I’ve found text editors are similar to browsers in that they attract incredibly loyal and often outspoken fans. I recall many lively discussions over who built the best word processor or email program, but as those products have moved online, text editors are one of the few applications left that nearly every IT pro and developer runs locally.
“For a coder, using a text editor or an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) is almost a political statement.” — Erek Zukerman of PC World
This week I want to take a look at a few popular text editors, and see if some editors are better tailored to specific tasks than others. Let’s start with the text editor I’ve used for many years:
I’ve been using Notepad++ for so long I don’t recall what I used before it. It might have been vi on Unix while back in college. Within a few minutes of using Notepad++ I changed my registered application for .txt files from Notepad to Notepad++, and I’ve never looked back.
Notepad++ is open source which means it’s free to use and that developers have been creating nifty plugins for it for many years. Notepad++ is a fully functional text editor on its own, but it’s the plethora of plugins that makes Notepad++ shine for power users. All those plugins are organized within the Plugin Manager.
While popular among developers, Notepad++ is a more general purpose text editor than competing products.
One of the reasons I’ve continued to use Notepad++ is that it’s many features don’t overwhelm my work space. The features I use most often are implemented well here such as tabbed documents, search and replace and syntax highlighting.
Those of you who use the included Notepad in Windows will feel right at home. While other text editors come with a learning curve, Notepad++ keeps the powerful tools within reach but never forces them on those whose needs are basic. Notepad++ is easy to use, free, and well worth a test drive.
As I began researching this topic, I noticed how many people recommended Sublime Text in developer forums. Sublime Text has a bit of flair to its look and presentation. In fact it looks unlike any other editor I tried. Sublime includes a number of sophisticated features that are more geared towards those writing code such as Multiple Selections that allow the developer to change ten variables at once. Command Palette puts the most frequently used functions at your fingertips without having to search through menus.
On the surface, Sublime Text is a lean and simple-to-use product. It includes no toolbars or configuration dialogs upon first use. It’s also incredibly fast which matches what I’ve heard from others.
About the only downside I heard mentioned about Sublime Text is that it costs $70. For someone with basic needs that’s a steep hurdle, but for those who live in your editor, it’s a reasonable price of admission to a stylish and speedy editor with advanced features.
Platforms: Windows, Linux, OS X
This is another product I hadn’t used before, but appears to be very popular among those developers who want a text editor packed with features. While other editors take pride in being stripped down to the basics, UltraEdit takes the opposite approach and packs in every bell and whistle imaginable.
UltraEdit takes a lot of tools and makes them customizable to the user. You can design and save your own interface configuration with a blend of windows, toolbars and panels. In short, you can switch between “basic” and “power user” modes with just a click.
Platforms: Windows, Linux OS X
These are the three text editors I saw mentioned over a wide range of forums and reviews. I know that I’m leaving many off this list, but I wanted to include a few more I saw mentioned often.
TextPad – Simple, free, been around forever and Windows only.
Nano – Customizable, powerful and popular with Linux users.
TextWrangler – The little brother to the popular BBEdit and Mac only.
For now, I’m going to stick with Notepad++. My needs are simple, and I know my way around the product too well to switch at this point. I primarily use it to edit my blog and associated CSS files, and for that, it’s perfect.
What text editor do you recommend?
Photo by xmodulo