Sublime Text (2)

The usefuless of this setup guide will vary based on your personal preferences for how your text editor should function, but it should help with the initial setup of Sublime Text. Let’s get started.

Sublime Text is a sophisticated text editor for code, markup and prose. You’ll love the slick user interface, extraordinary features and amazing performance. – Sublime Text Website

1. Install Package Control

The first thing you need to do in Sublime is install Package Control.

A full-featured package manager that helps discovering, installing, updating and removing packages for Sublime Text 2. It features an automatic upgrader and supports GitHub, BitBucket and a full channel/repository system. – Package Control Website

2. Install Packages

To install a package, bring up the Command Palette (cmd+shift+p on Mac, or Tools > Command Palette in the Menu Bar), type “Install Package,” select that option, type in the package name, and hit enter when you find the one you want.

There is a large list of packages available, but these are the ones that I use currently. Make sure you read about each package to determine if it would be useful to you before installing it.


If you’re not in love with the default theme that Sublime Text provides, there are plenty of nicely-designed themes available. Here’s a list of some of the most popular ones:

“Themes” refers to the actual user interface theme, not the editor color scheme, which is referenced below.

Color Schemes

Here are some popular color schemes for Sublime Text (and other editors):

Here’s what my current setup looks like:

My Current Setup In this screenshot, I’m using the Flatland theme, Boron color scheme, and Ubuntu Mono at 16pt. I’m frequently updating my theme, color scheme, and font, though, so this will have probably already changed while you’re reading this post.

3. User Preferences File

Sublime Text does not have a GUI interface for anything. It will seem strange at first, but it’s incredibly powerful and extensible to customize your settings. For reference, you can see my User Preferences file below.

Depending on what packages, fonts, and color schemes you have installed, the settings below may throw an error. The error will let you know which line is causing the problem.

Placing these in the Settings - Default file will result in them being overriden each time you update Sublime Text to a new version. That’s why you put them in Settings - User.

  "auto_complete_commit_on_tab": true,
  "bold_folder_labels": true,
  "caret_style": "solid",
  "color_scheme": "Packages/Color Scheme - Default/Boron.tmTheme",
  "create_window_at_startup": false,
  "ensure_newline_at_eof_on_save": true,
  "font_face": "Ubuntu Mono",
  "font_size": 16.0,
  "highlight_line": true,
  "highlight_modified_tabs": true,
  "line_padding_bottom": 3,
  "line_padding_top": 3,
  "scroll_past_end": true,
  "tab_size": 2,
  "theme": "Flatland.sublime-theme",
  "translate_tabs_to_spaces": true,
  "trim_trailing_white_space_on_save": true,
  "vintage_start_in_command_mode": true,
  "wide_caret": true,
  "word_wrap": true

Tip: If you want to know what a particular setting does, open up the Settings - Default file and search for the command. There are extensive comments for each setting.

4. Initial Interface Setup

I like to make some initial visual tweaks to the interface. This is purely personal preference, but I find it much nicer to work in Sublime Text this way.

This is what a freshly-installed copy of Sublime will look like:

Initial Interface Setup

We can remove some of the extraneous interface elements, such as the minimap, status bar, and the sidebar. You can do this via the menu bar (View > Hide ____) or, as I like to, the Command Palette. Bring up the Command Palette with cmd+shift+p, and start typing 'toggle'.

Command Palette Toggle Options You can see the options available to us in the Command Palette.

Hit enter, and the minimap will now be hidden:

Hidden Minimap

Repeat the process for the status bar and the sidebar.

You can hit the cmd+k,cmd+b keyboard shortcut to toggle the sidebar.

Hidden Sidebar and Status Bar

We now have a much cleaner interface to work with. If you need to access any of the interface elements we removed, you can do it quickly via the Command Palette.

5. Advanced Setup

Those are the first initial steps I take when setting up Sublime. Now, let’s go through the more advanced setup options.


Sublime Text offers you the ability to arrange your files in various split-screen layouts. This is useful when, say, you’re working on both an HTML file, as well as the associated CSS file. You can access the layouts by going to View > Layout.

Columns: 2 Layout This is the Columns: 2 layout.

Rows: 2 Layout This is the Rows: 2 layout.

You can find more layout options in the View - Layout.


Snippets in Sublime Text offer a powerful way to improve your workflow by creating commonly-used pieces of code that you can quickly call up without having to type a block of code repeatedly. There are plenty of snippets available for specific languages, but you can also create your own. To do this, go to Tools > New Snippet.... You’re presented with a template for creating your snippet, which is pretty easy to follow along with. If you need some help, the documentation provides plenty of information.

