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Open Source Atom Editor Eases Code Reviews

The open source Atom text/code editor from GitHub is seeking to ease the code review process, hoping to relieve some developer anxiety resulting from pull request reviews.

GitHub described code review as "a social, emotional, and logistical process" in which pull request reviews provide "a particularly vulnerable moment" as developers learn what others think of their work.

"Starting with Atom 1.37 beta, you can view comments from reviews in a dock next to the editor," GitHub said in a post today announcing the new offering of the popular editor. "This dock provides seamless navigation between comments and code or text, so you can easily make changes in response to feedback. To ease anxiety about whether or not you've addressed all comments, check the progress bar to see how many unresolved comments remain."

GitHub integrates its Atom editor with its software development platform and source code repository in various ways, offering GitHub for Atom to help coders switch or create branches, stage changes, commit, pull and push, resolve and merge conflicts, along with viewing, checking out and reviewing pull requests.

Regarding the latter functionality, other new features to improve the review process in the beta were listed by GitHub as:

  • Resolve comments: Mark comment threads as resolved from the review comments dock. Resolving a comment thread advances the progress bar, providing a visual indication and a well-deserved sense of satisfaction for moving closer to your goal.
  • Show diff formatting: The dock shows you the lines of the diff immediately surrounding the comment. Need more context? Click the Open Diff button to see the diff for the entire pull request.
  • Expand and collapse comments: Since comment threads can get lengthy, we wanted to give you the ability to focus on just the information that's most useful to you. To reduce visual clutter, you can collapse and expand review summary comments and comment threads.
  • Navigate changes with line highlighting and gutter icons: See which line of code or text a comment belongs to with line highlighting and gutter icons. Clicking a gutter icon also opens the reviews dock and scrolls to that comment. Note that in order to see any highlighting and icons, you must be signed in to GitHub for Atom, and on a branch that's checked out and corresponds to a pull request.
  • Checkout and refresh: If reviews are on a different branch than the one you've checked out, you can still see comments but can't jump to the file or mark comments as resolved. To checkout a pull request branch, use the handy "Checkout" button at the top of the reviews dock. While you're up there, you can click the refresh icon to fetch new comments and reviews.
A blog post provides more details on other enhancements, including:
  • Open a single file without its parent directory
  • Fuzzy Finder Performance
  • Pull request review comments and large diff detection in the GitHub package
  • Auto-updater improvements for Windows and macOS
  • Multiple wrap guides
  • Language package improvements
  • Isolated Atom environment for Jasmine tests

All of the above and much more are detailed in the Atom 1.37 beta release notes, and the code for the Atom GitHub Package is parked here.

Atom recently made the top 10 list of most popular developer environments included in Stack Overflow's huge developer survey. Interestingly, both Atom and the No. 1 code editor on that list, Visual Studio Code, are based on the Electron project for creating cross-platform desktop apps with JavaScript, HTML and CSS Web technologies.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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