Atom is a tricky piece of software, and it’s easy to get frustrated using it. This doesn’t mean you’re “bad at computers.” It’s a new program, and it takes time to get used to it. Below are a few pointers that can solve problems my students often have. If these are insufficient, you can always look to the official Atom documentation, which includes a nice, four-minute introductory video on customizing some settings. Even in those four minutes, though, they show some advanced techniques like using snippets to automate text that one ends up retyping often. Anyway, as noted, below are questions students have asked, so hopefully your answers will be found below as well.

Remember: by typing command shift P on a Mac or ctrl shift P on Windows, you can always access the Command Palette, where you can search for a specific command.

My files disappeared; Atom is the worst.

If you open Atom and get a blank screen when you were expecting your list of files, don’t fret. There are several ways to open it back up. Try these in order.

  1. The project tree—which shows the files—may have just closed. Try typing ctrl 0 (that’s a zero) to have the tree reopen. If that’s empty, too, move to the next step.

  2. Atom may have forgotten what project you were working on. If you close the Atom window before quitting, this will happen. Luckily, the solution is pretty easy. Go to the “File” menu, choose “Reopen Project,” and then choose your project from the list there. If your project isn’t in that list, move to the next step.

  3. Atom may not even know where your project is anymore. You can reopen your project by going to the “File” menu and choosing “Add Project Folder…” Now, a dialog box shows up.

    • For Macs, type command shift H, which should open up your home directory (a house icon will show up at the top). There should be a folder in there called “github.” Open that folder. In there should be a folder with your project’s name. Open that, and then click on the “Open” button at the bottom of the dialog box.
  4. If your project doesn’t even seem to appear even in the “github” folder, and you haven’t changed the default value for where the projects go, you have to re-clone your project.

I want to create a new file in my project

In Atom, if you just command N or ctrl N to create a new file, it’ll make an arbitrary untitled file that you later save and name. If you know ahead of time where in your project you want your file to go, click on the project tree (the list of files) where you want the file to go and type A (lowercase). Atom will open a little window asking to “Enter the path for the new file,” which should already have the folder name filled in. Just type in your file name with the appropriate extension (.js for JavaScript, .md for Markdown, etc.), and you should be ready to go.

When I go to push my changes to GitHub, it says I’m behind master

Always, always fetch/pull before pushing. Bring up those buttons by clicking on the up and down arrows in the bottom right corner of the screen. Avoid force pushing, because it can cause chaos for your collaborators.

How do I enable autosave?

In Atom, open up your preferences (in the “Atom” menu). After clicking on “Packages,” type autosave into the search bar. When the Autosave package appears, click the Settings button underneath it and make sure “Enabled” has a checkmark next to it.