Sublime Forum

Make Sublime Text Open Source


I have been using Sublime Text ever since I started programming (in the college of course). My peers used to mark ST as a mere text editor and hence a useless programming tool, but I blatantly told them that using ST takes certain expertise which many don’t have and hence switch to VS Code for ease. I would boast of it’s speed, efficiency etc. But finally, I had the taste of my own medicine. The development of ST has lagged so much behind VS Code now, that now I really feel it is just a text editor.

Debugging, auto completions etc. are not so much as default features. The extensions which support these features are becoming old and scarce, and are definitely not easy to use. As my code gets complex, I need better tools. There was a demand to make ST open source back in 2011 too, but I guess that didn’t make much difference back then, but now if ST has to compete, it has to have a better pace of development.

I got to know through some posts that ST has a small team of developers (I don’t know how true is that), but they can use Cannonical’s or Red Hat’s model to make profit off an open-source Sublime Text. Meanwhile, the pace of development of the editor does not have to suffer. I am deciding to switch to VS Code full-time today, but I love ST so much that I am using ST’s keymap on VSC. If something in this direction happens, I would definitely switch back to ST when it has comparable tools, but for now, adios ST.

P.S. Thanks for making me love :heart: programming for the past 1.5 years. It would be hard to forget the experience.


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Thanks for the feedback. There’s no plan to open source Sublime Text and with the complexity of a text editor written for performance there’s also little to be gained from doing so in terms of community contributions. But we do have a growing team with a new major version in development. You can check it out on our discord server, it addresses a lot of the concerns with auto-complete that you seem to have. Not to mention we’ve now got two products, so there’s no reason to be worried about development pace.

In terms of our business model, canonical and red hat make money providing software support to businesses. This is always a requirement for server and OS software, as those need constant updates and maintenance to stay secure. Tooling like a text editor has no such requirement. Is there even a single example of a successful business selling support services for offline developer tooling?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a strong proponent of open source software - I use Linux for home and work and have contributed my fair share. If I saw a way for ST to continue development and become open source I’d be pushing for it, but doing so would nullify the only viable business model we have.



This comes up pretty often. I guess I’ll bother:
I love ST and trust its developers. To avoid contributing to the perpetuation of the proprietary software model by paying for ST, I nevertheless had to abandon it (to understand my POV, read here). I’m not gonna argue moral principles, though.

there’s also little to be gained from doing so in terms of community contributions.

I concede that I hold a minority view. That said, I’ve found that experienced developers, at least on the *nix side, care disproportionately about software freedom/open source. Furthermore, open source is trendy.
Those two factors taken together would lead me to expect greater popularity as well as contributions to the plugin ecosystem by those currently reluctant to contribute to a proprietary project.
I’ve heard code review of contributions to the core of OSS projects can be a lot of work, counter-productive even, but I don’t see how this issue can’t be managed with a clearly defined culture of cathedral-style development.
In my view, the benefits would not be negligible.

Is there even a single example of a successful business selling support services for offline developer tooling?

Well, open source keeps expanding partly because companies are willing to be avant-garde taking calculated risks (e.g. netscape, chrome, android, steamOS in degrading(sic) order). Anyway, a couple of examples:
zrythm DAW
It being free software (and currently distributed in unofficial repos such as Arch’s AUR) hasn’t prevented it from making 452 pounds in distribution fees this month alone. Not bad for alpha.

Then there’s elementaryOS, a GNU/Linux distro with two consecutive successful fundraisers for development of its pay-what-you-want appstore, which nags users to donate per app whenever they upgrade said app, if they haven’t payed already. I don’t know how they’re doing, but they’ve been around for a decade and their OS is better than ever.
It seems the “nag for donations” model can work for well made software.
Your model for ST isn’t really different than that, anyway!

That said, once the source is open, there is no going back, so the risk is great. You know your company, I don’t. One could argue that driving innovation in UX is already too much to ask. Just hopefully, and with a little help from your friendly FLOSS zealots, you’ll keep reexamining your assumptions :slight_smile:



They’re all funded by massive companies with a vested interest in providing funding and keeping those projects (partially) open source. They use their contributions in order to make more money in other areas of their business. We have no such luxury. Google makes money off Firefox, Chrome and Android using their Ad network. Valve ensures their survival by funding an alternative to Windows. That’s not a bad thing, but these are very poor examples to draw from when asking ST to be open source. None of these projects are at the core of anyone’s business model, they’re not even a risk to the companies funding them. They’re an investment; an enhancement to their existing business models.

Indeed not bad for a free-time open source gig, but to put that into perspective that’s maybe 2-3 hours of salaries for us. That elementaryOS funding wouldn’t last the month. To my eyes this just confirms my current position on the matter: There’s simply no way the business would survive open sourcing. The only success stories come from decades of difficult voulenteer work and slow growth ending in business supported foundations or from business models that we can’t do (ie. Selling Support).



That’s not a bad thing, but these are very poor examples to draw from when asking ST to be open source.

Sure, these were just lazy, well known examples of introducing open source to an industry as a “calculated risk”. Possibly with the exception of Netscape, the risk was not existential for any of these corporations. Anyway, I’ll agree that, presently, to frame open sourcing ST as an “investment” is stretching it.

