I’ve been using GitHub’s Atom editor for the past couple of months. I don't completely love it (there are elements that I miss from my experiences with Vim: startup speed, maturity of some core editing components, not being able to run it in a terminal) but I'm using Atom though because the way the editor is built (built on Electron) allows for some very cool and unique experiences.

General information

  • Url: https://atom.io/
  • Developer: GitHub
  • Platforms: mac OSX (10.9 or later), Windows (7 or later) and GNU/Linux
  • License: MIT Licence (Free software)

By default Atom comes with a few built-in extensions/packages available. However, for the purposes of development you will definitely need other packages and the community has been quick to fill in that gap.

In this post I have picked some useful and/or "most interesting" Atom packages I've found. Interesting in this case means that they really only could have been done as they are in Atom or a similarly flexible editor.

Atom Config

First, open the Atom Preferences window (Go to Edit menu > Preferences > Settings).

Use spaces instead of tabs.

Scroll down the Settings panel until you see the Soft Tabs option. Make sure it’s checked. This setting will convert tabs into spaces automatically.

Set the tab length to 4 spaces

Set tabs length to 4 spaces and turn on showing Invisibles (spaces, tabs, etc.). Go to Edit menu > Preferences > Settings and here we can set Tab Length to 4 and check "Show Invisibles".


Next step, hide *.pyc files and other files included in .gitignore, go to settings > packages, search for tree-view, go to package settings, check 'Hide VCS Ignored Files'.

At the beginning we set tab length to 4 spaces, for me, HTML projects need 2 spaces (because HTML tends to nest very deeply and anything more than two spaces tends to start pushing HTML off the right edge of an 80-column screen pretty quickly). So let's set different tab size for HTML. Open your config file (go to Edit menu > config) and add in the end:

    tabLength: 2

Now is time to install some additional plugins and themes (Edit > Preferences > Install).

Note: You can browse the packages online or from Atom’s Preferences (Edit > Preferences)

UI and Themes

Themes are subjective, and I’d normally avoid recommending one. However, Seti makes Atom look gorgeous and includes a wide range of icons for file types including CSS, LESS, JSON, grunt configuration, gulp configuration and more.

General Packages


Autocomplete-plus started as a community package but has now become part of the core editor. Just type some stuff, and autocomplete-plus will automatically show you some suggestions.

Autocomplete plus has flexible visual context options, allowing autocomplete providers to show the type of the autocomplete option, a brief description, and potentially a more in depth description. So users can distinguish between completions offering a snippet, a function, a keyword, or an import.


When you select a keyword or variable in Sublime Text or Notepad++, all other instances are shown. Highlight Selected brings the feature to Atom.


Pigments is a great package for displaying as a highlight of the hex/gba/rgba/hsl/hsla code. You may have seen hex-color previewers before, but few match Pigments. It parses colors, understands pre-processor variables and even executes color-changing functions.

In addition you can display the project’s palette through the Pigments. You can look through your palette and quickly go to the definition of any individual color.

Color Picker

Usually, if you want to use a color picker you probably open Photoshop or GIMP and use the built-in color picker there. This package lets you pick colors in the atom editor, and it is as easy as a right-click and choosing Color Picker. Alternatively it can be done by pressing CMD/CTRL+SHIFT+C.

Color Picker currently reads HEX, HEXa, RGB, RGBa, HSL, HSLa, HSV, HSVa, VEC3 and VEC4 colors.


Minimap is one of Atom’s most popular packages, displaying a condensed preview of your code for quick navigation. You can set the position to be on the left or right, turn on/off code highlights, and more. Minimap even comes with some plugins to extend its functionality, such as color highlighter.

Atom Beautify

Beautify will turn messy (or minify) code into neater and more readable. It has great support for programming languages, such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, Python, Ruby, Java, C, C ++, C #, Objective-C, CoffeeScript, typescript, etc.

After installing this package, to run it, just right-click and choose Beautify editor contents, or via Packages > Atom Beautify > Beautify.


Atom Linter comes as a "base" of linting plugins for major languages, providing the top level API for linters. After installing this main package, you need to install the specific linter for language you work on.

Atom Alignment

Highlight your variables assignments, hit CTRL + ALT + A and this:

var a = b;
var anotherVariable = 12;
var awesomeModule = require('awesome-module');
var that = this;

becomes this:

var a               = b;
var anotherVariable = 12;
var awesomeModule   = require('awesome-module');
var that            = this;

Web development Packages


Emmet (formerly known as Zen Coding) is a plugin available for popular text editors (ncluding Sublime Text, Visual Studio, Eclipse, Atom, etc.) that let you write native HTML code without having to directly write HTML tags, instead use Emmet’s shortcuts. For example you would type this string into your editor:


And then hit the "Expand Abbreviation" key (default the tab key). The code is magically transformed into valid HTML:

<div id="content">
  <ul id="nav">
    <li><a href=""></a></li>
    <li><a href=""></a></li>
    <li><a href=""></a></li>
    <li><a href=""></a></li>

Autoclose-html (or Less-Than-Slash)

When writing HTML, Atom doesn’t automatically match (close) your tags. For example, type <div> one might expect the corresponding </div> tag to be added as well but it is not supported out of the box. This package that functionality into atom.io and personally find this very useful and makes writing HTML much faster


This package is the opposite of atom-beautify, it is designed to minify JavaScript files.


CSS Lint error reports for your Atom editor


Automatically compiles LESS/SASS files on save or via shortcut.



Run code/scripts in Atom!, based on file name, a selection of code, or by line number. Suport Python, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, Perl, php, java, C/C++, Haskell, Shell Script an a big etc.

linter flake8 and pydocstyle

Next, we’re going to install a Python Linter package, to help us detect errors in our Python code. This package is called linter-flake8 and it’s an interface to flake8.

If you installed the linter-flake8 package, you already have automatic PEP8 validation but another package is missing to validate docstrings according to the semantics and conventions in PEP 257. This is solved with linter-pydocstyle which can be used side-by-side with the flake8 linter.


  • Expose Is a file management tool modeled after Mac OSX's expose feature. With it, you can instantly display all open files as small thumbnails, and switch quickly between them using the keyboard.
  • Asteroids Spawn an Asteroids shooter on any page and then blast away your code.