We all know great tooling can help us move faster and be more productive when coding. With this in mind, a few months ago, I asked front end developers here at Shopify what packages and plugins they couldn’t live without.
From those conversations I wrote an article about the best Sublime text plugins for front end developers. But what I found most interesting about those chats with my fellow front end developers, was that there were roughly an equal number of them using Sublime Text and Atom.
Based on those conversations and a bit of research, I’ve put together a list of the top 20 best Atom packages.
To makes things easier to parse, I’ve split up these Atom packages into the following categories in no particular order:
Installing new packages with Atom, is a bit easier than other editors like Sublime Text. Simply type
cmd + , (on a Mac) or
ctrl + , (on a PC) to bring up the Settings View, then click on the Install tab, and type the package name you want to install into the Search packages input.
Alternatively, you can find the Settings View by going to Atom > Preferences (on a Mac) or File > Settings (on a PC).
You can also use the Command Palette to install a package by typing
cmd + shift + p (all at the same time on a Mac) or
ctrl + shift + p, then type “Install packages” and select Settings View:Install Packages and Themes.
You can find an extensive list of all searchable packages through the Atom website.
Snippets and code style
The way snippets work is straight-forward: begin typing a keyword that activates a snippet and then expand the text. There are a bunch of snippets built into Atom’s core packages out-of-the-box — you can see them if you go to the Packages tab, and then view the Core Packages.
One of those packages is
language-html, which provides support for HTML syntax highlighting and grammar. It also includes dozens of snippets to create many of the various HTML tags. For example, type
html in an html document, and press
Tab, which expands the text to:
<!DOCTYPE html> <html> <head> <meta charset="utf-8"> <title></title> </head> <body> </body> </html>
One thing to note is that there are currently some issues with tab completion and the Emmet package in Atom. If after installing Emmet you find the tab completion doesn’t work as described in the documentation, go to Atom > Keymap, add the following code at the end of the file, save, and then restart Atom (this fix worked for me):
'atom-text-editor:not([mini])': 'tab': 'emmet:expand-abbreviation-with-tab'
^ + ⌥ + b, or typing “Beautify” from the Command Palette will beautify the whole file.
3. Ask Stack
Hate switching between your browser and the editor? The Ask Stack Overflow package allows you to quickly search Stack Overflow and get code samples directly in the Atom editor. To use, simply type
ctrl + alt + a or type “Ask Stack” in the Command Palette.
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Version control is a must these days, especially when working with larger teams. Here are a few packages that help making Git easier to use with Atom.
The git-blame package allows you to toggle git-blame annotations in the gutter of the Atom editor. To toggle the git-blame annotations you can use
ctrl + b or right-click anywhere on your file, and select Toggle Git Blame. Just make sure your cursor is in the file you want to git-blame, otherwise this keyboard shortcut will collapse folders in the tree-view sidebar.
The Git-Plus package provides a bunch of shortcuts to commonly used git actions, without the need to switch to terminal. You can bring up the
git-plus commands by typing
cmd + shift + h or
ctrl + shift + h.
It shows you a visual plot of commits in your current file, over time. You can click on the timeplot, or hover over it and see all of the commits for a specific time range. You can also view the git-diff between the current version and the previous version, once a selection is made.
💭 Now if only it could see into the future and finish our projects for us.
Linters and syntax highlighting
When we work on teams, it’s important to have consistency; linters help provide that consistency and help set best practices. Syntax highlighting is also key when it comes to feeling comfortable in your text editor. Thankfully, Atom has some pretty robust syntax highlighting to begin with, so there aren’t many packages needed to enhance its capabilities.
The Linter package is a base linter package that relies on sub-packages for specific languages. You can find a list of language-specific linters at atomlinter.github.io; I’ve included the top-used linters by our team here at Shopify:
This linter provides an interface to
eslint. If no local
eslint is specified for your project, it will fallback to the version the package ships with.
