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Free and open source text editors every developer should try

Even if you work in an IDE, a good text editor is always handy to have. Bill Detwiler looks at five text editors every developer should try.

These days, most developers work inside an integrated development environment (IDE). But, there are still times when you need a text editor.

Developer and TechRepublic blogger Justin James put together a list of five free (or open source) text editors that he feels are worth checking out. In this week's TR Dojo episode, I take a quick look at the editors on his list:

For those who prefer text to video, click the View Transcript link below the video player window or check out Justin James' article, "Five free (or open source) text editors for developers," on which this video is based.

You can also sign up to receive the latest TR Dojo lessons through one or more of the following methods:

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

62 comments
mackelcd
mackelcd

I prefer UltraEdit, bit I fall back to Notepad++ on "foreign" PCs. And WinVi works well for old fashioned regexp things.

mkb091d
mkb091d

As a software developer I have tried most of the editors whether free or purchased currently on the market. For me none have the functionality or ease of use that UltraEdit has. I currently have three licenses for UltraEdit including one for Linux. Never use anything else if I can help it.

aabrown
aabrown

I've been using NotePad++ for about 5 years and love most of it. I miss a few features that I had with TextPad. The macro functionality in NotePad++ is not up to par with TextPads. It is missing things like "Find" inside a macro. NotePad++ only records that it went to a specific line/position instead of actually performing another Find. Also, when making changes to multiple lines by holding Alt and dragging your mouse, pasting text only updates the first line. This should update all the selected lines just like typing.

anery_anne
anery_anne

Current use of editor function doesn't work well. Free can try. If you need laptop battery..

jmsalain
jmsalain

I remember using it first at work back in 2000. So I still use that version of TextPad 3.2.5 Lots to like including the block select mode - very handy ability to paste from a different way!

wuboyblue
wuboyblue

vi is the way, pure and simple. Be a man among men, use vi.

Fravio
Fravio

man, if I have do configure something via ssh I use them. Otherwise no way working with those outdated commands.

bornbyforce
bornbyforce

... depending if I am dealing with cave-man command line or modern-human Gui. Still IDEs are the best if not Java-based.

simon
simon

Geany for Linux, otherwise Notepad++ - I voted "other" because I mostly use Linux, however if N++ was available on Linux, it would win my vote, no contest. I *love* its synchronisable vertical split screen feature, ideal for modern displays, which IMO are far too wide and not tall enough for development work. (Great for films and video etc, but for me my computer is a work-tool, not an entertainment device. For entertainment I've got a TV!). Is anyone ever going to port Notepad++ to Linux? I'd love them forever if they did!

spacepioneer
spacepioneer

my error. Ironspider is at www.ironspider.ca. it is a good resource for developers and has some good resources, including several text editor links. Another editor I like is Trellian CodePad, available at www.trellian.com.

spacepioneer
spacepioneer

I don't see HTML kit 2.92 listed. it is the one I use and has many built in features and over 400 plugins available. it is available at www.Chami.com. Iron Spider considers it to be the Rolls Royce of free Editors. www.ironspider.com. check it out.

johncymru
johncymru

and still have most on my various machines with each having its advantages but now I largely stick to NoteTab for all but the simplest tasks. Mainly because I often need to find/replace across large numbers of files while still needing to be able to easily access many of them individually at the same time. I also do a lot of column copying/pasting and I have yet to find anything that matches it for that. But for basic text editing of single files I still tend to fall back on Notepad.

RobD.
RobD.

Use it when editing in a shell on Linux. Easier to use than vi. Notepadd++ on windows for sure.

Roc Riz
Roc Riz

It's THE MOST POWERFUL one of the bunch, plain and simple!

dpbaird
dpbaird

I started using EditPad Lite back in DOS 3.3 days. Since I don't do that much text editing, I've just done the upgrades without paying too much attention to possible alternatives. Today my most frequent use is as a scratch pad with browsing the web

codepoke
codepoke

I've been using it for 7 years now, I think? It does a lot of stuff well and I don't have to learn anything. I went big into vi/vim/gvim for a while. I'm glad I did, because I do a lot of one-off *nix work, but it got annoying. It sounds like I need to look into PSPad. :-)

earlehartshorn
earlehartshorn

I'm not a developer. I like Crimson Editor for general text editing. Too bad dev has stopped on it.

CodeCurmudgeon
CodeCurmudgeon

Gedit is OK in the 'nix world, as is Notepad in Windows. I find myself using HHD Hex Editor Neo when I need to see what is REALLY in a file, 'cause those pesky non-display characters & codes can raise havoc with code which is working with those files. Of course I'm sufficiently ancient to have been around when interpreting core dumps was a required skill.

hjschmidt1
hjschmidt1

what other free text editor supports scripting in multiple languages (js, vbs, ...)?

