Pictured Above: See errors and inconsistencies in your code as you type.

There are tons of articles explaining how great CoffeeScript is as a language (which is true), but few that actually talk about how you should set up your dev environment to write it. As a CoffeeScript shop, this is how we do it at DataFox.

Sublime Text Editor

To start, I tried to use my favorite tools, vim and IntelliJ. However, while IntelliJ is great at Python, Java, Scala, and PHP, its CoffeeScript plugin is woefully lacking. Vim, meanwhile, takes extensive configuration to support advanced features like linting, and can be a polarizing choice when hiring engineers used to IDE or emacs.

Fortunately, Sublime is a fanastic text editor with much of the power of an IDE without the bloat. Plus, it comes with a solid Vim plugin that approaches the full functionality of the real thing.

Set up Sublime for CoffeeScript (6 min)

Install Sublime Text 3 (60s)

Don’t install Sublime Text 2 or the plugins won’t work.

Install Package Control (30s)

Package Control makes installing plugins virtually instantaneous. Follow the instructions on the page.

Install Plugins (120s)

Access the “Package Control: Install Package” command by opening the command pallette (shift-cmd-p on Mac, shift-ctrl-p on Windows) and typing “install”.

Then use the autocomplete to quickly install these plugins:

  • git
  • git gutter
  • Better CoffeeScript
  • sidebar enhancements
  • SublimeLinter
  • SublimeLinter-coffeelint

And include these plugins if you use any of these languages:

  • LESS
  • Handlebars
  • Jade

Sublime is awesome and will install the plugins without any restart.

Update Your Settings (30s)

CoffeeScript relies on consistent indentation, so update your settings to enforce it (and make sure your team does the same!). Indentation is an oddly personal matter, so modify as needed. Edit the settings (cmd+,) and paste in:

  "auto_indent": true,
  "color_scheme": "Packages/User/Monokai (SL).tmTheme",
  "detect_indentation": false,
  "smart_indent": false,
  "tab_size": 2,
  "translate_tabs_to_spaces": true,
  "trim_trailing_white_space_on_save": true

The important thing is to standardize your spacing/tabbing and disable the automatic indentation which can cause bugs.

Setup Linting (120s)

CoffeeScript is a very “expressive” untyped language which really means it is very ambiguous language with lots of easy-to-make mistakes. Linting takes one minute to setup. Seriously, just do it.


I assume you have Node and npm installed already.

Install Coffeelint

Note it must be installed globally for Sublime to call it:

  npm install -g coffeelint

Test that it works by running it on a file:

  coffeelint path/to/a/file.coffee

(Optional) Configure Lint Rules

Createa coffeelint.json file in your project by running:

  cd <project root>
  coffeelint --makeconfig > coffeelint.json

Edit the file to turn on/off the rules, which are all clearly documented.

(Optional) Fix nvm + zsh

You may need to also do these steps, taken from the coffeelint documentation

  1. If you are using nvm and zsh, ensure that the line to load nvm is in .zshenv and not .zshrc.
  2. In order for coffeelint to be executed by SublimeLinter, you must ensure that its path is available to SublimeLinter. Before going any further, please read and follow the steps in “Finding a linter executable” through “Validating your PATH” in the documentation.

On Mac, this means you should open terminal and type which coffeelint which will give you a path like /usr/local/bin/coffeelint. Then type echo $PATH and if you don’t see /usr/local/bin (or whatever you see) add it by editing ~/.bashrc or ~/.zshrc with the line export PATH=$PATH:/usr/local/bin.

(Optional) Enforce Linting as a Git Hook

To enforce your new linting rules, create a pre-commit git hook by editing .git/hooks/pre-commit:

for file in `git diff --cached --name-only | grep "\.coffee$"`; do
  # ignore files that were deleted/moved as part of the commit
  if [ -e ${file} ]
    coffeelint ${file}
    exitCode=$((${exitCode} + $?))

if [[ exitCode -ne 0 ]];
  echo "Coffee linting has failed, please fix the error(s).  If this is an incorrect error, either fix our linting rules (in coffeelint.json) or in this case commit with the --no-verify flag." 1>&2;

This will run the linter on all edited files when you commit. I don’t believe in tying developers’ hands, so you can always skip this rule by running git commit --no-verify.

It is also a good idea to symlink .git/hooks to a directory in your repo so you can easily share hooks across your team.

Restart Sublime

Customize SublimeLinter

Edit the SublimeLinter rules, by opening the context menu (right-click) and modifying: - Lint Mode > Background - Mark Style > No Column Highlights Line - Mark Style > Stippled Underline

This will lint your files as you work and show errors with red underlines (of course, you can change this).

Test It Out

Open a .coffee file and behold!

It took a lot of trial-and-error to arrive at this setup, so I hope it is helpful. If you have any other tips or feedback please share them with us: ops [at] datafox.co.