If you’re aware of the Atom editor, you probably think of it as a tool mainly used by programmers. Yes, it’s a text editor, so it can be used for any manner of writing, yet its feature-set leans toward coders – at least out of the box it does.
Atom is an eminently customizable app, so it can do much more than you would initially think. With the right add-ons, it can replace your to-do list manager, your note-taking app, and maybe even your favorite mind mapping app.
If you’ve ever spent any time talking to a fan of the Emacs editor, they’ve likely extolled the virtues of org-mode. This magical package lets you track your notes, to-dos, and calendar events as well as editing documents. If you’ve ever wanted to try this but are scared of Emacs’ complexity, you might want to try Organized for Atom.
This package aims to bring org-mode to Atom. It’s not the only package of its type but does seem to be the most full-featured. You even get a special sidebar on the right that lists your upcoming events and to-do items across files.
2. Atom Notes
If you’ve ever used the Mac app Notational Velocity or its popular fork NValt, you’ll know what to expect out of Atom Notes. Specify a directory for your notes, choose a key combination to open the add-on, and you can search and create notes at ease, right within Atom.
Atom Notes uses Markdown formatting which lets you use simple symbols to add headings, list items, and bold and italicized text to your notes. Using the Markdown Preview functionality built into Atom, you can see all of this formatted properly, making it easy to read your notes later.
If org-mode seems a little too complicated for you, but you want to keep track of your to-dos in Atom, try Tasks instead. This add-on is inspired by the PlainTasks plugin for Sublime Text. Both add-ons let you use a few simple keyboard shortcuts to create a hierarchical layout of your projects and tasks.
By default, Tasks adds completed tasks to an Archive section at the bottom of the file complete with a timestamp. This lets you easily see how much you accomplished on a given day, helping you track your productivity.
4. Markdown Mindmap
Some people prefer to organize their thoughts visually, often in the form of a mind map. If you prefer this way of organizing notes and ideas but also like the idea of storing everything in plain text, Markdown Mindmap is the perfect marriage of the two.
When you first install the add-on, your mind maps will be shown in a boring grayscale color scheme. Fortunately, the add-on ships with several other themes, letting you add some color to your ideas.
Whether you organize your ideas using Atom Notes or Markdown Mindmap, you may need to share them with others eventually. Getting someone else to install Atom and your preferred add-ons is a tall order. Instead, you can use Pandoc-Convert to turn Markdown-formatted text into any number of formats to share with others.
Pandoc is a cross-platform file conversion tool, and Pandoc-Convert integrates it into Atom. Using this add-on, you can convert your Markdown notes into HTML, PDF, ODT, DOCX, and several other formats.
This is just the start of what Atom can do outside of the usual programming tasks. It’s a very capable editor, but it’s not loved by everyone. Because the app uses web technologies for its user interface, Atom isn’t a great fit for aging hardware.
If you’re using Linux on an older computer or a Raspberry Pi, Atom may not be your best bet. Don’t worry, though, because you have plenty of options. For an idea of where to start, take a look at our roundup of some of the best Linux text editors.