Some time ago I touched on several free/inexpensive and open source tools for web developers and included several text editors, image viewers and other tools. In this segment, I am going to go further in-depth with a review of the free, open source text editor NotePad++.
NotePad++ supports several languages, runs on the Microsoft Windows environment, and is governed by a GPL license. Based on the powerful editing component from Scintilla, Notepad++ is written in C++ and uses pure Win32 API and STL, which ensures a higher execution speed and smaller program size. The folks at NotePad++ also claim that the lightweight, simple, extensible plain text editor is also helping to reduce the total world carbon footprint by optimizing routines, and using less CPU power and power consumption for a greener earth. The screen capture below displays the text editor in action with the TextFX plugin in use.
As of this writing the latest version v184.108.40.206 (dated November 13, 2011) is available in various formats from the download page including installer, zip package, 7z package, minimalist package, SHA-1 digests for binary packages, and the source code.
- The cost is probably the biggest plus; the text editor is still a free open source download with unlimited use.
- Lightweight download and installation: the download is less than 8MB and the installation is just under 23MB disk space once installed, and is quick to execute.
- Familiar row of top menu item labels with another row of tabbed actions and editing tools.
- A huge directory of plugins are available, which add more functionality to the text editor, all of them are distributed through the Plugin Manager which helps in checking what plugins are available and in adding them to the application.
- Because of its lightweight nature, it is portable and can be run from thumb drives, iPods, or any portable device that accepts applications.
- The default spell checker is a big plus.
- Direct FTP browser access with appropriate plugin.
- Global search and replace feature among sites and documents.
- Code auto-complete for all supported programming languages.
- Preloaded with over 50 of the most popular programming languages, including from Ada to YAML, and it also has the capability to add user defined languages.
- Allows creation of macros to record actions and replay them later to avoid having to repeat repetitive actions and editing sequences.
- Document switcher utilizing Ctrl+Tab is a handy quick tool for navigating between open documents.
- Available for installation exclusively on Microsoft Windows environments.
- There is a steep learning curve at the start for beginners who are not used to straight text editing, and they might benefit from other editors which provide a preview pane to see on the fly visual changes as the code gets updated.
- Earlier versions have been known to crash and are unstable; recent versions have been made available to repair several known issues. If you have an earlier version you may want to update it soon.
If you have been using Notepad for your programming you might want to give NotePad++ a test drive; it might just be the free, cool text editing tool you are looking for with advanced features that go way beyond pure coding from scratch.
If you are new to programming then NotePad++ may not be the best first choice for your text editing projects, but I would recommend you give it test drive anyway. It will cost you nothing. If, however, you are looking for a product with a prettier and easier to manage user interface, then you may want to look at text editors outside the free shareware realm. There are several low-cost alternatives (under $100) with a bit more power and somewhat intuitive features such as UltraEdit, E Text Editor or HTML-Kit. All of these low cost text editors typically come with a trial period before you buy, so taking them on a test drive is always a good way to get your feet wet before you invest in one.
Ryan has performed in a broad range of technology support roles for electric-generation utilities, including nuclear power plants, and for the telecommunications industry. He has worked in web development for the restaurant industry and the Federal government.