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Atom vs Visual Studio Code: Most Significant Differences To Know

As beginners, you may be more comfortable with basic tools such as Codeblocks. However, the names VS Code and Atom should sound familiar if you have researched IDEs to use. That said, those who like challenging their skills or wish to prepare for real-time programming often ask for a comparison between Atom vs Visual Studio Code before settling on either one of the two.

Although the two are different in many aspects, the competition is rather a close call regarding popularity. Every IDE has its own set of features, flexibilities, and benefits. However, not every IDE fits the user perfectly the very first time. Choosing which to use may also vary on a lot of different factors. So, what do you say about exploring together?

Atom vs Visual Studio Code: Introduction

However, we cannot start our journey to compare Atom vs Visual Studio Code without knowing what we are getting ourselves into, can we? So, let’s begin by introducing you to the two tools below.

What is Atom?

Atom vs Visual Studio Code: What is Atom?Atom is a text editor that can be turned into an IDE (integrated development system) developed by Github, which is advertised as a “Hackable text editor for the 21st century” and a “Source Code Editor for Linux” by its developers. It offers all features you can expect from an IDE for all users. However, it’s best to see the tool’s highlights and drawbacks by yourself – keep reading!

Best Features

  • It has an extensive list of packages with built-in package management.
  • One can customize the editor in many ways to get the best out of its functionalities as per their needs, making it “hackable.”
  • Atom’s binary releases and source codes are all open sources, allowing it to be completely under the user’s control.
  • A hugely active community backs Atom, which is great for users of all kinds.


  • As Atom requires a lot of system resources, it works really slowly with older devices.
  • It has difficulty handling text files greater than ten megabytes.
  • One cannot be sure when or where a new window opens if they open a file out of the tree view.

What is Visual Studio Code?

VS CodeIf you are a beginner looking into the VS Code vs Atom comparison, there’s a high chance that you may be confusing Visual Studio Code with Visual Studio as well. So, to clear it up, Visual Studio Code is a source code editor, whereas Visual Studio is an IDE. Our discussion today focuses on VS Code instead of VS – so let’s look at the pros and cons of the tool below.

Best Features

  • VS Code has built-in task runners that display available and easy-to-perform tasks to users.
  • The editor supports custom snippets that improve your work efficiency.
  • It is frequently updated and well-documented – so beginners can easily find tons of resources regarding its usage.
  • There’s no need to configure the editor separately – it’s ready to use right out of the bat!


  • Users often complain about the auto-import feature for not standing up to their expectations.
  • Many reports that the built-in file or project search is too slow and limits their work results.
  • Although it claims to provide good support for the new Emmet syntax, users have reviewed that Emmet plugins fail even on simple tags.

Atom vs Visual Studio Code: The Similarities

Hopefully, by now, you must have gotten the gist of what’s going on and why we are comparing Atom vs Visual Studio Code. Yet, for those who are still skeptical and think that the comparison doesn’t make sense and that the two tools have a completely separate fanbase, perhaps the three most significant similarities we have in store might make you consider it a tiny bit more!

1. Origins and Kind of Tool

One of the most noticeable common grounds between VS Code and Atom is that they are both Electron framework-based source code editors. But, the cherry on the cake is that they are both completely open-source, so they are free of cost for users of any kind. Hence, despite their fundamental differences, they come from the same roots and are the same kind of applications.

2. Uses

As source code editors, it is expected that they will share their usabilities. Atom can be converted into an IDE with multi-language support, while VS Code also allows users to do what IDEs do, despite being code editors. So people use both to write, read, debug, and manipulate source codes due to features such as IntelliSense, Linting and formatting, and much more.

3. Popularity

Aside from different features and the need to help you all out, another factor that drives us to talk about the VS Code vs Atom issue is popularity. According to large-scale studies conducted by G2, both Atom and Visual Studio Code have almost the same level of popularity among individuals, small businesses, medium-level enterprises, brand names, and more.

Atom vs Visual Studio Code: 6 Key Differences

Atom Vs VS CodeAre you convinced yet? If not, no worries, our primary aim was to compare the differences between Atom vs Visual Studio Code, and the similarities were only a way of making you relate to the differences better than someone with little knowledge regarding the two editors. Now that we have covered all that, let’s look at the six most important differences between the two below.

1. Performance and Speed

As we mentioned before, the development of both Atom and VS Code used the same framework. However, the Electron framework sparks controversy among many in the programming community as most products based on said framework tend to perform slower. 

This is true to some extent for Atom and VS Code as well. However, upon comparison, VS Code is faster due to being built with its unique features that can be extended with plugins, while Atom relies on the user building it but gets exponentially slower as its number of extensions grows. Therefore, VS Code is better in both performance and speed.

