January 15, 2019

About Visual Studio Code

Edit 2019-08-28: made conclusion clearer.

What is Visual Studio Code?

Visual Studio Code is an editor created by Microsoft that was initally derived from Github’s Atom. It is an extensible and modern text editor/IDE. It supports many programming languages.

VSCode marketplace screenshot

What was wrong

As described in a previous article, I’ve been using Atom as an IDE for a few years. I refused to migrate to Visual Studio Code since Microsoft was not fair play with app distubution that was not free software. There was also various analytics related problems: enabled by default and invasive. In that context, confidence was broken. Atom was far from perfect, but it remained the best Electron based editor I had.

Why would I change?

In June 2018, Microsoft bought Github for 7.5 billion dollars. Even if since then Microsoft seems to be responsible, they now own both editors. As a result, it now looks like Atom is being progressively abandonned in favor of Visual Studio Code. Another clue that this is the direction Microsoft is taking is that Github had a project called Atom-IDE who’s goal was to make Atom look even more like an IDE. This project is now left to community. In other words, not funded anymore.

However, this could be a very good decision:

  • Right now, Visual Studio Code’s sources are under a MIT licence. Even if Microsoft is obviously gaining power over this editor, it’s not locked up.
  • Resources are now concentrated on a single editor.
  • What is the purpose of free software if we don’t use the benefits it gives us? As you’ll see below, people are already repackaging this editor. That’s a really good demonstration of the utility of free software.

The acquisition is not the only thing that explain this. Visual Studio Code is now very popular, especially in the Python and Javascript communities.

It is definitely a very good product that was long awaited for.

VSCodium

VSCodium's logo

Yet, some problems remains. As previously described, Microsoft is not really fair play with app distibution. That’s the reason why some people decided to get rid of these problems by redistibuting Visual Studio Code under the name VSCodium.

VSCodium is the distribution of Visual Studio Code I am using. It allows me to use a very productive IDE while still using free software. Please note that the only difference between VSCode and VSCodium is the icon that have been changed for legal reasons.

Almost there

This editor is totally part of the movement lead by Satya Nadella. You might want to take care with this, and I totally understand that. I understand the problems raised by the use of Visual Studio Code, but what is the point of doing free software if you don’t take advantage of it? I wouldn’t use Visual Studio Code, but I can’t find a good reason to avoid VSCodium. The community has power over it. The technical platform is independent of the creator’s philosophy and intentions. Not using it doesn’t seems to be a good form of demonstration against bad practices.

It’s the first time I want to use a Microsoft product without being forced to and with VSCodium, I see no reason not to.

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