Coding with Nova

Published on by David A. Kennedy

I switched text editors… again.

VS Code kept annoying me because of its speed. Craig Mod talks about that in Fast Software, the Best Software:

I love fast software. That is, software speedy both in function and interface. Software with minimal to no lag between wanting to activate or manipulate something and the thing happening. Lightness.

VS Code takes time to start up and files almost always have a flash of unstyled text before syntax highlighting kicks in. Its interface, while workable, feels like Windows rather than MacOS. It would feel good to support a more independent developer or company creating a text editor rather than a behemoth like Microsoft.

Coworkers shared Nova in Slack one day, and I kept it on my radar, deciding to try it after VS Code’s speed got to me. I gave it a spin via the 30-day trial, and then paid for it. I like a lot about it:

  • It’s fast, both in the loading and traversing of files, but also the use of the interface.
  • It feels native to the Mac, which is nice since that’s my main operating system when using a code editor.
  • You can drag and drop files and get certain split screens as a result, making specific coding setups easier.
  • The preference panel isn’t a giant JSON file.
  • Integration with Git feels first class.

I don’t spend my days writing code any longer, so my needs feel vanilla. I do use it to work on my personal website and a few other personal projects though. I use two extensions: Prettier (for code formatting) and Nunjucks (for code syntax highlighting in .njk files).

I’d like to see these things change:

  • I miss VS Code’s integrated terminal at the bottom of each code window. In Nova, it’s a separate tab and that feels more disconnected.
  • I want the app to open up the last project I had open.
  • I wish that integrated support for linting PHP files that include HTML worked better. I don’t think that’s the fault of Nova, but I couldn’t find an extension that hit the sweet spot there. I occasionally do PHP work with HTML templating, and it’s nice to have robust support.

Ben Frain talks about many of the same points in a post about Nova.

I’ve enjoyed using Nova for six months and I plan on sticking with it. I still lean on VS Code at work because it’s open source, doesn’t cost any money and comes recommended by my IT department. It will be interesting to see the two evolve.

Related posts about my text editor history:

Tagged Front End Development