GitHub updates Atom with focus on Windows dev

Version 1.7 of the text editor helps developers build in the Visual Studio 2015 IDE and features tab improvements

Version 1.7 of GitHub's Atom programmable text editor for cross-platform development is now available, featuring Windows enhancements and tab improvements. GitHub is also offering a 1.8 beta release.

To improve the experience on Windows, Atom 1.7 build documentation clarifies how to build in the Visual Studio 2015 IDE; Appveyor CI builds are now supported as well. Portable mode is now documented in the Atom Flight Manual, and file types now can be easily associated with Atom.

"No more need to hunt for atom.exe or deal with broken associations after an update," said GitHub's Michelle Tilley, a software engineer. The new version addresses installation conditions where the path would not be set properly, and pinned shortcuts are updated when Atom updates.

Version 1.7's ctrl-tab function switches between the MRU (most recently used) tabs in a window rather than switching to the tab to the right of the current tab. "MRU tab switching was a heavily requested feature, but if you want the old behavior back, you can overwrite the associated keybinds -- using the new keyup syntax -- in your Keymap file," Tilley said. Also, Atom now supports one environment per window. If a developer uses packages that rely on environment variables being set for a particular language or project workflows, it is no longer necessary to re-launch Atom to access the correct variables.

GitHub changed Atom's crash recovery capability as well. "Crashes are nobody's idea of fun, but in case Atom does crash on you, it periodically saves your editor state. After relaunching Atom after a crash, you should find all your work saved and ready to go."

Tilley also highlighted tree view improvements. "Atom 1.7 brings some changes to the way clicking on files in the tree view behaves, making it easier to select files for operations like renaming and deleting and more closely matching the behavior of other editors." If developers have pending pane items enabled, single-clicking on an item in the tree view opens the file in pending mode but leaves the focus on the tree view; double-clicking switches the file to permanent mode. Additionally, the Atom keymap file has a new syntax for dispatching events on keyup events.

The Atom 1.8 beta, meanwhile, adds ways to move text left and right by one column. "They are bound to cmd-ctrl-left and cmd-ctrl-right on OS X and alt-shift-left and alt-shift-right on Windows and Linux." Also featured is enhanced environment handling, in which developers can update a window's environment by executing the same command with an updated terminal environment. Bug fixes are featured as well, affecting emoji rendering on OS X and Git-related issues.

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