Editor Sizes


A few months ago I was starting to get irked at the relatively poor performance of Emacs on my primary development system. Emacs isn’t terrible, but it is noticeably slow compared to Vim. So, for the sake of curiosity I decided to look at some executable sizes. I started by just doing a simple:

ls -alh `which <editor>`

But that only captures the size of the executable on disk without regard for any shared libraries or dynamic memory allocations.

I can’t recall where, but I found a comment on some forum that suggests the following:

ps -Ao rsz,vsz,cmd | grep <editor>

This works well. rsz and vsz are Resident Size and Virtual Size, respectively. cmd gives the name of the executable. Output looks like this:

$ ps -Ao rsz,vsz,cmd | grep [s]t
8896  65592 /usr/local/bin/st

The resident size is how much memory is actually in use by the application and the virtual size is how much memory the application has requested. There’s usually a rather large delta there, and it’s kind of interesting to see. In both cases the size is given in bytes, so divide by 1024 to get Kibibytes and by 1048576 to get Mebibytes. (Kilobytes and Megabytes in common terminology.) I did an audit of various text editors running in terminal or gui mode and captured their resident memory sizes which I’m sharing below. Pay attention to the suffix because there are many orders of magnitude differences between the smallest and largest programs!

In no particular order:

Editor Name Resident Memory Size GUI or TUI Additional Information
emacs 57.99 MB GUI No local settings files
emacs 22.43 MB TUI With local settings files
emacs 12.77 MB TUI No local settings files
nano 1.77 MB TUI
uemacs/pk 916 KB TUI https://github.com/snaewe/uemacs
jed 1.6 MB TUI
gvim 25.8 MB GUI
vim 25.8 MB TUI
atom 266 MB GUI
nice 1 MB TUI http://ne.di.unimi.it/
micro 10.95 MB TUI https://github.com/zyedidia/micro
vis 3.88 MB TUI https://github.com/martanne/vis
TextAdept 25.58 MB GUI
TextAdept 6.58 MB TUI
jupp 3.37 MB TUI https://www.mirbsd.org/jupp.htm
mg 1.03 KB TUI Micro GNU/emacs, this is a portable version of the mg maintained by the OpenBSD team.

NOTE: TUI means Textual UI and you’ll often see “curses”, “cli”, “console” or “terminal” used to mean the same thing.

Don’t take these records as gospel; I’ve noticed differences on subsequent captures of various programs. Without a doubt each editor will perform differently depending on the specific file and how the editor represents said file in memory. Also, I generally don’t have a good understanding of Linux memory, so there are lots of ways these numbers could be non-representative. As a ballpark estimate, however, I suspect these numbers should suffice.

If you liked this, you might enjoy A Memory Comparison of Light Linux Desktops