April 20, 2022•464 words
If you're a programmer, you've most likely heard of and used Visual Studio Code before. It's a lightweight Electron-based (never thought these 2 words would go together!) text editor with an amazing extension marketplace. It's also by Microsoft and open source! Well... sort of. Let's get on to VSCodium.
VSCodium is a FLOSS version of Visual Studio Code that is built from the open source vscode repository. Unlike Visual Studio Code, which is not licensed under a FLOSS license and features telemetry and tracking, VSCodium is entirely free of that. It doesn't phone home to Microsoft, nor does it have any Microsoft-specific functionality or branding.
I recently moved over to it myself to be fully free of Microsoft, and boy has it been an eye-opener. First off, speaking about the transition itself, it has been fairly seamless and most of my extensions work perfectly and were available on the Open VSX Registry, which is, as quoted from their site:
A Vendor Neutral, Open Source Marketplace for VS Code Extensions
Bear in mind, extension developers have to manually publish their extensions there, and some aren't available for various reasons (e.g. proprietary, or relies on Microsoft services). For those unavailable, you can switch to the standard VS Code marketplace and get them from there, but there's no guarantee they'll work. Here's where we reach the interesting bit: using VSCodium actually brought to my attention how reliant VSCode is on proprietary nonsense, despite VS Code itself (not the binaries available to download) being open source.
You see, if you develop for C# you'll quickly realize that you don't have access to the C# debugger. Why? Simply because Microsoft doesn't want you to. The C# debugger is licensed to only work on the Microsoft-distributed Visual Studio Code. And this isn't the only extension, there are several that face the same issue for the same reasons. C++ debugger? GitHub Copilot? And the list goes on. It really shows how dependent VS Code actually is on closed source, proprietary components. All of this may be a hard pill to swallow and I can understand why one would stick with Microsoft's VS Code because of this, but I would strongly recommend reconsidering your text editor, or how you debug your code. Personally, I'm sticking with VSCodium for everything I've mentioned already, and I'll just use an IDE for debugging.
For those who need a suggestion on a text editor comparable to VS Code, I recommend Kate. Aside from the cooler name, it's also a native, Qt-based application, so if you want something even more lightweight and yet still powerful, it's definitely worth a shot!