For this package to work, you need to have Ruby installed on your system, as well as a version of the latest scss-lint gem, otherwise you’ll get a bunch of errors when saving SCSS files.
This package requires that Ruby be installed on your system, as well as a version of the latest rubocop gem. The linter package must already be installed for this package to work, as with all the others. It’s used on files with the Ruby syntax.
The language-liquid package is one I can’t live without when theming for Shopify. For the most part, Atom is pretty good with out-of-the-box syntax highlighting, but it doesn’t have syntax highlighting for Liquid. This is also a great package to use if you’re using Jekyll for templating static sites or blogs.
Most people using Atom didn’t start off with it. Atom is a relatively new application, coming out only in 2015. What this means is that most developers who use Atom started with another editor like Sublime Text or TextMate, and noticed certain UI features missing out-of-the-box. Some of these packages recreate UI components already found in these other text editors, while others bring brand new ideas into Atom altogether.
9. Project Manager
The Project Manager package provides quick and easy access for switching between projects in Atom. Save a project by typing “Project Manager: Save Project” into the Command Palette. Once saved, type
ctrl-cmd-p (on a Mac) or
alt-shift-p (on a PC) to activate a list of saved projects with the Project Manager package. Projects can be filtered by title, group, or template.
10. Highlight Selected
The Highlight Selected package is super simple, it highlights the current word selected on double click. Especially useful if you’re looking for a particular method name or function within a file without having to open the find panel.
11. File Icons
The File Icons package displays specific and meaningful icons next to files in your file-tree, fuzzy-finder, and tabs. They help to visually parse file types with little effort. You can choose between colored or monochrome icons.
The Pigments package displays colors in project files, wherever it parses a color to be. It’s super helpful to easily determine what a specific hex code might be, especially if the color isn’t labelled by a variable.
The Minimap package displays a Minimap preview of your file on the right hand side of your editor. You can turn code highlights on and off, as well as change the preview to be on the left-hand side if you wish. It also has a ton of other customizations if you want to dig deeper.
14. Atom Tabs Exposé
Atom Tabs Exposé package enables you to quick tab over open files within Atom. It’s meant to mimic Mac OSX Exposé / Mission Control by showing the active tab, panes, and previews of each tab. If the Minimap package is present a thumbnail preview is shown, otherwise it defaults to a suitable file icon. If the File Icons package is installed, you will see file icons in the tabs of each pane.
15. Pane Layout Plus
The Pane Layout Plus package allows you to easily organize and control the distribution of multiple panes in Atom. This package has shortcuts to jump between columns, and set column layouts.
16. Open Recent Files/Folders
The Open Recent package enables an Open Recent option in the file menu of the Atom editor. This makes it a lot easier to open projects or files that you’ve recently worked on.
Auto-Update-Packages keeps your Atom packages up-to-date. It checks for package updates every six hours. If there are any available updates, it installs them and notifies you that they’ve been installed. You can also customize the frequency of the update check.
The autocomplete-paths package autocompletes require and import statements in your editor so you don’t need to look up any paths! So fancy right?
There are a lot of themes available for Atom, which you can find on the Atom package website. However, there aren’t great previews when searching for themes on the Atom package website. In response to a lack of imagery, you can find previews of themes on both http://atomthemes.io/, and http://enrmarc.github.io/atom-theme-gallery/. My favorite themes for Atom are the following two that go hand-in-hand.
19. Atom Material UI
The Atom Material UI is a UI (user interface) theme that is an attempt to follow Google’s material design guidelines. It works hand-in-hand with Atom Material Syntax, which enables matching syntax highlighting for the Atom Material UI theme.
20. Atom Material Syntax
You might also like: The Best Sublime Text Plugins for Front End Developers.
There are so many packages that exist, and I’ve only covered the top 20 recommended by a bunch of really amazing front end developers here at Shopify. Always customize your tooling to work for you, not the other way around.
What Atom packages do you use? Tell us in the comment section below!
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