Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sublime Text 3 - Release information, features, and is it worth it?

The popular text editor sublime text has just released its latest build of its public beta. Sublime text's claims-to-fame are its minimap, support for 45 languages and additional subsets, its built-in package manager, and other features.

Version 2 has been around for a few years, so 3 was made to add features that used to be supplied via Sublime packages. Sublime Text 3 isn't ready to be used in a production development environment due to being beta, but it's shaping up nicely.

As opposed to editors like Emacs and Vim, Sublime Text costs money. Sublime Text 3 is $70 normally, or $30 for an upgrade from Sublime Text 2. This is a nominal amount when developers are usually making $20+ an hour.

Features, bugs, etc.
Sublime Text 3 has not yet introduced many visible features, but a lot of stuff under the hood has changed. It now has an auto-updating system for Windows and Mac, many API introductions, and even an officially packaged .deb file, whereas before a Tarball is all that was included on the website (subl is the name of the executable after it is installed). Sublime Text has support for mainstream languages like HTML and Javascript, but also for languages that aren't as popular like Clojure and Haskell. If you use these languages and want to take a break from Emacs / Vim, then this is a very compelling feature.

Sublime also integrates with various build systems. Sublime knows how to compile ruby, python, java, erlang, c++, D, and Haskell executables. It can also integrate with Make, so the user can specify a build system for languages that aren't supported by the default builds. Sublime will end the days of saving a file and compiling / running it in a separate terminal.

The only bug I noticed while using it for Haskell development was that Untitled, the default buffer for a Sublime Text, ended up getting saved, making me "Save As" to name the file, and then delete Untitled. Bugs are being ironed out for release, and if you find any you can report them to the developer.

Is Sublime Text better than Emacs or Vim? That is largely opinion and it depends on your workflow. Sublime Text, especially 3, does not have nearly the plugin market the other development tools (Eclipse, Emacs, Vim) have. It is proprietary, which means that if there is a problem you are powerless to fix it. It also must be launched graphically, unlike its competition. Memory usage is even higher than Vim's, but tied with Emacs'.

But it does have more support out-of-the-box than any of the other editors mentioned. Whether or not you buy Sublime Text depends on how much time you want to spend configuring other editors. Emacs and Vim could certainly be made to do Sublime Text's job, but with much configuration. Consider this before shelling out $70 for a license.

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