We love Linux, but sometimes we need to use Windows or OS X and a cross-platform editor can be a home away from home.

If you’re already using vim or emacs, you probably won’t be won over by any of these graphical editors and IDEs, but if you’re curious about the world outside your favourite editor, we’ve put together a list of five apps that may be just the productivity boost you’ve been looking for.

Sublime Text

Editing Sublime Text settings is a cinch.
Editing Sublime Text settings is a cinch.

When we covered Sublime Text 2 a few months ago, the Command Palette and extensibility were clear advantages over your run-of-the-mill text editor. The Command Palette gives you access to all actions available without touching the menus – a plus for newcomers and for finding that odd function without a shortcut – and the vast community have created a number of “packages” to make Sublime Text a modern, tailored editor.

Since our overview, Sublime Text 3 has continued its steady development, including performance tweaks, an upgrade to Python 3, and deb packages to make installation a cinch in Ubuntu.

Get Sublime Text


Quick editing a class and previewing a colour.
Quick editing a class and previewing a colour.

In our recent overview of Adobe’s open source editor Brackets, we highlighted some unique features to win over web developers: quick editing CSS classes and JavaScript functions and the built-in Live Preview. And in addition to the Linux, Windows, and OS X packages, there’s also a Chrome packaged app with git support that runs directly in the Chrome browser.

If you were dismayed by some of the issues we pointed out in our overview, you’ll probably still want to wait. Most of the bugs haven’t yet been addressed, but are in Brackets’ Trello backlog.

Though there’s still a long way to go before it reaches the breadth of Sublime Text – or even feature parity with its Windows and OS X versions – the growing community and feature set of this cross-platform editor may already be good enough for your web development needs.

Download Brackets

Light Table

Light Table's command "bar" and a Clojure REPL
Light Table’s command “bar” with emacs shortcuts and a Clojure “Instarepl” with realtime results

Light Table started as a different approach to working with Lisp programming languages. Since its successful Kickstarter campaign, it’s evolved into a more general purpose “interactive IDE” with initial support for Clojure, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and – thanks to reaching its $300,000 stretch goal – Python.

Like Brackets, Light Table doesn’t have a native look-and-feel, but it does tout a global menu out of the box (though no HUD support as of yet). If you’re a fan of emacs and Clojure, there are also familiar keybindings if you’re looking for alternative editors for the language. Like Sublime Text, Light Table also comes with a command “bar” for quickly searching through built-in functions and finding their respective shortcuts.

Light Table’s approach to providing immediate results through its “Instarepl” (instant read-eval-print loop, as seen above) makes it easier to debug your functions, showing results to the right of each line that produces output. And since Light Table 0.4.0, JavaScript and Python have similar instant feedback mechanisms.

With its (current) emphasis on Clojure, Javascript, and Python development, Light Table is much more limited in breadth of language support, but the ideas behind it are worth at least $316,720.

Get Light Table


Java project loaded in Ecliipse
Java project loaded in Ecliipse

A veritable behemoth amongst the aforementioned editors, the Java-based Eclipse IDE has packages for Java EE, C/C++, and a slew of scripting languages that will almost certainly cover most use cases. Though an IDE is overkill for many, others will find the built-in refactoring and autosuggestions a boon for complex projects.

Amongst Eclipse’s most popular users is tech writer and developer Gina Trapani, who uses it for both Java and PHP projects. Eclipse’s large community means there’s a plugin for just about everything as well, be it your favourite issue management software or testing suite.

Eclipse in the Ubuntu Software Centre Eclipse Downloads

IntelliJ IDEA

A Java project in IntelliJ IDEA Community Edition with the 'Darcula' theme
A Java project in IntelliJ IDEA Community Edition with the ‘Darcula’ theme

JetBrains’ IntelliJ IDEA comes in several derivatives (WebStorm, PyStorm, RubyMine, and PhpStorm) and in a closed source, paid Ultimate version and open source Community Edition. Moreover, the Android team has worked with JetBrains to develop the Android Studio IDE revealed at Google I/O earlier this year.

Like Eclipse, IntelliJ IDEA is a Java-based IDE that’ll appeal more to Java developers and others using JVM-based languages, but IDE flavours (and their respective plugins for the Ultimate edition) for web development work and popular scripting languages make it an all-around workhorse for polyglot developers juggling multiple projects. Eclipse works just as well – if not better – for many developers, but the various flavours of IDEA are worth checking out if you’re curious.

IntelliJ IDEA and Family

Have a favourite editor we didn’t cover? Leave a comment with your favourites and their ‘killer’ features.

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