Text Editors


Teaching: 20 min
Exercises: 0 min
  • What text editors are available?

  • How do I use a text editor?

  • Identify different text editors that may be used in different contexts in computational chemistry reserach.

  • Use a text editor appropriate for your purposes.

Text Editors

You will often need to create or read text files. Opening a text file in a word processing program, like Microsoft Word or Google Docs, introduces a lot of formatting that is not needed. You need to use a text editor to read and write these files. There are many choices. You don’t need to learn to use all of these at the beginning, just find one that works for you. If you aren’t sure, try atom first.


Atom is a modern text editor that is very intuitive to use. You probably don’t even need to read the tutorial below to figure out how to create and save files. Standard downloads are available for Linux, Mac, and Windows.


Vi/vim is one of the most ubiquitous text editors. It is installed on virtually every Linux computer in the world, so if you ever log on to a unfamiliar machine, it will be available to you. Vi is accessed from the command line; it doesn’t have or need a graphical interface so it can operate on the most bare bones computers. However, it is not intuitive to use and can be difficult for beginners.


Similar to vi/vim, emacs is a command line text editor that is already part of almost all Linux distributions. Emacs can also be used as an RSS reader or file manager.


Sublime is an intuitive text editor that makes looking at files with multiple sections easy. It allows split screen editing and is very customizable.

Key Points

  • Many different text editors are available.

  • Some text editors are command line only (used from the terminal) while others have graphical user interfaces.

  • Many people prefer to use a modern text editor most of the time, but it is important to learn to use a command line text editor in case it is the only option available.