Why is the Atom install so non-standard?


Disclaimer: I am not an Atom user. I would like to be able to provide Atom for classroom use.

Why does the Atom (Windows) installer completely ignore software industry standards? What about multi-user systems? Default settings that can be adjusted on a per-user basis? Centralized deployment? Having every user install it into their own profile is not a scalable solution. Desktop managers and sysadmins shouldn’t need to be experts in Atom and all it’s pieces in order to push it out to a collection of users/systems. The whole thing reeks of the classic problem of developers working on systems that don’t match the real world and then don’t understand why it doesn’t work for everyone else.


As far as I’m aware, Atom is completely compatible with multi-user systems and per-user settings, precisely because it installs to %localappdata%\atom and writes settings to %userprofile%\.atom. Centralized deployment is possible as the installer supports MSI, though I’m not sure if the Atom website provides MSIs.


The default Atom installer is multi-user compatible in the same way that an apartment building advertises a shared laundry room, but it turns out each tenant has to provide their own washer/dryer.

Installing to %localappdata% is a cheat to allow non-admins to install the software they want. Without arguing whether that is acceptable in a classroom environment, it doesn’t scale if there are dozens (or hundreds) of users. Each user then has to install Atom and either every profile grows by 400+ MB, or each user has to re-install Atom at every login.

Although useless to me without a compiled .msi installer, would the .msi install to the standard location for applications, %programfiles% and allow multiple users to run it (holding the settings in %userprofile%)?

Sharing the Electron core

I never questioned this, as I’ve been used to this from Chrome for many years. I can only assume, that the shared features of Atom and Chrome might be the reason for installing to %localappdata%.

That’s not saying that I don’t understand your concerns. Maybe the PortableApps version of Atom suits your needs better. It’s only one minor version behind.


ClickOnce seems to be an alternate standard MS is pushing, especially with .net application.

They follow an instalation path of c:\users\username\AppData\Local\Apps\2.0\[obfuscatedfoldername]\[obfuscatedfoldername]

The logic behind this is that real app live on the web, and local copy is mostly a disposable cache.

The tagline of squirel.window is like ClickOnce but Works™. So it give an idea of which standard the installation method has chosen.


We haven’t really tested out the MSI version (though it is the same system that Slack uses, so it should be fine). It’s on the list of things we want to make available. We don’t have an ETA for it at this time.


Personally, I think the script has room for improvement, but there’s this electron-boilerplate installer.

If NSIS is considered an option for a future Windows installer, I can offer my 10+ years expertise.


Hello all.

Idelberg, a NSIS real installer would be a real plus.

I work in a school environment where %localappdata% can have no executable. So atom is clearly unusable for us.

the atom team seems not to take this use case into account


Atom is perfectly usable. You just have to download one of the .zip files, put the executable somewhere else, and update manually.


May be I was not really clear.

Usability here is from a sysadmin point of view. The installer does not install in an usual way. It install in localappdata. Of course I can as a sysadmin put the files anywhere. But I have to do this by myself, and to do this I have to script it. Because we have more than 350 computers for 1200 pupils, and manual installation would not be bearable

Saying it short, I have to manually built an system installer by hand. I will do it for my own high school. But very few will do it.

And hand made script to install a product is not a long term solution. We have here very very few ressources to administrate a network (one person, part time - 1/3 , for 350 computers). An automated msi, deployed with wpkg or GPO is mandatory for a software in such kind of environment.

Hope it clarify the situation


As a SysAdmin, I just did a comparative test between Atom, Sublime, Notepad++ and Vim. Atom is the only one I had problems with. Because the installer was unclear as to the install location, I spent 20 minutes hunting down the application, just so that I could make it my default program for .js files (one of the tests I was performing).

I love the look and ethos of Atom, but this user-local install thing, makes it literally undesirable. I can totally empathise with the comments from @swirly - for any kind of institution that relies on the ability to manage more than just 1 host, having an application install to %programfiles% with individual users’ settings in %userprofile% is the only way to make it a viable option. Seriously, I would imagine that this little sticking point, is hampering the growth of Atom’s popularity - imagine if it could get its foot in the door of schools, colleges & universities (it seems like school admins are already interested, but being put off by something quite fixable) - just the sort of userbase that will love, contribute to & evangelise about a great app like Atom.

I’d be happy to be a tester, for an installer that played the established standards game.