Visual Studio Code: The editor I was surprised to find I needed

It’s no secret that I’ve been an advocate of Sublime Text for many years. I started using it a couple years back in college, and never really looked back. From time to time, I’d briefly test out other text editors, but nothing I found ever compelled me to switch.

Using a MacBook Pro as my primary machine, I suppose you could classify me somewhat as an Apple “fanboy”. Unintentionally (okay, maybe intentionally), I shunned everything Microsoft outside of my professional life. Recently, I’ve felt less and less impressed with Apple’s offerings, however. MacOS has left me unexcited for years, and sub-par hardware refreshes are giving me the itch to look elsewhere.

With a wandering eye, I was shocked to discover the leaps and bounds Microsoft has made in the development community since Steve Balmer’s departure three years ago. I used to view Microsoft’s development suite akin to an etch-a-sketch. With the Visual Studio collection of products, they’ve really stepped up their game.

Sublime Text really captured a strong user base at a time when there weren’t really many other options to choose from. It found a niche. It was quick and lean, offered a great platform for plugins, and had a kick-ass default color scheme. Notepad++, IntelliJ, and Eclipse all failed in these aspects. Sadly, Sublime Text development slowed to a crawl, and they began to lose their following. In fact, people began questioning if the project was dead altogether.

Enter Visual Studio.

With development almost ceasing entirely, Sublime lost it’s momentum and allowed others to pull ahead. Visual Studio Code combines the ease of use of a classic text editor, similar to Sublime, but with more IDE-like features, all in a lightweight package.

Updated UI

It wasn’t until I compared Sublime and Visual Studio side-by-side that I realized, “Wow. Sublime looks old.” An upgraded interface definitely feels like a breath of fresh air.

Sublime Text vs. Visual Studio User Interface


Not all of my keyboard shortcuts carried over, but I was pleased to find that many did. Once you’ve got muscle memory, it’s hard to break. I can’t live without Ctrl + D, which I use often to select multiple instances of the same string. I figured this was proprietary to Sublime, but was pleased to find that it was not.

I also use Ctrl + ~ often in MacOS to bring down my iTerm visor when I need to run commands in terminal. As I slowly transition my development environment back to Windows, I knew that I’d have to get used to not having this. Not true! Pressing this key command brings up an integrated terminal right in the viewing pane. In fact, I think I like having this built-in more than a drop-down visor window.

A well-thought GUI

Something that never felt quite right to me in either Atom or Sublime was where things were placed.

The GUI in Visual Studio just feels “put together” to me. The layout is intuitive, and nicely organized in a vertical menu structure on the left side.

Well Thought Out GUI



Notifications are nicely laid out at the top of the screen, and unobtrusive. If you’re missing a plugin, VS will let you know. If you’re working on an uncommon/new file format, VS politely notifies you that it can download syntax highlighting for you.

Git Integration

For a team workflow, Git is a no-brainer. Personally, I default to the command line, but that’s not for everyone. VS has built-in source control tracking. And it’s not limited to just Git, either. You can use SVN (but why?), or any other provider that you’d like.

Visual Studio provides a nice bubble showing how many changes you’ve made since your last commit. You can enter commit messages, push and pull files, and see which branch you’re on, all from an intuitive GUI.

Source Control

Syntax Highlighting

Syntax Highlighting

Sublime’s default Monokai color scheme was my defacto for the longest time. I dabbled with Vim for a couple weeks, and wasn’t happy until I got a similar theme. Sublime is on the left, VS on the right. I think I’m actually a bigger fan of the updated colors in Visual Studio. While I’m still a fan of Monokai, Visual Studio’s colors seem less “jarring” to me, and slightly easier on the eyes.


Ultimately, it comes down to preference. I’m not so naive as to think that one editor rules all. Different editors provide various feature sets, but Visual Studio seems to provide the slight refresh that I’ve been needing, but still give me all the features I know and love from Sublime.

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