If you’re a Sass + Compass, Haml, or CoffeeScript user, I’ve created some useful snippets to download.

An example Sass + Compass snippet An example Sass + Compass snippet brought up by typing ssbsiz and hitting tab.

An example CoffeeScript snippet An example CoffeeScript snippet brought up by typing cfjon and hitting tab.

An example Haml (Rails) snippet An example Haml (Rails) snippet brought up by typing hmlt and hitting cmd+space.

The next two features (Key Bindings and Vintage Mode) are being covered, in large part, because I’m a huge fan of the keyboard. I love to do as much as I can through the keyboard, and, if you’re like me, you’ll like these next two features.

Key Bindings

With its powerful and customizable settings found in JSON files, Sublime Text provides the abilitity to adjust virtually all its settings. This includes the key bindings. If you’re a fan of the keyboard, you may have several os-wide keyboard shortcuts set up, and they may conflict with some of the key bindings in Sublime Text. If that’s the case, you can easily adjust the key bindings by going to Sublime Text 2 > Preferences > Key Bindings - User. As always, you can open that file via the Command Pallete. To see what the default key bindings are (in order to change them), open up Sublime Text 2 > Preferences > Key Bindings - Default.

Just like the user settings, you’ll want to place your customized settings in Key Bindings - User.

As an example, let’s say that you didn’t like the cmd+k,cmd+b keyboard shortcut for toggling the visibility of the sidebar. Let’s change that.

The line in the Key Bindings - Default file for the sidebar is:

{ "keys": ["super+k", "super+b"], "command": "toggle_side_bar" }

We copy that line, add it to our Key Bindings - User file, and change the "keys" value:

{ "keys": ["ctrl+s"], "command": "toggle_side_bar" }

Now, we can toggle the visibility of the sidebar with ctrl+s. Easy, right?

Vintage Mode

Vintage is a vi mode editing package for Sublime Text 2. It allows you to combine vi’s command mode with Sublime Text’s features, including multiple selections. – Sublime Text Website

I’m a front-end developer, but I’ve adopted the developer-esque use of the keyboard, which is why I use Vintage Mode. It allows you to use vi commands within Sublime Text. If you aren’t familiar with any of those commands, I recommend you go through a tutorial to see if it’s for you. It takes some time to get accustomed, but you’ll be much faster in your editor once you learn the commands properly.

Be sure to read the documentation on getting Vintage Mode set up.

Tips & Tricks

I’d like to offer some tips and tricks that I’ve picked up after using Sublime Text for some time.

Find in Files

Oftentimes, you need to change the class name of an HTML element that is represented in several files across a project. Normally, this would be a nightmare to deal with, but Sublime Text offers a common, but powerful feature called, Find in Files. To access this feature, go to Find > Find in Files... (or cmd+shift+f on the keyboard). We’re now presented with a panel:

The Find in Files Panel The Find in Files panel.

Hit enter, and we’re presented with the results in a new tab:

The Find in Files Results Page The Find in Files results page.

The one match is shown, and you can double-click the highlighted word to be taken directly to that line:

The Find in Files Highlighted Word

If you need to find and replace, simply type in the word you would like to replace it with, and then click Replace:

The Find in Files Panel

The Replace Confirmation Box

We now have our replaced word:

The Replaced Word from Find in Files

Now, this is a simplified example, but the concept is the same for more complex searches. It’s very beneficial for the finicky front-end developer.

Sort Lines

To alpha sort a selected block of text, select the desired block of text, and go to Edit > Sort Lines (F5 on the keyboard), or bring up the Command Pallete and start typing “Sort Lines.”

The Edit > Permute Lines menu option allows you to adjust the sort order to Reverse, Unique, or Shuffle.

Keyboard Shortcuts

I’d like to close the article with some useful keyboard shortcuts:

  • cmd+shift+dDuplicate Line
  • cmd+lExpand Selection to Line
  • ctrl+shift+wWrap Selection with Tag
  • cmd+rGoto Symbol…
  • cmd+shift+tReopen Closed File
  • cmd+shift+pCommand Pallete

That’s All, Folks

I know. That was a lot to read through, but hopefully it helps you get up and running with Sublime Text. I’m going to do more screencasts and posts on Sublime Text in the future, so stay tuned.

Last updated: May 17, 2013