Atom on Mac OS - Installation + Shell commands + Useful Tips

If you, like me, were using Sublime or another code editor and want to give Atom a chance, you are making the right choice. Follow the steps below and install it in a few minutes.

In short, to install Atom on Mac OS, go to, download the zip file, unzip it and then move it to Applications.

Here is how to install the shell commands atom, apm and some recommendations for the editor.

How to install Atom + Shell commands (Mac OS)

  • Go to and click on Download. Or download here directly.
  • Unzip the file and drag the executable to your Applications folder.
  • Open Atom for the first time, click Atom > Install Shell Commands.

Atom install shell commands

This command will install the binaries and provide the apm and atom commands.

There you have it, your Atom is installed.

atom shell command

The atom shell command is used to open files in the editor using the terminal. This is one of the commands I use the most on a daily basis. Let's say you are in the /htdocs/project folder. To open the whole directory, use:

atom .

To open only one file:

atom index.js

To simply open the editor without any file:


apm shell command

Atom Package Manager (apm) is used to manage atom packages and themes. See below for some of my useful package recommendations. Example of using the apm command:

apm install linter

Why use Atom

I used the Sublime Text for approximately 4 years. First, version 2, then version 3. I have nothing to complain about it, and in fact I still use Sublime. But it is not my primary editor.

First I'm going to talk about the main negative point of Atom: It's a little slow to open, even on a Mac OS with a very good setup. This is mainly because it is developed in web technologies (Yes, HTML, CSS and JS through Electron). Performance is a negative point that has been addressed in recent releases, but that still doesn't stop me from having it as the main editor.

For very fast edits where I only open one file, give a Cmd + S and close, I still use Sublime Text without any packages installed, because the opening time is key in those cases. But for the daily work, I always use Atom, because it gave me more productivity.

Some of the main features that make me like Atom more than any other editor:

  • Atom has Git and Github built-in: Before I started using it, I just used the terminal to control my repositories. But the integration with Git was done in such a good way that it became more productive to manage my repositories through the interface. Actually, Atom was developed and is maintained by the Github team.
  • Included package manager: In Sublime you need to install a package manager, in other editors this does not even exist. In Atom you have support for installing, upgrading, and removing external packages and themes in a very simple way, and you are still warned when a package is heavy and how long it will take to load at boot.
  • It's open source: The more people collaborating, finding out and fixing bugs, the better. I feel I didn't need a description for this one.
  • It's free: Last and best of all, it's totally free! Without those boring popups asking you to buy.

Useful packages to install

I personally use Atom for web frontend development, but regardless of your stack, here are some interesting packages:

  • linter: Used to easily view some types of errors or error messages. In addition to this package, you will need to install some linter specific to your language. Just look for them in "Install packages", e.g. linter-php.
  • file-icons: View the file tree with icons specific to each extension. It's very useful to visually locate yourself.
  • emmet: If you work with web development, emmet is extremely useful for autocompletes and shortcuts.
  • merge-conflicts: If you're going to work with any Git repositories, this is an essential package. It's much easier to resolve conflicts with it.
  • teletype: Although I've never used it, I've seen some people using this package before and found it amazing. It allows you to share your code in real-time with other programmers and the code changes in real-time like Google Docs documents.

Talking about themes, I use One Dark, both for UI and syntax, but you can install other themes via apm or the interface.

Did you find this helpful?

Ricardo Metring

Ricardo Metring

Full stack web developer and co-founder at
I've worked for over 10 years with software development. I'm constantly curious and learning.