By josh / February 26, 2013

Is learning Sublime a waste of time?

Like many programmers, I’m a tools junkie. I especially love to play with editors like Sublime Text and learn their ins and outs.

But sometimes I can’t help but wonder, “Is this really making me a happier, more productive software developer?”

And then there are days where I’m blown away by how much time Sublime saves me. I can think of two recent tasks that made me really glad that I’d put in some extra time to learn Sublime’s advanced features.

For the first, a colleagues and I were assigned to build a complex HTML template that one of our clients would use to generate invoices. While I don’t usually create table-based HTML layouts, an invoice template with lots of deeply nested rows seemed like one of those times where tables were the best option.

Table layouts are always a nightmare because of how easy it is to mismatch the row and cell tags, and I braced myself for a couple of days of pain.

But when we sat down to work, I remembered a Sublime plugin called Emmet, which lets you type nested elements on a single line to generate complex nested structures with a few keystrokes.

My coworker’s jaw dropped when I started generating entire tables in seconds. More importantly, we finished up the template in an afternoon and spent almost no time fiddling with bad tags.

Sublime also saved me hours of work on a task that involved editing a big block of help text that was embedded in an XML file. (As a Microsoft developer, I get to work with lots of XML. Yay?)

This particular help text had some HTML formatting that had been HTML encoded so it wouldn’t break the XML file. It was just a sea of ampersands and semicolons.

After watching my colleague poke tentatively at it for a couple of minutes, I took over and fired up Sublime.

I stripped out the HTML formatting so we could focus on the text, and we rewrote the entire help entry and formatted it as Markdown.

When we were happy with the wording, I use a plugin called Markdown to Clipboard to convert the Markdown to beautifully formatted HTML.

After we had our HTML, I used Sublime’s Encode Special Characters command to transform the HTML tags so they wouldn’t break our XML file, and we were done.

In both cases, knowing a few advanced tricks saved me and my fellow developer several hours, and the end product was much better than it might have otherwise been. Wins all around.

If you’d like to level up your Sublime Text skills, check out:

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