There’s simply no way the business would survive open sourcing.

Well, zrythm is still little known alpha software, targeted at a comparatively narrow niche that consists mostly of hobbyists. Sublime would certainly fare much better all else being equal. As for elementary… well, I’d be interested to know how they manage to keep the lights on. In any case, copying another company’s business model is bound to fail.

The only success stories come from decades of difficult voulenteer work and slow growth ending in business supported foundations or from business models that we can’t do

Projecting that into the future might be an error. Although I haven’t got an MBA or anything, so it’s always possible I have no idea what I’m talking about :stuck_out_tongue:



Do you realize how ridiculous this sounds?



I didn’t mean to insult anyone’s paygrade :stuck_out_tongue: let’s just say It’s a cultural background thing. Please don’t do that, I am not one of those people who think Free as in free beer.



No worries :wink:. But yeah, you would need significant contributions. Time and time again it has been shown that relying on the good will of the people is a bad business strategy.



relying on the good will of the people

Well, I’ve pointed out that this is practically the case anyway. Though I’ve omitted business licensing, which may be important. Otherwise, the “buy a license” popup isn’t annoying enough.



I guess arguments given in the initial post are much more relevant to the amount of plugin contributions than just “open sourcing” the core.

I fully understand those arguments about “hard to use”, “lagging features” and “fallen far behind VS Code”. Someone who’s not using a program every day, won’t reach the point to extend it or even contribute by writing plugins.

I love ST but also failed to argue for it in my company. Most people can’t or don’t want to invest so much time learining to handle all of ST’s challanges and study hundreds of forum posts to learn how to setup plugins and make things work as they need and want.

VS Code is installed on my PC just to follow its development. I don’t (need/want to) use it and find it’s GUI quite bloated in general, but I can’t deny it having many features which feel very interesting or even cruzial for todays development workflows. Can’t judge overall quality though. At least the first impression with all of that is far better and easier to handle for unexperienced users which makes them ready to go much faster.

I personally think ST4’s new auto completions API together with LSP and its supporting LSP-… packages is a very good example to make use of existing trends with regards to code intelligence features available in other editors as well. That’s a great step forward. At least completions and linting works as good as in VS Code now. If results are not satisfying it’s not ST to blame, but the language-server, hehe.

Debugging API and GUI is a long term request as well. Can’t say much about it as I don’t have such use cases, personally.

What I see from many discussions is a general trend to work online directly. Either by source files / repositories being located on remote servers or by diretly working in an isolated container environment. It’s like world is degrating back to the 80s when big mainframes were used via terminals. The only difference is that todays Terminals are hip small MacBook Air with M1 and mainframes maybe just anything from a virtual machine to a real cluster. Solutions like rmate and the sftp package just can’t keep up providng proper solutions for that trend.

Another thing are Jupyter Notebooks. I recently came around that stuff as we have demands to to data analyzis. While official GUI via Browser works quite well, I found VS Code supporting them as well. This may be one step for me to start working seriously with VS Code at some point.

Or even just have a look on all the “Python fails to build” issues, which shows how hard it is to get started developing with ST. I had exactly the same hard times starting and even today find many things too complicated to handle. Everything needs too much hacking around to get it done. People did that when they wanted to use ST, but it really feels like the whole world is using VS Code only today. That’s a pitty because ST is a master piece of software, IMHO.



At the end of the day Sublime has probably had it’s day in the spotlight. VSCode is the new hot thing. In 5 years there will be something else. Open sourcing something won’t fix that.

I’ve been using Sublime since v1. Right now everything still works and when that ends I’ll find a tool that does.



Just to add my 10 cents worth, @deathaxe I agree with pretty much all that you say. I see why folks love ST3 (the version I came in at) , but I’m not sure that makes it a great tool to use in a modern development environment. Sadly. So much effort to get it going… But I really admire what the team is trying to do. I guess I’m gonna have to learn python at some point, but I want to learn Haskel first (and bloody Git) but I’m going off piste !

Good points all, thanks @deathaxe for saving me some typing !


Edit: To get back to the point, I don’t think ST3 should be open source, the financial model suits ST perfectly. I’m sure the team have thought about the pricing a lot, but I’ll add yet another 10 cents…
Folks would be suspicious if it was too cheap (maybe) however $40 is a lot of money in some parts of the world. Would there be more sales if the price was dropped ? (does the team even want more sales? more sales at at higher price would no doubt be better !) It’s a tricky one: I think the financial model is about right. As long as the folks that are doing all the work are getting paid… Valuing a product when there are free alternatives again tricky. I’m not a pro, so feel happy to still be in the trying it out stage…
Certainly going open source wouldn’t help the devs financial situation I don’t think.
Amateurs can try out for free, I’m not sure of the professional position, coz I ain’t one.



Isn’t it $80?



Oh yes so it is, maybe it used to be cheaper. Anyway if $40 is a lot of money, $80 is twice as expensive !




I’ve always found Reaper’s (a music application) license interesting. Would be interesting to know how honest folks are when purchasing.