Use Sublime Text On Ubuntu (And Derivatives)

Sublime Text is a proprietary, closed-source, paid application with a free version that has most of the paid features. It’s a pretty solid text editor and it’s worth taking a look at it.

I covered my favorite text editors and Sublime Text got a mention, even though it isn’t in my top 3. It’s actually a very capable text editor, it’s just not in my top 3 list. I don’t have to be the target audience to recognize its potential! It’s great to expose folks to the application. Choice is a good thing and it could be in your top 3 list.

It has a great ‘find in files’ feature that works well and I’ll sometimes start the application just for that. Being able to find (and replace) text across multiple files in a graphical way is pretty great. They’re not alone in that feature, it just works well in Sublime.

In fact, Sublime Text has a tagline that reads:

Text Editing, Done Right

And, they’re not wrong. There are all sorts of ways to be right, as there are as many preferences for text editors as there are text editor users. Here, they’ve been making and selling Sublime Text for 13+ years and have loaded the application up with a ton of features.

And, indeed, there are a lot of features – from multi-tab select, to ‘context-aware’ autocomplete, to GPU rendering, to macros, projects, and more. It’s definitely aimed at programmers who work with large amounts of text.

While I could try to enumerate the many features and benefits, you can just try them for yourself. It’s a time-limited trial, but the application keeps working beyond the trial date. You can continue using it, or you can pay for it.

Install Sublime Text:

When installing Sublime Text in the past, I’ve come across convoluted methods to install it. The reality is that it’s just three (maybe four) commands. You don’t need to install a bunch of prerequisites. There’s no need to install other things to get it to work, it’s a fairly normal installation.

Note: This installs the ‘free trial’ version. It works wonderfully. At the end of the free trial, it’ll happily continue to work with most features still intact. There’s no ‘need’ to pay for the software. However, many people have found it useful enough to pay for it.

Let’s press CTRL + ALT + T to open the terminal and get Sublime Text installed! Remember, if you don’t like it, you can just as easily remove it.

If it’s not obvious, copy each line, paste it into the terminal, press ENTER, and make sure to pay attention to any outputs so that you can act on them. I don’t anticipate any trouble, but you can leave a comment if need help. You can also ask at (I’m a moderator) Linux.org if you get stuck.

Properly installed, it’ll look a little something like this:

sublime text finding text in files
Sublime Text being used to find a phrase in multiple files. It’s a great feature.

You may not need to run the sudo apt update from above. The system may automatically update the database after the repository is added. The other commands are probably all you need. It’s nothing convoluted and it “Just Works!®” Well, it just worked with a few local tests. It’s also worth installing this way to make sure that that Sublime Text gets updated with the rest of the system.

Closure:

And that’s it. Open Sublime Text from the GUI menu, probably entered under “Programming.” If you want to see the text information in your terminal that you already have open, it’s called ‘subl’. So, try subl -h to see what command line options you have. 

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My Three Favorite Text Editors, a Meaningless List

One of the things I hope to avoid on this site is lists and rankings. I hope to be creative enough to avoid what other sites do. You shouldn’t expect this site to have articles like, “The Top 10 Distros for Low-end Computers!” It’d be great if I were creative enough to not end up with articles like that. Though they do appear popular, I think we can do better than that!

Ah, yes… I see that paragraph coming back and biting me in the arse after I’ve run out of article ideas and am just publishing fluff content. Anyhow…

People have heard me say this before, and it’s just like how I do it with browsers, I use different text editors for different reasons. I do different things in each, using each for specific tasks. This article shares my three favorite text editors, along with the why and how I use them.

This isn’t a list of the best text editors, because I don’t know what needs you have and I don’t feel qualified to say what is best. (That’s another sentence that’s going to come back and bite me in the arse.) Instead, it’s a list of my favorite text editors – so you could say that they’re the best for me.

The order that I list these text editors in might as well be in the order that I use them. I can’t think of a better way to organize them. So, here they are from most-used to least-used.

Favorite Text Editor #1: FeatherPad

Link: FeatherPad

That’s right, FeatherPad comes in first. Why? Because I always have it open. It, along with a host of other software, gets opened immediately after booting and never gets closed. 

Maybe a picture will explain it:

FeatherPad with many files open.
As you can see, it’s a pretty busy application with many text files open.

See? I do a lot of things in plain text files. I keep track of many things, including ideas for articles for this site. When it comes to keeping many text files open and available, FeatherPad does great. FeatherPad doesn’t use a lot of resources, never crashes, and has adequate preferences for me to set it up how I like.

I use all those text files (fuzzed section on the left) on a regular basis. Not only can I save them as a session, FeatherPad can helpfully open all previously opened text files when it is started. I don’t use a clipboard manager, I use plain text files that can be easily managed and FeatherPad is one of my favorite text editors. The session feature is a great benefit.

Favorite Text Editor #2: gedit

Link: gedit

gedit, no caps, is a rather pompous application. When you install it, it boldly refers to itself as “Text Editor”, as though it is the only text editor out there. It’s also meant to be used in the Gnome desktop environment, and is actually the default Gnome DE text editor. You can trivially install it on other desktops and it doesn’t pull in a ton of dependencies.

The gedit text editor is one of my favorite text editors because of the plethora, yes an overabundance, of plugins available. It’s easily themed with colors that don’t burn my eyeballs, and the syntax highlighting works well enough. I even wrote an article about installing gedit with all the bells and whistles. (I know, it needs to be transferred to this site.)

gedit in action
See? It doesn’t scald my eyeballs and it highlights text just fine.

I use gedit when I’m editing files with my FTP client. I use gedit when I right click on a file and want to open it. The gedit text editor is good for that sort of stuff. It’s basically my default editor for plain-text files that I don’t already have opened in FeatherPad. 

It’s not the lightest editor out there, but it’s not all that heavy. gedit opens responsively even with reasonably large text files. It does what it says it does on the tin and, as such, is one of my favorite (or at least most frequently used) text editors.

Favorite Text Editor #3: nano

Link: nano

At the time of writing, nano is going on 22 years of age. Yeah, it has been around that long. While I have a passable familiarity with Vim, I don’t really need any advanced features when I’m editing files in the terminal.

nano is a GNU project, just like Emacs, but doesn’t have nearly as many features and runs in the terminal. You also don’t get to use the macros that you get to use in Emacs. It’s a much more simple application than Emacs.

While you can surely use nano for a lot of text editing, it’s not ideal for doing so. If you’re going to do a lot of text editing from the terminal, learn to use Vim. If you’re going to just do quick edits (like me), nano works just fine.

nano text editor in action
There aren’t many features. This is a very bare-bones editor. That”s intentional.

As I said, it’s really basic, and that’s by design. It’s meant to be basic and to just be used for editing text. Unlike some of the other editors that run in the terminal, this one probably came installed on your distro by default.

You’ll need to learn some keyboard shortcuts to make use of nano, but they’re easily learned and you’ll soon have a familiarity with the application. It’s great for quick edits, especially if you need elevated permissions – which is when you just open it with ‘sudo’ and it functions like normal but with the ability to edit things like system files.

Closure:

There are a ton of editors out there. Feel free to leave comments telling us about your favorite text editors. You too many find that it’s easier to use different editors for different tasks, and I’d encourage folks to try it. I’ve been doing it this way for years. It seems to actually save time, because each application is used for the tasks it is most suited for.

I also use other text editors, such as Sublime, Bluefish, and Notepadqq. Those get used with less frequency and only for more specific tasks. They aren’t included here, because I use them far less often. 

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