Tailoring Atom for (prose) translation


Hello, I just started looking at Atom to maybe make the perfect translation machine. As a translator (non-fiction books and articles) I typically have two windows open, one language on the left and the other on the right. I currently use Pages but I’d rather have less distractions and a neat, clean interface. Also, Markdown works fine, since the only formatting I need is the occasional bold and italic.

The “features” I’m trying to set up, so far:

  1. Two text files open side by side: I have only figured out how to do this by opening the Welcome Guide and then dragging tabs. Can someone please tell me how this is done?
  2. Distraction-free editing: I’m using the Zen package which is great, however in full-screen there are no margins or gutter between the two files at all, which isn’t very legible. Is the best option to edit the user stylesheet to add margins?
  3. Open/save to Word format. This is not a priority, but it would be nice since clients send and demand .docx files. I realize this is absurd for a text editor such as Atom.
  4. Keyboard shortcuts to emphasize without typing asterisks (⌘-B) etc.

I will probably have more ideas once I’ve figured out these very basic problems; any help appreciated, as well as any other thoughts you may have on this subject.

  1. Cmd+K Right will open a new pane to the right of your current pane
  2. That is probably the fastest way, yes
  3. Probably not going to happen in the near future :grinning:
  4. I believe someone was working on a package for this, but I don’t remember what it was called


Thank you!

  1. I don’t want to make another pane with the same file but with a different file. I have to open another pane as you said, then open the second file, then close the first tab of the second pane. Isn’t there are simpler way?!


Someone made a package for that too, I believe. Hard to keep track now that there are over 1,900 of the things :wink:

  1. For panes, I recommend pane-layout-switcher or pane-manager. But, I also see that @okrammer made a package to disable the pane-split copy: https://atom.io/packages/pane-split-moves-tab.
  2. You should give typewriter a shot.


You should be able to right click the one you want on the tree view, select split right.


Thanks @dsandstrom – I’m trying out what you suggested.

  1. That pane-split-moves-tab doesn’t work for me so far (it opens and closes a tab, maybe a bug?). @plttn – much easier, thanks!
  2. I’ve installed typewriter but I haven’t understood how to trigger it for all markdown documents.

More issues:
Since I’m using two languages (not programming languages) the spell-checker underlines all the words in one of the files. I guess there’s no way to specify different languages for different files, or simply have the spell checker accept several languages without having to specify (like in Pages).
Non-break spaces (alt-space) don’t exist in Atom apparently.
I fear these two issues are OS X specific and cannot be changed by tweaking packages etc.


Here’s my quick patch for your “Distraction-free editing”.

Screenshot of the outcome

How to do it

Firstly, in the toolbar of Atom, choose [File > Open Your Stylesheet].

Then, cope and insert the following codes to the file “styles.less”.

// For Zen (package) and two panes, minimize the margin between the panes for better comparing the contents in them.
    margin-right: 0rem;
    margin-left: 0rem;

Save and see.

Change the values (mine are 0rem) if you like.

PS: I’m using the default dark them of Atom. There already is a darker margin between the two panes and I feel it is very legible. Are you using a light theme?


Thank you @GrandSong! That really helps to separate the two panes in Zen. Yes I’m using a dark theme. I’m using padding instead of margin so the look is totally seamless.


As to your question 4, you can try package “markdown-writer”.

It works for me whose OS is Windows 7. Hope it works for you, too.


Thanks, yes markdown-writer works fine on OS X.


You can install pandoc to convert Markdown files to Word docx.

If you work with Markdown files you can use git to keep track of changes.


Yes I installed pandoc already but haven’t had any success in getting it working inside Atom – crashes, error messages and so on.
Also I’m having trouble doing without the spell checking and non-break spaces mentioned earlier…


Create a Makefile in your working directory and use the build function of atom.

I setup a pandoc-project boilerplate on GitHub. It is not exactly what’s need for your usecase, but I hope you can adjust the commands in the Makefile to match your usecase.


Thanks for your help everyone. Most of the packages and tools aren’t right for what I’m trying to achieve and there are too many tradeoffs (the spelling thing for instance) that can’t be fixed with add-ons. Also the next OS X will have a split-screen feature that might be a solution to my problem. I’m not giving up but my project seems rather long-term!