Sublime Text 2 tips for Python and web developers

Update 2014-03: Please see updated blog post for Sublime Text 3.

Sublime Text 2 is a very powerful text editor which has gained popularity recently – for good reasons. It is commercial (59 USD). Plenty of power comes from the fact that Sublime has a plug-in framework built in Python. Even though the core app remains closed there exist a vibrant plug-in ecosystem around the editor.

Note: You can try Sublime for free. It simply gives nagging dialog “Please buy” now and then.

Here is my collection of tips how I squeezed more power out of the editor. The tips are written from OSX perspective, but should work fine on Linux and Windows too.

I used to be Aptana Studio (Eclipse) junkie. Even though Sublime does not have all the GUI power of Aptana (e.g. see the end of post here) I have found the current versions of Sublime serving my needs better. The biggest reason for the switch is that Aptana / Eclipse forces folders and files to be encapsulated inside “Eclipse space” to work well.

Sublime is more suitable for work where you work with various open source components which do not follow such rigid order you might find in in-house corporate software. When you need to integrate different tools and projects, Sublime scripting opportunities are more straightforward versus building thousands of lines Java code what could be need with Eclipse.

Note: Don’t write anything about Vim or Eclipse in this paragraph.

1. Unofficial manual

There exist a third-party maintained manual for Sublime. Especially parts for settings and keyboard shortcuts come very handy.

2. Add-on manager

Install Sublime Package Control. You need run this in order to install any Sublime Text plug-ins. It magically pulls plug-ins from thin air (or GitHub).

After Package Control has been installed you can add new packages with CMD + SHIFT + P, search Package Install. It has context sensitive search and you can find all packages by name.

3. Favorite plug-ins list

Based on the feedback from the blog friends you might want to install the following plug-ins through Sublime Package Control

More about specific plug-ins later.

4. Open files from command-line

I have the following in my shell .rc file, so I can open files directly from the terminal:

alias subl="'/Applications/Sublime Text'"
alias nano="subl"
export EDITOR="subl"

Note: nice fallback for nano command which comes from the muscle memory sometimes.

5. Open folders as projects from command-line

You can also open folders in Sublime Text.

Just type e.g.

subl src

… and the whole src/ folder is opened in the Sublime Text project explorer (right hand).

Note: One folder = one project = one window? I am not sure if there are ways to have multiple projects in the same window.

6. Searching multiple files

First open a folder as a project in Sublime Text 2. You can do this from the command line, as instructed above, or from File > Open menu.

Then right click the folder in the sidebar to search it:

You can also specify a file extension mask as a comma separated in the Where: field.

7. Configure sane tab and whitespace policy and other settings

Never save your files with hard tabs characters in them. The same goes for trailing whitespaces which are against policy of many programming language style guides.

In the menu Sublime Text 2 > Preferences > File Settings – User drop in this snippet:

// Place user-specific overrides in this file, to ensure they're preserved
// when upgrading. See
// for more info

    // Tab and whitespace handling.
    // Indent using spaces, 4 spaces ber indent by default, clean up extra whitespaces on save
    "tab_size": 4,
    "translate_tabs_to_spaces": true,
    "trim_automatic_white_space": true,
    "trim_trailing_white_space_on_save": true,

    // Do not try to detect the tab size from the opened file
    "detect_indentation" : false,

     // Don't do any VIM keybindings or other VIM fanatic sugar
    "ignored_packages": ["Vintage"],

    // Don't complain about plug-in responsive
    // (Too verbose when you have slow computer)
    "detect_slow_plugins": false,

    // The delay, in ms, before the auto complete window is shown after typing
    "auto_complete_delay": 500,

    // Install better them
    // (You can get this from the package control)
    "theme": "Soda Dark.sublime-theme",

    // Download better font

    "font_face" : "Source Code Pro",
     // Don't show hidden (dotted) directories and binary files in the sidebar
    // (You are not going to edit them in any case)
    "file_exclude_patterns": [".*", "*.pyc", "*.pyo", "*.exe", "*.dll", "*.obj","*.o", "*.a", "*.lib", "*.so", "*.dylib", "*.ncb", "*.sdf", "*.suo", "*.pdb", "*.idb", ".DS_Store", "*.class", "*.psd", "*.db"]

See more about the settings.

Note: Don’t confuse File Settings – User with Global Settings – User in Preferences menu. The latter doesn’t seem to work.

