Visual Studio Code vs. Atom: Which Text Editor Is Right for You?

If you’re searching for the perfect code editor, there’s a good chance that you’ve run into both Atom and Visual Studio Code. Sure, there are plenty of other editors, but these two are among the most talked about.

Atom has been around a while, but its popularity is flagging as of late. Visual Studio Code, once the new kid in town no one was quite sure about, now appears to be the hottest text editor around. That said, not everyone is so keen to move on from Atom.


Visual Studio Code vs. Atom: What’s Similar?

To start, Visual Studio Code and Atom share DNA. Both of these editors use Electron, which lets developers create full-fledged desktop apps with web technologies like JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. Some people are vehemently opposed to this idea, but that is another story.

The two editors are also closer than you may think in another way. Atom was created at GitHub, while as the name may hint, Microsoft created Visual Studio Code. In 2018, Microsoft announced that it would acquire GitHub. While some initially worried that this meant the end of Atom, Microsoft clarified that both editors would continue to exist.

Visual Studio Code vs. Atom: Performance

Visual Studio Code fans often point to its performance compared to Atom and other Electron-based apps. Electron apps have gained a reputation for sluggish performance and slow startup times across the board, but Visual Studio Code manages to avoid this.

The performance differences between Visual Studio Code and Atom come down to a few factors, but one major aspect is the approach with which each app is developed. Visual Studio Code has a tightly controlled core set of functionality, with plugins adding surface-level features.

Atom, on the other hand, uses a plugin-based approach to nearly everything. This approach has benefits, but also drawbacks. Atom is slightly slower out of the box, and this only gets worse when adding certain plugins.

VS Code has the clear advantage when it comes to performance, but neither editor is slow on a modern machine. This changes when you’re editing huge files. Visual Studio Code fares better than Atom, but either is noticeably slow when compared to an editor like Vim or even Sublime Text.

Visual Studio Code vs. Atom: Core Features

Visual Studio Code packs in more functionality out of the box than Atom or even many other text editors. It doesn’t quite have the features of an Integrated Development Environment (IDE), but it gets close. In addition to the standard text editor features, support for building and debugging apps is right there. So, of course, is Microsoft’s trademark IntelliSense autocompletion.

Visual Studio Code's IntelliSense in action

One feature popping up more often in modern text editors is Git integration. Again, Visual Studio Code also has this out of the box, letting you easily deal with version control without having to open a terminal window. Markdown support is also built-in, complete with preview functionality, so you can ensure your file will look right on GitHub.

While Atom doesn’t have nearly the same amount of features on first launch, it does have Git integration. Atom even goes a step further, offering complete GitHub integration. This is almost expected, given the project’s origins, but it’s still handy, especially if you use GitHub for everything.

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