Atom: a refreshing, extensible IDE

Atom, the hackable text editor, as the tool’s creators like to call it, is a great software development IDE. Atom is a text and code editor developed by the Github developers. They have made an extensible IDE that’s suitable for everyone. Ranging from the beginning developer to programming diehards.

Atom is plugin-based and therefore extremely extensible. Aside from that it’s completely usable right out of the box. The most basic functionality is present right away, and almost every feature you wish for can be added to the editor by installing an official, or third party, plugin. Thanks to the fact that Atom is available under an open source license, it’s possible to customize the application even more. If you miss some functionality, you can just whip up a new plugin, or even modify the guts of the application itself. Although the latter will require some more advanced knowledge of the tool.

If the only thing you want from an IDE is a nice user interface, Atom won’t even disappoint you. With a very clean default look and the possibility to install custom themes, your possibilities are – again – endless.

Personally I’m quite a fan of Microsoft’s Visual Studio line. Therefore I love to use the youngest child of the family, Visual Studio Code, as well. Visual Studio Code is much more barebones when compared to Atom, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If you’re more for tweaking and customizing your development environment to the finest details, Atom might be a better fit for you.

It’s strange to say. And although Atom is built by Github. It seems that Visual Studio Code has better Git support than Atom right out of the box. If you want to be able to perform basic Git tasks in Atom, you’ll have to download and install the git-plus plugin for example. Atom nicely indicates changes in your Git library though.

If you want to read more about Visual Studio Code, I wrote about it previously. You can read the article here.

Altogether, Atom is a nice, perfectly capable, and extremely extensible development environment. It’s perfectly suitable for every developer who wants to try it out. Atom is cross platform and therefore available on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. You can download Atom right here.

Let me know in the comments below, or via Twitter (@LenaertsDaan), what you think about Atom.


Someone on Reddit pointed out that Atom is not really an IDE, but a text editor. I considered it to be, and call it, an IDE because it offers code completion, automation tools and more advanced tools. And thanks to the plugins, the possibilities are almost endless. Nevertheless it’s just a name, “text editor” is fine too.

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