Note: Even though you configure this policy, Sublime Text 2 may auto-detect another tab_size policy when you open a file. See the explanation below.

8. Converting existing files to use spaces instead of tabs

Sublime tries to autodetect tab settings settings for every opened file and may fail, so keep your eye on this when working with uncleaned files. You might want to use git pre-commit to prevent committing files with tabs in them.

Do View > Indentation > Convert Indentation to Spaces and make sure Indent using spaces is turned on in the same menu. The new versions of Sublime should remember this setting on file type basis.

There are also config files which you can access from Preferences menu, but after many failed attempts and hacking several config files it did me no good. Maybe autodetect was overriding my simply attempt of never use tab.

9. Map file formats to syntax highlighting

If you a have a file format you want to recognize under a certain highlighter e.g. map ZCML files to XML highlighter.

Open any file of the format.

Then: View > Syntax > Open all with current extension as… ->[your syntax choice].

ZCML, now with full color

More info.

10. Disable automatic loading of the last session

By default, Sublime Text re-opens all files and folders you had when you closed the editor last time. Some people don’t like this.

Instructions to disable automatic session restore for Sublime Text.

11. Lint and validate your files while typing

SublimeLinter scans your files on the background when typing using validators and linters for various errors. Please see Configuration section in README as you might need to install additional software, like Node.js, to run some of the linters.

Detect mistypes CSS, yay!

SublimeLinter comes with built-in pylint and has Node’s jshint and csslint packages includes

12. Add CodeIntel autocompletion support

Install CodeIntel from Package Control.

If you are working with Python projects, using buildout, this recipe comes to handy.

recipe =
eggs = ${instance:eggs}
extra-paths =

This will generate .codeintel file inside your buildout folder.

CodeIntel plug-in assumes .codeintel file is in your project root. Simply type

subl .

to open your buildout folder as Sublime project folder.

Now Sublime should support auto-completion. E.g. start typing

from zope.interface import <--- Auto completion pops up here

Also, with CodeIntel, ALT + mouse click takes you the source code of import, or the declaration of any function you click.

CodeIntel also supports PHP, Ruby and Javascript, to name few.

Note: If you are not using buildout, or Python, you can always create CodeIntel configuration file in old-fashioned way.

13. Go to anywhere shortcut

CMD + P. Type in a part of a filename and a part of a function / rule name. You are there. Very powerful, yet so simple feature.

14. Go to line shortcut

Use Go To Line functionality CTRL+G for more traditional jumps.

15. Context sensitive in-file search shortcut

Handy for Javascript, CSS, Python, etc. CMD + R. Type your method or rule name and Sublime automatically jumps into its declaration.

… or in Python …

16. Edit multiple words or lines simultaneously using multi cursor

This trick is handy if you need to wrap / unwrap stuff in quotes, add commas, add parenthesis etc. on multiple lines or items simulatenously.

First select lines or items. You can select multiple individual words by holding down CMD and double clicking words. For lines you can do just the normal SHIFT selection.

Press SHIFT + CMD + L to activate the multi cursor mode.

Then edit all the entries simultaneously. Use CMD + left and CMD + right etc. to move al the cursors to the beginning or the end of the linen and so on.

17. Open OS file browser for the currently opened file or any of its parent directories

CTRL + mouse click filename in the title bar of the edit window to show the full path to the file and open any of its parent folder.

Note: This is OSX’s Finder file browser standard behavior and might not work on other platforms.

18. More powerful sidebar

Install SideBarEnhanchements package to get more menu entries to sidebar which you can use to manage your source folder.

19. Theme and font

To further enhance readability of your text editing environment

See the results below.

20. Syncing and back-uping Sublime Text 2 settings and plug-ins with Dropbox

You may want to

  • Save your Sublime Text 2 configuration for which you have spend so many tears to tune it up
  • Sync your Sublime Text 2 configuration across different computers

Here are instructions for syncing and saving Sublime Text 2 settings with Dropbox.

21. HTML / XML tag tools

No one loves XML sit-ups. XML’ish languages where not intended to be written by hand. Sublime Text provides some pain killers on the matter.

Install Tag from Package Control. It comes handy when you are cleaning up those hard tabs….

Select text and then search from Command Palette (CMD + SHIFT + P): Tag: Auto Format Tags on Selection. Your HTML indent and other weirdness will be cleaned up. You can also configure it for different tag writing style preferences.

