We have to say goodbye to Atom. It was sung, yes, but the farewell is no less hurtful for that, at least for those of us who daily used this “hackable” text editor for the 21st century” whose basic concept captivated so many developers… and non-developers.
GitHub has announced the end of the application, which will end on December 15, 2022. Until then, GitHub will continue to warn of the end of Atom and help facilitate a migration that is expected to be annoying, but with a clear destination; From then on, the Atom repository and those that depend on it will be archived for remnants.
Why is GitHub ending Atom now? From what they explain, Atom has fulfilled its course, but community support, as well as the development of Atom itself, has been reduced in recent years, in which the editor has remained in a kind of limbo in which it received maintenance basic (security patches, occasional updates and little else), but that’s it.
And they say it as if it had happened by magic. It is true that part of the Atom community (especially extension developers) went elsewhere, but it is no less true that GitHub has washed its hands of development… for the same reason. And that reason is none other than Microsoft and its Visual Studio Code (VSCode).
It is curious to tell, because Microsoft started developing VSCode before Atom existed as such, but the truth is that the base of both is Electron , the framework for creating desktop applications based on web technologies (Chromium and Node.js, mainly ) developed by Github, thanks to which we currently have cross-platform apps like 1Password, Discord, Evernote, Simplenote, Skype, Slack, and many others, including Atom and VSCode.
In fact, I had the feeling that I had been using Atom since ancient times, but nothing could be further from the truth: if GitHub released Electron 1.0, it was towards the end of 2017 that Atom finished taking shape, although it was not yet fully developed. Curdled. With the evolution of Electron, Atom was consolidated and advanced on different fronts, for example at the level of features, or extensions and community.
Atom also improved in terms of efficiency, performance and consumption, one of the most criticized aspects of everything that smacks of Electron and in which it has been greatly improved recently. But it was too late: Microsoft bought GitHub and the pace of Atom development began to slow down, until it became anecdotal in the last couple of years. So much so that although I’m still using it, I’ve been saying goodbye for a long time.
Without going any further, I took advantage of one of the specials of the last end of the year in MC to honor, still alive, the memory of Atom. There I explain why I like it so much, despite the fact that my involvement as a developer these days runs between zero and nothing. However, I don’t use it for programming. There is simply no better text editor out there.
Or is there? Now you can imagine what GitHub is recommending to replace Atom: Visual Studio Code and GitHub Codespaces, which is nothing more than Visual Studio Code in the cloud as software as a service. As well. It’s understandable, but it’s not over for me. And that I recognize that Microsoft has been involved in such a way with the development of VSCode that it is difficult to compete, but from there to abandon a project as they have done…
The good news is that for the type of editor it is and its features, VSCode is a solid replacement, let alone for performance or extension support, where it beats it. Also that, like Atom, it is open source, although unlike Atom it has a couple of repackages free of any Micro influence, see VSCodium as a prominent example.
The bad news is that VSCode is not Atom and never will be, and I am referring to that ‘hackable’ app quality and incredible customization capabilities that it encompasses, and that only those who have used Atom beyond scratching the surface will appreciate. In VSCode it is more complicated, if not impossible, to get rid of everything that gets in the way to adapt the editor to your liking. Anyway. It is what it is.
To all this, I am sorry to have personalized the entry so much, but it has touched me completely. Now I wonder if there will be someone to pick up the token from GitHub and continue with the development of Atom? The answer I give myself is that it doesn’t seem the most likely: it has already been tried and it came to nothing. Also, with VSCode sailing full steam ahead, it’s not like it’s an emergency. So… VSCode is the quintessential alternative, yes.
Although perhaps for those who just want a powerful text editor with great Markdown support, Obsidian is a better option. Or has the time come to wrap the blanket around your head and plunge into Emcas. Lovers of efficiency will have no doubt, but efficiency also counts in the pre, and not only in the post. That later will surely compensate for the time invested, but…
But the only thing certain is that the age of Atom is over. The time of the orc has come … I want to say: goodbye, Atom! We will never forget you.