Introduction

A text editor is by far the most used developer tool regardless of what type of developer you are. A good text editor can help you write better code with real-time code checking, syntax highlighting, and automatic formatting.

Why can’t I use Microsoft Word?

Rich text editors, such as Microsoft Word and Libre-Office Writer, are great for writing a paper, but the features that make them good at creating nicely formatted documents make them unsuitable for writing code. A document created with these rich text editors have more than just text embedded in their files. These files also contain information on how to display the text on the screen and data on how to display graphics embedded into the document. In contrast, plain text editors, such as VSCode and Sublime, don’t save any additional information. Saving only the text allows other programs, like Ruby’s interpreter, to read and execute the file as code.

Code Editors

You can think of code editors as specialized web development tools. They are highly customizable and offer many features that will make your life easier. There is nothing worse than spending 2 hours trying to figure out why your program isn’t working only to realize that you missed a closing bracket. Plugins, syntax highlighting, auto-closing of brackets and braces, and linting are just a few of the benefits of using a code editor. There are many text editors out there to choose from, but we suggest starting with either VSCode or Sublime.

VSCode is an excellent free code editor. It has outstanding add-on support and great Git integration. VSCode is the most popular code editor among Odin’s students and moderators, so support is easy to find in the community. You can download and install it from here.

Sublime is extremely light-weight and flexible, making it favored by many. However, it’s not free. You can use it for a while and then decide for yourself if it’s worth purchasing. You can check it out and install it here.

Atom is another free code editor created by GitHub. There were a few questions about whether Atom would be shut down when Microsoft (creators of VSCode) purchased GitHub but Microsoft has said the two text editors will continue to exist. You can check out this third option here.

Which editor you use is generally a matter of preference, but for the purposes of this course, we are going to assume you’re using VSCode, mainly because it’s free, it’s easy to use, and it works pretty much the same on every operating system.

Opening VSCode from the Command Line

On Windows and Linux, you can open VSCode from the command line by typing code, and you can open folders or files by adding the name of the location after it: code my_first_rails_app/.

MacOS can do this too, but you need to set it up. After installing VSCode, launch it any way you’re comfortable with. Once it’s running, open the Command palette with CMD + Shift + P. In the little dialog that appears, type shell command. One of the choices that appears will be Shell Command: Install 'code' command in PATH. Select that option, and restart the terminal if you have it open.

WSL Users

Although you just installed Ubuntu on your computer, you should still install the Windows version of the code editor you choose. You will edit the files in your Projects directory with the code editor, and WSL will be able to read these files.

Web Development 101

Text Editors

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