A funny thing happened two years ago this weekend: Microsoft released software for developers that did not suck. It wasn’t Microsoft’s way or the highway – it was honest-to-God open source software in the form of a screaming fast code editor, integrated with Git out of the box, and now with a huge community of extensions. And it ran on Mac OS, Linux, and oh yeah, that other platform.
I knew then what I know now: every bit of time spent improving your relationship as a developer with your primary code editor paid off handsomely every hour you spent coding. Every small enhancement or major leap forward (like say multiple cursors) reduced the distance between my brain and my code. It made me faster. It made me better. It made me stronger. (okay, maybe not that last superlative, but yeah, it really does matter.)
Like a lot of developers I obsess over the tools I write code in. I started with TextMate, moved on when the time was due to Sublime Text 2 (and 3), then discouraged with the trickle of enhancements went all in for GitHub’s Atom.
While Atom was and is great in a lot of ways, it started crashing on me when I tried to open files it thought were too large. And trying to figure out what was wrong and how to fix it sent me down a soul-deadening black hole of end GitHub issues.
So, I started using VS Code for the Mac.
Still, I felt… uncomfortable. Here I was, a developer who’d turned my back on all things Microsoft over a decade ago, using as the single most important app in my world… A Microsoft application? It was my dark secret, until one of my most-respected developer gods, Wes Bos, called out VS Code as the new hotness in his podcast, Syntax.
Secret no more! Watch VS Code open and be able to work with a 14,000-line css file is a jaw-dropping experience:
A decade ago I wrote The Web Startup Success Guide. Now I’m back at it, having started work on a new book, working title VS Code Mac. The VS stands for Visual Studio, Microsoft’s branding for everything to do software development. This book is not going to be about Visual Studio for Mac, the other code editor Microsoft supports for all two developers who want to code ASP.NET while on their Macs. Nor is it about VS Code on Linux and the other platform because I want to help rails/react/node/etc. developers find, adopt and crank up to 11 VS Code on their Mac OS platform of choice.
I’m writing this book for all those developers whose brain cells are dying by the hundreds every time they have to struggle with Atom, or Sublime. For those developers who are open-minded enough to accept in theory that a multi-billion-dollar company once in a great while can hit a homerun out of the park. Most of all, I’m writing the book I wish I’d been able to find six months ago when I could have really used a concise, action-oriented, short book on my new most important application in my life.
Now, writing doesn’t scare me. Been there, done that, mostly got paid. Here’s the scary part. Books about software are dead. My old publisher, apress, is now a digital ghost in the Springer publishing empire. There’s no money in writing a book that will need serious revision in a few months when the economics of book publishing are such that it takes steady sales for at least two years before the publisher (and the author) make a dime. So the idea of a traditional book made out of paper and glue is a non-starter for me.
That means I will be self-publishing, and I want it to be more — maybe even much more — than an ebook.
In addition to delivering it as a PDF/MOBI/EPUB, probably through the good services of Leanpub.com, I’m writing a new online app for this book, and I hope others. The one thing that’s always been lacking at least for me is nonfiction books with actions built right into them. Not just end-of-chapter checklists, but actual actions I can take in the other realm we all now inhabit – the Internet. I’ve been kicking around this app for years now, juggling different feature sets and focuses, but I think VS Code Mac is the right use case, at the right time, to get app done and out the door. Stay tuned.