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Scratch the Itch

May 02, 2019 — Grant Ford

I have used a lot of text editors from Bluefish to Gedit to Kwrite to Vi(m) to Nano, but none of them really "scratched that itch" for me. That is until I met Scratch, the default editor for elementary OS.

It is simple, clean and agile; all of which are over-used words for software these days, but let's run with it.

Simple.

When you first start the program you are taken to a windowed view of a seemingly small program that simply asks you what you want to do. You can open a new document, open an existing file, or begin a new file by pasting from your clipboard. There are only those three options, and in accordance to the eOS HIG it lacks the complication that requires reading manuals first to use, like what is described in Brandon Nolet's article LibreOffice needs a Facelift of LibreOffice. Now of course LibreOffice is trying to fill a little different need than Scratch, but the HIG of eOS is pretty fantastic and I think should at least be considered in other projects as a basic guide to ordering and designing their applications.

Clean.

There is also a lot of white space when you first open the app. There are a few icons at the top for navigating and for added functionality, but all without detracting from the general clean interface. Even after you enable the "folder view" from properties, the sidebar takes up minimal space and the colors don't draw the eye away from your work. When I say clean, I really mean it.

Agile.

Agile can mean a lot of different things to different people, but here's what I mean. I have had the occasion to open up about 60 tabs in a single Scratch window. There was absolutely no performance lag. Maybe it is my 32gb of RAM or maybe it is solid programming, but it is nice to not fear a coming crash while doing work. Compare that to, again, the design of LibreOffice. I wanted to print a few pictures side-by-side, so I dropped them into LibreOffice. By the time I dropped the 4th image, the app was stuttering and generally not functioning. Eventually it crashed before I could hit 'ctl + p'. I hate to rag on LibreOffice so much, but after reading Brandon's article it really got me thinking about 'modern applications' for the Linux system.

So now Scratch has become my default editor of choice and what I am handcoding this whole site with. The eOS HIG is what I have roughly let guide my design decisions for my website styling. I tend to think that user experience and user interfacing is equally as important as the underlying code. Simply by using a small code editor like Scratch, I have sort of seen the need for UI and UX improvements in the whole Linux sphere, and I'm looking forward to the advancements the KDE and GNOME are making in their development cycles. It will all trickle out to the rest of the Linux world and I'm a little excited about it.

Scratch is evolving too by the way! It will be called "Code" in when it is updated along with the Juno release of elementary OS. I am excited to see the new improvements to the program and really can't wait to see what else the elementary team is bringing to its users!

If you use elementary OS and love it as much as I do, consider sending them a little cash to keep things running. I donate to them everytime I download a new ISO. You can donate via PayPal or Patreon. Oh and don't forget to find me on Fosstodon and tell me what you think!

P.S. This is the first time I have inserted an image into one of my posts! Hurray!