If you use Windows you can still enjoy all the features of Sublime but you’ll need to refer to the documentation for Windows commands.

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