There is also built-in HTML: Wrap selection with tag command to insert parent or middle level tags in your HTML source.

22. Git

Though Sublime’s file explorer doesn’t support fiel state coloring or context sensitive menu  shortcuts like in Eclipse, you still get some Git commands thru kemayo’s git plug-in (from Package Control, again).

23. Still unresolved

24. More tips

25. Translations

This article is translated to Serbo-Croatian language by Vera Djuraskovic from

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39 thoughts on “Sublime Text 2 tips for Python and web developers

  1. Hi Mikko, very nice the posting ;) i’m also using sublime for development the Python applications, JavaScript, XML, CSS and others…

    A hint in the export EDITOR=”subl” command, use the “-w” parameter, like this:
    “export EDITOR=”subl -w”

    Specifying -w will cause the subl command to not exit until the file is closed.

  2. Nice post!

    Another hint: You can also install “INI file Syntax Highlighting” through Package Manager and assign INI sytax to your *.cfg files

  3. You can define a build setup to run (cmdline) syntax checkers or any other program and parse the output data with regexps to make them clickable.

  4. I’m using Sublime for several months already and for my job, integration/development of websites, some things are really nice. You can add less compiler, or sass if prefer and if u already wrote an ID or CLASS, it will give you the auto complete next time u’ll write it, really awesome app! I was on Coda before and i can’t think to switch back ;)

  5. Mikko:

    Yup, I actually work Sencha and have contributed towards JSDuck. :P I added a few snippets to match it, but generally the out-of-the-box snippets/syntax is perfect for Sublime.

  6. I disagree about tabs. There is nothing wrong with tabs and it is the standard in HTML, CSS, python and php to use them.

  7. Daniel, can you give any reason why hard tabs should be used as they often break source code between different project members and different editor users? That’s a reason not to use tabs, and there aren’t any reason to use tabs in the first place.

    Python style guide clearly says not to use tabs:

    PHP style guide says no hard tabs:

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  9. since you posed the question, a reasons to use tabs:
    - each indentation uses one byte instead of 4 bytes.
    - when editing files in a terminal it is less characters to type
    - I maintain a repo that if my commiters used spaces instead of tabs the code base would be 2.1 mb larger, making deploys slower and making headaches for me.

    But really, PEP-8 doesn’t “clearly” say not to use tabs, it says it recommends using spaces for new projects. Seriously, less characters, it bothers me to no end that there are people in this world that think spaces are better than tabs in any language. Tabs are there for a reason, let’s use them. PEP-8 is totally oppressive anyway, shame on Guido for ever conceiving it.

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  11. Can someone help me, please. I’m having trouble installing Sublime Text 2 on my Mac. I get the following error: “Unable to run package setup:

    Failed to load module

    Traceback (most recent call last):
    File “./”, line 4, in
    import glob
    File “/System/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.6/lib/python2.6/”, line 4, in
    File “/System/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.6/lib/python2.6/”, line 49, in
    File “/System/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.6/lib/python2.6/”, line 16, in
    File “/System/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.6/lib/python2.6/”, line 8, in
    ImportError: No module named types”

    Does anyone have a solution for this or a way to get around it? The most current version of Python running on my computer is Python 2.7.

    I need this for a class. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much.

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  15. I have Sublime on my laptop with Ubuntu but for some reason it doesn’t save the sessions when I close/reopen Sublime.
    I’ve checked and the option of “hot exit” and “save sessions” is both set to true.

    Any idea of to fix this?

  16. I have not used Sublime Text 2 on Linux actively.

    I suggest you ask this question on Sublime Text 2 forums (registration password is xyzzy).

    My lucky guess is that you don’t have right files / folders writeable.

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  18. Hi Mikko, the link behind “install additional software, like Node.js” points to your filesystem.

    Thanks for this excellent piece of documentating your experience. So documenting is better than swimming ;-)

  19. This single blog post has been so helpful – thank you! Quick question for opening sublime text from your command line – where/how do you put
    `alias subl=”‘/Applications/Sublime Text’”`
    `alias nano=”subl”`
    `export EDITOR=”subl”`
    in the shell.rc file?
    I’m a newbie at this – would appreciate any help.

  20. I create a separate .sh script where I put this.

    Then I create a new bin/ folder under my home folder and put this new bin/ to PATH list in shell rc.

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