CutieDie
CutieDie

It's not the best, buts its not bad either. It gets the job done

drednot57
drednot57

KATE, Dr. Python (I like its fairly simple interface), Geany, and KWrite for simple scripts. Of these four, I use Dr. Python and KWrite the most. My editing needs are met most often by those two editing tools. For a CLI editor, I prefer nano to vi; I like simple.

dcovill
dcovill

Used the free EditPad for years, then they came out with the Pro version - not free but well worth the price ($49.95). Handles any size/type of file, hex viewing, etc, and never, ever hiccups!

dvroman
dvroman

I use Kedit http://www.kedit.com/ - It's not freeware, and it is no longer being actively supported. The major benefit is the REXX interpreter built in which, like EMACS, makes it extremely customizable. Any of the freeware XEDIT emulators that I'm aware of don't even come close.

IT Pixie
IT Pixie

Notepad++ is my must have for windows, and it's too bad it doesn't ruin on Mac. TextWrangler is a great alternative. I like the comparison view of TextWrangler almost better than Notepad++.

sasadler
sasadler

I know, I know, it's written in java but it has some great features. The hypersearch is outstanding and there's around 200 plugins available. And of course it's free (go to sourceforge).

fjpoblam
fjpoblam

I used Notepad++ for quite awhile on my Windows boxes, but became discouraged with it. I returned to a paid-for editor. Now that we're "a MacOSX household" I also use a paid-for editor. (Both these are off the topic of your discussion, I reckon: so I checked "other".)

ginerjm
ginerjm

I've had it for years, mainly because it edits file of any size, loads quickly, small footprint and was free. Opens multiple files too!

Lucien67
Lucien67

I contributed to the translation into french ... !

mike.laing
mike.laing

I've got to get out more and try some others, but PSPad does more than I need as it is. I think it's fast, stable, completely customizable, handles large files and you can make your own templates. I suppose they all do, though.

jsilverston
jsilverston

I still use CodeWright. It has an "old fashioned" MDI interface, which I find much more helpful than tabs. I can configure and perform my builds without leaving the environment. Its directory compare is invaluable in finding what changes I made from previous versions of my code base. Even though it's no longer supported, it's robust and old enough not to need support.

benched42
benched42

I've been using PSPad for some time. Went through SciTE, ConText, Notepad++, jEdit and a few others. And for the poster who said UltraEdit, PSPad is laid out much like UltraEdit and is free. In fact I work with developers who use both UltraEdit and PSPad, many prefer PSPad. PSPad is my Notepad replacement.

jsaubert
jsaubert

I'm definitely not a developer but I'd be lost without Notepad++ for formatting ebooks. It's easily the best tool for the OCD formater of large text documents in to use-able code.

fewiii
fewiii

I also use Notepad2, primarily as my "Notepad replacement". It's a Scintilla-based editor as is the other two, but is not tabbed.

MrBrightwork
MrBrightwork

I have been using Textpad with custom syntax files for years now. It doesn't get updated that often, and crashes occasionally, but I haven't given it up yet for Notepad++

Beejer
Beejer

Shareware from IDM Computer Solutions. All the bells and whistles I need/want.

bornbyforce
bornbyforce

You're a developer? Add the feature to one of the existing ones or port the N++. Either way lots of people will love you for ever!

ian.heaton
ian.heaton

I still use Crimson for VBScript with a custom syntax highlighting file, but I prefer using Geany in Linux for most other stuff (mostly PHP). I tried Emerald Editor (supposedly an improvement on Crimson) but didn't get on with it and went back to Crimson.

mckinnej
mckinnej

For many years Crimson was my go-to editor, but when it more or less got abandoned, I moved on to Notepad++.

rw2000
rw2000

It works well for my needs.

powerj7
powerj7

I use Jedit for it's xml, xpath, xslt plugins that really get my work done. I have also used vi and vim.

clavius
clavius

I love jEdit, and practically live in it. I do primarily XML development, and the XML plugin is outstanding. It also has a very accessible plugin framework, which made it easy for me to develop a plugin for the proprietary scripting language I do much of my work in. The only downside I've found to it is that it bogs down on files with very long lines (e.g. multi-megabyte XML files with no line breaks).

grayknight
grayknight

I went ahead and bought the Pro version and it continues to be an absolutely great text editor. I am amazed at the response time on bug fixes. You can use regex for search and replace across files, open all files in a folder, save a project of a group of files, and many other items I've needed at various times.

DocBambs
DocBambs

For reading logs, text files it's great - it's simplicity and quick font size changes make it the product that Notepad should have been. What it sometimes struggles with is characters from odd code pages or character sets and then I tend to tweek in HxD - not a text editor though.

dennis.eggers
dennis.eggers

I too keep 5 or 6 files open per instance with 2 or 3 or 4 instances open. I use it in Windows 7 and XP Mode at the same time with no problems.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I keep about 20 documents open per textpad instance for weeks on end and have never even seen an error. But I am running Textpad 4.7.3, an older version.

bornbyforce
bornbyforce

used to use it around 8 or 9 years ago.