Jupyter Notebooks are gone from my scientific workflow

TL;DR: I’ve just learned that the text editor Sublime Text can display images within Markdown files. Gone therefore is my need to use Jupyter Notebooks.

I was never a true convert to Jupyter Notebooks. I used them for several years, and saw their appeal, but they just didn’t quite feel right to me.

Most complaints against Notebooks are technical ones: they’re awkward to version control, they’re hard to debug, and they promote poor programming practices. But these issues are tangential to my complaints against Notebooks, which are are less concrete:

  • I’m always scrolling. It’s inefficient.
  • I don’t want to do work in a browser. Maybe it’s a weak reason, but I like keeping my scientific and programming tools separate from the browser.
  • Editing and navigating Notebooks feels clumsy. Maybe it’s a lack of practice, but I’d rather leverage the time I’ve invested in learning and setting up my text editor than spend time learning a bunch of new shortcuts specific to Notebooks.
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Invest in a good text editor

Scientists should invest time in a good text editor: pay the upfront cost of learning to use and customising a single editor for all of your text needs. This may be obvious to programmers, but less so to scientists who may have yet to recognise the benefits of a good editor.

Much scientific analysis and documentation can be achieved with plain text files (e.g., .py, .m, .f, .r, .tex, or .md). The default method to work with multiple file types is to use multiple IDEs (Integrated Development Environments): Matlab for m-files, Spyder or IPython notebooks for python scripts, TexStudio or TeXnicCenter for latex files, RStudio for R, or one of the countless editors for Markdown currently available.

Using a single editor has many benefits over using a range of editors within each IDE:

Continue reading “Invest in a good text editor”