6 min read

Visual Studio Code has quickly become one of the most popular text editors on the planet. While debate will continue to rage about the relative merits of every text editor, it’s nevertheless true that Visual Studio Code is unique in that it is incredibly customizable: it can be as lightweight as a text editor or as feature-rich as an IDE.

This post is part of a series brought to you in conjunction with Microsoft. Download Learning Node.js Development for free from Microsoft here.

Try Visual Studio Code yourself. Learn more here.

This means the range of developers using Visual Studio Code are incredibly diverse. Each one faces a unique set of challenges alongside their personal preferences.

I spoke to a few of them about why they use Visual Studio Code and how they make it work for them.

“Visual Studio Code is streamlined and flexible”

Ben Sibley is the Founder of Complete Themes. He likes Visual Studio Code because it is relatively lightweight while also offering considerable flexibility.

“I love how streamlined and flexible Visual Studio Code is. Personally, I don’t need a ton of functionality from my IDE, so I appreciate how simple the default configuration is. There’s a very concise set of features built-in like the Git integration.

“I was using PHPStorm previously and while it was really feature-rich, it was also overwhelming at times. VSC is faster, lighter, and with the extension market you can pick and choose which additional tools you need. And it’s a popular enough editor that you can usually find a reliable and well-reviewed extension.”

Read next: How Visual Studio Code can help bridge the gap between full-stack development and DevOps [Sponsored by Microsoft]

“Visual Studio Code is the best in terms of extension ecosystem, language support and configuration”

Libby Horacek is a developer at Position Development. She has worked with several different code editors but struggled to find one that allowed her to effectively move between languages. For Libby, Visual Studio Code offered the right level of flexibility.

She also explained how the team at Position Development have used VSC’s Live Share feature which allows developers to directly share and collaborate on code inside their editor.

“I currently use Visual Studio Code. I’ve tried a LOT of different editors. I’m a polyglot developer, so I need an editor that isn’t just for one language. RubyMine is great for Ruby, and PyCharm is good for Python, but I don’t want to switch editors every time I switch languages (sometimes multiple times a day). My main constraint is Haskell language support — there are plugins for most IDEs now, but some are better than others.

“For a long time I used Emacs just because I was able to steal a great configuration setup for it from a coworker, but a few months back it stopped working due to updates and I didn’t want to acquire the Emacs expertise to fix it. So I tried IntelliJ, Visual Studio, Atom, Sublime Text, even Vim… but in the end I liked Visual Studio the best in terms of extension ecosystem, language support, and ease of use and configuration.

“My team also uses Visual Studio’s Live Share for pairing. I haven’t tried it personally but it looks like a great option for remote pairing. The only thing my coworkers have cautioned is that they encountered a bug with the “undo” functionality that wiped out most of a file they were working on. Maybe that bug has been fixed by now, but as always, commit early and commit often!”

“As a JavaScript dev shop, we love that VSC is written in JavaScript”

Cody Swann is the CEO of Gunner Technology, a software development company that builds using JavaScript on AWS for both the public and private sector.

“All our developers here [at Gunner Technology] use VSC.

“We switched from Sublime about two years ago because Sublime started to feel slow and neglected.

“Before that, we used TextMate and abandoned that for the same reasons.

“As a JavaScript dev shop, we love that VSC is written in JavaScript. It makes it easier for us to write in-house extensions and such.

“Additionally, we love that Microsoft releases monthly updates and keeps improving performance.”

Read next: Microsoft Build 2019: Microsoft showcases new updates to MS 365 platform with focus on AI and developer productivity

“The Visual Studio Code team pay close attention to the problems developers face”

Ajeet Dhaliwal is a software developer at Tesults. He explains he has used several different IDEs and editors but came to Visual Studio Code after spending some time using Node.js and React on Brackets.

“I have used Visual Studio Code almost exclusively for the last couple of years.

“In years prior to making this switch, the nature of the development work that I did meant that I was broadly limited to using specific IDEs such as Visual Studio and Xcode. Then in 2014 I stated to get into Node.js and was looking for a code editor that would be more suitable. I tried out a few and ultimately settled on Brackets.

“I used Brackets for a while but wasn’t always happy with it. The most annoying issue was the way text was rendered on my Mac.

“Over time I started doing React work too and every time I revisited VSC the improvements were impressive, it seemed to me that the developers were closely paying attention to the problems developers face, they were creating features I had never even thought I would need and the extensions added highly useful features for Node.js and React dev work. The font rendering was not an issue either so it became an inevitable switch.”

“I have to context switch regularly – I expect my brain to be the slowest element, not the IDE”

Kyle Balnave is Senior Developer and Squad Manager at High Speed Training. Despite working with numerous editors and IDEs, he likes Visual Studio Code because it allows him to move between different contexts incredibly quickly. Put simply, it allows him to work faster than other IDEs do.

“I’ve used several different editors over the years. They generally fall under two categories:
Monolithic (I can do anything you’ll ever want to do out of the box).
Modular (I do the basics but allow extensions to be added to do most the rest).

“The former are IDEs like Netbeans, IntelliJ and Visual Studio. In my experience they are slow to load and need a more powerful development machine to keep responsive. They have a huge range of functionality, but in everyday development I just need it to be an intelligent code editor.

“The latter are IDEs like Eclipse, Visual Studio Code, Atom. They load quickly, respond fast and have a wide range of extensions that allow me to develop what I need. They sometimes fall short in their functionality, but I generally find this to be infrequent.

“Why do I use VSCode? Because it doesn’t slow me down when I code. I have to context switch regularly so I expect my own brain to be the slowest element, not the IDE.

Learn how to develop with Node.js on Azure by downloading Learning Node.js with Azure for free, courtesy of Microsoft.


Subscribe to the weekly Packt Hub newsletter. We'll send you the results of our AI Now Survey, featuring data and insights from across the tech landscape.