Monday, August 12, 2013

My text editor of choice, and why general questions are bad.

J: "What is your text editor of choice?"
B: "LaTeX."
"That's not a text editor."
B: "I know, but your question was so general, this was the only reasonable answer."

Why the question above is terrible:

The question above fails to identify the motivation for asking. Here are some better questions:

  • What text editor do you code in?
  • What text editor do you write academic papers in?
  • What text editor do you due warp-speed text editing in?
  • What text editor do you blog in?
  • What text editor do you leave open for your cat to type silly nonsense that you can post on Facebook?
  • What is the absolute best text editor?
Hopefully this clears up the issues with the question.
BTW: ʇxǝʇ ǝɯıןqns (ɟ ʇxǝʇ ǝɯıןqns (ǝ ɹǝƃƃoןq (p ʇıpǝƃ (ɔ ǝʌıןxǝʇ (q  ǝuıן puɐɯɯoɔ puɐ 'ʇıpǝƃ (ɐ

Some thoughts on text editors:

Long ago I was introduced to Emacs and Vim, and I'll admit I had a torrent love affair with Vim for a while as an undergraduate. I eventually had a falling out with Vim and reverted back to gedit(coinciding with my hiatus from coding). Sometime last year I was introduced by Kevin Lin to Sublime Text. Since, I've been dying to get familiar with it but haven't had a good opportunity. I'm looking forward to the upcoming Kaggle project to force myself to use it. But this is a super high level editor, and far too serious-business for  normal everyday text editing...

Why Gedit is my most commonly used editor:

Two days ago, a friend sent me a data set that she needed cleaned up in about 5 minutes. She(a biologist) was having Excel issues and really needed an 11'th hour data cleanup. The data had some real issues. Some percentages were integers, others were decimals, some were even written as ratios, and a couple entries even were written in words because excel was autocorrecting them as dates and she was in such a hurry this was the fastest solution(I had to fight the urge to send her this link:

How long did it take me to clean the data set? About two minutes. Because "I learned to stop worrying and learn to love plaintext editors".

Find/replace is powerful, fast, and if you're clever, can more than likely perform that little regex you know awk can do so nicely. 

Coding, and pretty colors:

I'm not ashamed to admit, that as a CS minor, I learned how to program in Java, using Eclipse. Now-a-days, coder friends give me a look of scorn when I mention this, but as someone who was already reindexing his music collection folder structure using awk in Sophomore year, I don't feel like this requires me to turn in my nerd badge. When looking at Sublime text, I like that it strikes a balance between the two extremes, it has the pretty colors and language specific capabilities, but still preserves that narcissistic love of masturbatory-keyboard-shortcutting. Additionally, green-text-black-background-what! A notable exclusion from Sublime text is the incredible testing suite that comes with Eclipse, but maybe this is a crutch anyhow(get off my lawn).


The point of all this is to say, aggressively pursue getting the damn problem done and try new text editors in your own time.


  1. All motivations for asking the question "What is your text editor of choice?" are easily accomplished using Emacs ;).