Packages are simply directories under Packages. They exist mainly for organizational purposes, but Sublime Text follows a few rules when dealing with them. More on this later.

Here’s a list of typical resources living inside packages:

  • build systems (.sublime-build)
  • key maps (.sublime-keymap)
  • macros (.sublime-macro)
  • menus (.sublime-menu)
  • plugins (.py)
  • preferences (.tmPreferences)
  • settings (.sublime-settings)
  • syntax definitions (.tmLanguage)
  • snippets (.sublime-snippet)
  • themes (.sublime-theme)

Some packages may include support files for other packages or core features. For example, the spell checker uses PackagesLanguage - English as a data store for English dictionaries.

Types of Packages

In order to talk about packages in this guide, we’ll divide them in groups. This division is artificial and for the sake of clarity in this topic. Sublime Text doesn’t use it in any way.

core packages
Sublime Text requires these packages in order to work.
shipped packages
Sublime Text includes these packages in every installation, although they are not technically required. Shipped packages enhance Sublime Text out of the box. They may have been contributed by users or third parties.
user packages
These packages are installed by the user to further extend Sublime Text. They are not part of any Sublime Text installation and are always contributed by users or third parties.
installed packages
Any package that Sublime Text can restore if deleted.

Let’s emphasize again that you don’t need to memorize this classification. Also, it’s worth noting that by third party we mainly refer to other editors’ users, like Textmate’s.

Installation of Packages

There are two main ways to install packages:

  • .sublime-package files
  • version control systems

Ultimately, installing a package consists simply in placing a directory containing Sublime Text resources under Packages. The only thing that changes from one system to another is how you copy these files.

Installation of .sublime-package Files

Copy the .sublime-package file to the Installed Packages directory and restart Sublime Text. If the Installed Packages doesn’t exist, you can create it.

Note that .sublime-package files are simply .zip archives with a custom file extension.

Installation of Packages from a Version Control System

Explaining how to use version control systems (VCSs) is outside the scope of this guide, but there are many user packages available for free on public repositories like Google Code, GitHub and Bitbucket.

Also, there is a Sublime Text organization at GitHub open to contributors.

Packages and Magic

There’s little invisible magic involved in the way Sublime Text deals with packages. Two notable exceptions are that macros defined in any package appear under Tools | Macros | <Your Package>, and snippets from any package appear under Tools | Snippets | <Your Package>.

As mentioned at the beginning, however, there are some rules for packages. For instance, Package/User will never be clobbered during updates of the software.

Merging and Order of Precedence

Packages/Default and Packages/User also receive a special treatment when merging files (e. g. .sublime-keymap and .sublime-settings files). Before the merging can take place, the files have to be arranged in an order. To that end, Sublime Text sorts them alphabetically by name with the exception of files contained in Default and User: Default will always go to the front of the list, and User to the end.

Restoring Packages

Sublime Text keeps a copy of all installed packages so it can recreate them when needed. This means it will be able to reinstall core packages, shipped packages and user packages alike. However, only user packages installed as a sublime-package are added to the registry of installed packages. Packages installed in alternative ways will be completely lost if you delete them.

Reverting Sublime Text to Its Default Configuration

To revert Sublime Text to its default configuration, delete the data directory and restart the editor. Keep in mind, though, that the Installed Packages directory will be deleted too, so you will lose all installed packages.

Always make sure to back up your data before taking an extreme measure like this one.

The Installed Packages Directory

You will find this directory in the data directory. It contains a copy of every sublime-package installed. Used to restore Packages.

The Pristine Packages Directory

You will find this directoy in the data directory. It contains a copy of every shipped and core package. Used to restore Packages.