Why I'm angry about the makers of Sublime Text

Among web developers, Sublime Text enjoys an excellent reputation. I’m not in the mood to go into detail about that, but I think this is justified. I, like many web developers am used to work with free and open source software; Sublime Text has been the first piece of software since ages that I bought a licence for and I didn’t regret that.

But it seems the developers of this great editor have lost interest in the project. I don’t know if it’s due to too much success or to too little revenue but it’s hard to deny. And that’s a big problem for many of us because you don’t change your working environment like you change your socks.

1) When I switched to Sublime Text two years ago, version 3 was in beta state and seemed to be pretty complete. Two years later, Sublime Text 3 is still in beta – which it has been since January 2013.

2) The first negative thing I noticed about Sublime Text was that the command palette – the elegant way to access editor commands without having to touch the mouse – was far from complete. As you can easily customize that yourself (one of the great features of this software) I tried to find out which commands Sublime Text actually supported. But I didn’t find a comprehensive list. The best I could find was in an unofficial documentation. I don’t know many other cases where the best documentation for commercial closed-source software is done by third-party volunteers. I’d be embarrassed if that was my company.

3) It turned out that this was not the only documentation issue. I wrote a little plugin and had the trivial problem to move the cursor. I finally got to solve it, but the official documentation was of no help. Or rather: It was misleading because I got confused by a page on the site that obviously refers to an outdated version without hinting that it is obsolete.

4) When I set up a new machine I switched to Sublime Text 3; according to the blog it is the recommended version. Sublime Text 3 has been in beta state since January 2013. I came to regret this decision somewhat because there’s an annoying bug: When I switch to a different project the side bar doesn’t show any files. I searched for that bug and found a lengthy discussion about it. The first post was 25 months old, from about the time I bought my licence. Currently there are 557 open issues in the core, some dating back to April 2013.

5) So we have a company with a great product which is too lazy to write reasonable documentation, not willing or able to fix a bug for two years and doesn’t communicate: Since December 2013 there have been two new posts to the blog and to Twitter respectively.

The great loyalty that the web community shows towards Sublime Text will not last forever. Some great editors have shown up – most notably Brackets and Atom that are both based on web technology and open source. I’m not yet at the point to quit the editor but that may well change.

So, what I ask of Sublime HQ: If your company is dead or you have other cool things to do than supporting that old editor of yours, please tell us – and free the code. Remember that community contributions had a big share in the success of Sublime Text.

And if you’re still committed to Sublime Text, please communicate and care for your community. But if you continue like this that great editor will be history within the next two or three years, I bet. And that would be a shame.


I was made aware that there is still active work on Sublime Text because new developer builds are released several times per month. As of today the latest build is only two weeks old. I was told on Twitter that the dev builds are stable enough for daily work.

So the project is definitely not dead, which is good to know. Still, most of what I criticized (the documentation and the communication) still stands.


  1. Heiko Jung

    That’s why I switched over to Atom. Even though you could argue that it is “influenced” by Sublime Text, it’s open source, has a very active community and has AFAIK a nearly identical featureset.

  2. Herbert Braun (Autor)

    I haven’t had a deep look at Atom yet but that sounds very promising. Next time I’m angry about ST I’ll try it :-)

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