2. Flexibility and Configuration

The flexibility of a tool correlates strongly with its ability to be configured. If one can configure it freely and in many ways, they can consider it to be highly flexible and vice versa. Even if one used similar resources to develop the two applications, their flexibility might differ due to different configurations.

That said, if we compare Atom vs Visual Studio Code, we’ll see that VS Code has better flexibility as its recent GUI addition allows users to configure it more by maintaining an abstraction level over the existing JSON, whereas in Atom, the GUIs completely replace the JSON, and hence you get less flexibility to configure.

3. Shortcuts and Navigation

Shortcuts can make or break the tool when it comes to source code editors. All editors and IDEs have it, but if they aren’t intuitive about it, the cons will outweigh the pros. It’ll make the application harder to navigate and negatively impact a user’s workflow.

That said, VS Code is much more intuitive when it comes to shortcuts. It supports IntelliSence really well, provides keymap binding with customizations, and even has built-in debuggers. Whereas, even though Atom comes with features such as multi-cursor support that one can easily access, compared to VS Code, the rest of the shortcuts just come off as lackluster.

4. Resource Management

Resources are a big deal when it comes to programming. They directly affect your work results. So, programmers always have to be wary about it. If your code doesn’t have resource efficiency, your value as a programmer will keep spiraling down until you fix it.

Hence, it’s a big plus to use IDEs that already manage your resources to a huge extent. But like other Electron-based products, both VS Code and Atom are resource-hogging applications. However, upon comparing Atom vs Visual Studio Code, VS code seems to have better control over it than Atom, but the competition is super close, so it’s not much different.

5. User Interface and User Experience

The user interface of an application plays a huge role in either making or breaking the user experience of that application. User Experience directly determines how successful the application will be with its users.

That said, Atom and VS Code both have great user experiences. While Atom takes a minimalist approach, VS Code has several built-in features that make its user experience better than Atom. As we mentioned before, Atom gives its users room to modify it from scratch. So, although useful for many, it lacks the user convenience that VS Code provides.

6. Plugins and Integration

Last but not least, plugins and integrations play a major role in the functions of a code editor/IDE. They enhance the features of such tools and also increase their usability. However, plugins can also impact the application negatively in some cases.

That said, comparing Atom vs Visual Studio Code, we can instantly notice how plugins, extensions, and integrations play a huge role in its success. While VS Code allows users to add or remove plugins or integrations, Atom users need to use them necessary in order to get the desired features for their projects. This helps them create the most optimum IDE.

Atom vs Visual Studio Code: Which is better?

Perhaps you can already guess yourself as to which is the better one out of the two. But if you ask us for a general conclusion, our vote would tilt towards VS Code. The reasons for this are quite noticeable. Compared to Atom, it’s just better in almost every aspect, except for Atom’s stunning UI.

But what makes our answer more concrete is the fact that there’s been news about Github shutting down Atom by December 2022. So, if you wish to use it, now’s the time to make a move. Otherwise, Visual Studio Code wins the comparison today, undoubtedly! But we’re hopeful that it will come back in some alternative way because Atom’s concept has huge potential.

Atom vs Visual Studio Code: FAQs

But, before ending our conversation today, let’s take a look at some significant frequently asked questions to help you finally decide which one is the best for you out of the two, shall we?

Q: Is Atom faster than VS Code?

A: No, it’s actually the opposite – VS Code is faster than Atom in almost all scenarios.

Q: Is VS Code based on Atom?

A: No, but both VS Code and Atom are made using the Electrom Framework along with HTML, CSS, Node.Js, and JavaScript.

Q: Is Atom an editor or IDE?

A: It is a hackable text editor/ source code editor that can be turned into an IDE using a variety of plugins or extensions.

Q: Why does everyone use VS Code?

A: VS Code is better in all aspects and is more beginner-friendly than Atom – so that’s why!

Atom vs Visual Studio Code: Final Insights

Now that our Atom vs Visual Studio Code debate has come to its end, you must have understood which is better. However, don’t ditch Atom just yet! Although it is less beginner-friendly, Atom allows users to gain experience handling everything independently. You literally have to build the IDE yourself.

So, although you struggle, if you are looking to grow your skills with practical experience, Atom is the way to go. That said, let us know if you found this interesting and helpful, and leave us feedback. Also, let us know if you have any further queries regarding today’s topic. Thanks for reading!

Mehedi Hasan
Mehedi Hasan
Mehedi Hasan is a passionate enthusiast for technology. He admires all things tech and loves to help others understand the fundamentals of Linux, servers, networking, and computer security in an understandable way without overwhelming beginners. His articles are carefully crafted with this goal in mind - making complex topics more accessible.


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