The Keys to GitHub’s Atom Editor

A list of Atom shortcuts made to make your coding journey easier

Daniela Sandoval
Jun 6 · 6 min read
Photo by Sergi Kabrera on Unsplash

Text Editors

When you learn a new skill, the first concept you have to become familiar with are the tools needed to help you accomplish that skill. In order to learn how to ride a bike, we need an actual bike. In order to learn how to write code, we need a text editor.

This is where Atom comes in handy. Atom is a text editor, released in 2014 and built by GitHub. It is referred to as a “hackable text editor for the 21st century”.

As a student at the Flatiron School and a coding beginner, my chosen “bike” was Atom. Like all first “bikes”, they hold a special meaning, and require us to get to know how they work.

You don’t want to know how many times I’ve Googled “how to <something> in Atom”. I created this list as a way to help you strengthen your relationship with your editor. You’ll find general Atom and mass editing shortcuts, packages, and other ways, to give yourself one less worry when you’re stressing about why you are getting a NoMethodError.

Feel free to command + G this article to look for anything specific!

General Shortcuts

  1. command + shift + D

By placing your cursor on a specific line of code, Atom will copy and paste that line as many times as you hit D.

2. control + command + up/down

If you need to move a line up or down without deleting it, you can change a selected line’s position by using either the up or down keys.

3. command + [ or ]

I’ve been guilty of not indenting — this shortcut will move code (even previously indented work) forward or backward. For left indent, use the [ key and for right indent use the].

4. control + click + “Split Up/Down/Left/Right”

Need to take another look at By clicking on specific files, Atom gives you the option to have certain panels open next to, or above, each other!

5. command + /

Different languages have different ways to comment-out code, so gone are the days of trying to remember if you have the right amount of #’s or -’s . By selecting multiple lines, you can also comment-out whole blocks of code.

6. command + F

If you’re searching for a specific word in a file filled with tons of code, you can bring up a search bar that will highlight text that matches that search. By clicking enter, you can go through each of those matches.

Mass Editing

7. command + click

If you need to be in several different places at the same time, this will enable you to have multiple cursors that allow you to edit in those specific places.

8. command + D

Part of the coding process is going back to edit your code, so renaming variables occurs often. If you place your cursor at a specific place and hold the above commands, one after the other, Atom selects the highlighted code as a pattern, and by clicking D again, you are able to get highlighted matches one by one. You can unselect highlighted code by using command + U.

9. command + control + G

If you know that you need all the instances of a specific piece of code, this will highlight and mass select all instances. This is especially helpful if you’ve been using “name” for every single noun.


Here are some packages that will customize your “bike” and make you feel a bit more comfortable as you set out on unfamiliar territory. You can access packages by going to your Preferences, then Install on the left hand side, and search through the different options. Remember to Enable your packages in order to use them.

  1. vk-terminal

Switching back and forth between terminal windows can be annoying. Vk-terminal allows you to bring up a terminal window within the current Atom window by using control + `.

2. minimap

If you’re a visualizer and you need the satisfaction of seeing all your hard work, minimap will give you a bite sized version of all your code displayed on your right hand side that you can use to navigate to certain areas of your code.

3. beautify

I included beautify because the phrase programmers are inherently lazy comes to mind when using beautify. I wouldn’t recommend this for beginners, because it’s important to get used to using certain conventions to write code.

What beautify does is give your code that “pretty”, perfectly indented and aligned code thats easy to read. This is great for someone who is knee deep in learning an abstraction of a language and forgets to match up their closing tags or end statements (definitely not referring to myself).

Other Cool Stuff

  1. Soft Wrap

Learning to become a coder will have you creating huge blocks of code and doing things “the long way”. It helps to see all of your code when you’ve got a million different windows open at the same time, by going to Preferences, then the Editor tab on your left, and scrolling to Soft Wrap.

2. Show Indent Guide

By enabling show indent guide through your Editor tab under Preferences, you’ll get a white line that follows wherever an indent is needed. This is extremely helpful when you’re trying to match up all your end statements for conditionals, looking at HTML pages, and searching for missing end indicators.

3. Split Screen Application Windows

I don’t have a PC set up in my home nor monitors, so having the ability to split the screen for a Google moment is a must. First you fullscreen your editor and navigate back to your desktop. Then you grab whatever window you want alongside your editor (more than likely a browser), into the same fullscreen space.

It should move over and sit together with the editor! For now, you can only have two windows per fullscreen page, but you can have multiple fullscreen pages.

3. control + command + spacebar

This is not a huge need-to-learn for Atom, but if you ever feel the need to add an emoji in your code, your, or anywhere on the internet that allows you to type, you can use this shortcut.

Final Thoughts

Now that the fear of not knowing how to use your editor is gone, you’ll be one step closer to becoming a proper developer. At least you’ll look cool as you mass edit and correct a variable in front of your other coding newbies.

Although you may not always use Atom, take time to get to know your editor and all the wonderful things it can do for you and your code.

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

Daniela Sandoval

Written by

Software Developer | Flatiron Alumni | Proud cat mom! 🐈 💻 ✨

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

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