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Author Topic: Return of the Son of the best *free* Windows Text Editor  (Read 32833 times)
widgewunner
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« on: February 11, 2010, 08:14:49 PM »

Yes, I know there are a lot of threads here covering text editors but I couldn't find a recent one that specifically covers those that are both free and for Windows. Also, some of the text editor reviews are getting a bit stale. (e.g. The DC best choice award for UltraEdit may have been accurate in its day but I would probably disagree with that choice now) Thus, (with unmitigated audacity), I am daring to open up a new thread on an old (and sensitive) topic.

When setting up a new computer for a client, I need a good text editor that can be installed and left on the box. The editor must be free for commercial use. Personally, I use (the non-free) EditPad Pro for 90% of my editing and UltraEdit32 for the remainder (Ultra-Edit has superior "column-mode" block editing). The free version of EditPad is pretty good but is missing some essentials: Regex search/replace and spell check. Other requirements are small footprint, fast startup and non-obtrusive invasion of the system registry and file system. Syntax highlighting would be nice but is not essential. Also, it must adhere to the standard Windows keystroke shortcuts (i.e. CTRL+TAB=previous file, CTRL+LEFT=word left, CTRL+RIGHT=word right, CTRL+UP=scroll up, F1=help, CTRL+PGUP=... etc.)

After reading various threads and reviews here (i.e. The Best Of: text editors and Windows editors - do they have to be so bad?), and doing a bit of research on my own, the choices seem to boil down to: PSPad and Notepad++. But neither has the powerful regex support I have grown used to with EPP.

So PSPad or Notepad++? Either one will probably suffice for my needs but I figured some of you guys/gals would know more on this subject and might justifiably lean more one way or the other. Or is there another better free editor that I am unaware of?
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superboyac
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« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2010, 08:52:32 PM »

i go totally with Notepad++.  I liked both, but I settle on Notepad++ for ease of use and just general coolness.  But I'm not a programmer, either.  Just a user.
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Stephen66515
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« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2010, 10:27:34 PM »

Notepad++ is certainly a useful tool for developers of any web content (HTML, PHP etc...) due, but not limited to, its handy line numbering.  Great for when you get "Error on line 341894984984974987978" because in basic notepad...you just end up giving up counting lol
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« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2010, 10:34:30 PM »

I'm a PSPad user myself.  Some of the caret handling in Notepad++ drives me batty.
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f0dder
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« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2010, 12:22:11 AM »

Notepad++ - it's definitely not perfect, but it handles most of my needs well. The codebase is a complete and utter mess, though... but work is done on straightening it up with the NP++ Community Release. Syntax highlighting is essential to me, as I use it as a programmer's file editor - this also mean that NP++'s main defect, not handling large files very well, isn't an issue for me smiley
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« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2010, 01:19:04 AM »

I'm using Notepad++ .. I use it for small coding jobs and light text editing, and it feels like it has a good set of features for a small editor Thmbsup.
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« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2010, 01:21:07 AM »

I use PSPad, quirky though it is, because I have yet to find anything short of an IDE with as much all around power that I can still understand and use relatively quickly; the vim and emacs editors seem impressively powerful but too alien to just hop right into in the middle of a project.

I've only just begun investigating Notepad++, but it seems--at first glance--to be a bit more limited than PSPad in some respects, while remaining just as quirky (but aren't all freeware text editors that way?). For instance, and maybe f0dder can clear this one up for me, I haven't yet seen a way for the same hotkey to trigger different actions depending on the current file extension (i.e. F5 to run different compiler commands for .c files versus .bas). Macros also don't seem to be directly editable (I did just discover I could search for them in Notepad++'s xml files -- with PSPad's search in file feature smiley -- and edit the macro manually there). Having said all that, I need to stress that I don't know nearly enough about Notepad++ to do a full apples-to-apples comparison.

Has anyone given NoteTab Light a thorough try-out? I haven't used it much, but it claims to have RegEx support, including RegEx for 'find in files' type searching. It has (or had, last time I tinkered with it) an extensive internal macro language and a lot of text processing stuff. I use it for a more powerful Notepad replacement because it loads fast enough to prevent impatience (whereas PSPad, Notepad++, etc load *just* slow enough to annoy me for small, quickie edits).
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kartal
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« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2010, 02:32:27 PM »

I suggest that when looking for an app make sure that it is cross platform. Linux is not going anywhere and it will be very viable solution for "everyone" soon. In that respect I persoanlly would suggest Vim, Emacs and MicroEmacs. The Windows only editors I like are Notepad++, Notepad2(good notepad replacement) and programmers Notepad. Recently I have tried this one as well http://www.contexteditor.org/

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f0dder
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« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2010, 04:47:22 PM »

Linux is not going anywhere and it will be very viable solution for "everyone" soon.
*yawn* - I've heard that the last 5+ years, and it's not that much closer to the goal, really smiley
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kartal
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« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2010, 05:00:54 PM »

Well, it might take a while but essentially it will happen. I know we human beings have short time span way of understanding time smiley We want things that we want happen now, right away. Linux is going to take sometime maybe 20-40 years, in the end it will happen.
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« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2010, 05:51:27 PM »

Linux where? Compare with Firefox. In some countries it has like 40-50% market share, in more Microsoft friendly environments 15% on a good day smiley

Anyway, from my testing of editors other peoples advice are almost useless. Find one thing that annoys you and program will not be approved. There will be many more requests/demands than those listed I think. Collapsing levels is nice. Dont get too used to that in Notepad++ because PSPad cant do it. Little things can mean a lot. Trial and error but of course cool some list choices. I plan to set up dual boot for the xth time but now it shall be done properly or more smoothly. Did not think of an cross platform editor being useful until seeing kartal post. Will increase smoothness 1% if I can find one. Imagine they suck on Windows but lets see.

Unless "just enough" features is also a demand I think you end up with either pspad or notepad++ so start with them. Notepad++ seems to have most support if you count recommendations, updates, community edition? - but pspad is alive and kicking. If a project is half dead today it might not be great to fall in love so check out general activity level as well.
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Tuxman
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« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2010, 06:21:01 PM »

the choices seem to boil down to: PSPad and Notepad++. But neither has the powerful regex support I have grown used to with EPP.
Tried GVim? The "best text editor" thingy on the website was obviously written by someone who did not spend more than 5 minutes with any of the tested applications. (Or, at least, was not be willing to RTFM.)

After all, the choice of your preferred text editor depends on many more factors. Just comparing features is not so important, it's also about usability and efficiency. And, after it replaced N++ for me and I have spent some time with it, I think there is no text editor out there which could beat Vim/GVim there.

But it is, probably, just a matter of usage.

edit:
Vim comes with an own regex implementation and a good documentation for it.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2010, 06:29:35 PM by Tuxman » Logged

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f0dder
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« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2010, 10:37:54 PM »

community edition?
A parallel branch run by some other people than the main Notepad++ developer, DonHo. The idea is to try and implement new features (that might be too "risky" or isn't DonHo's main focus) from the IdeaTorrent site, as well as cleaning up the codebase etc. I was a bit skeptical at first, but changes from NP++CR are merged back into the mainline, so it isn't one of those "wasted effort" branches.

After all, the choice of your preferred text editor depends on many more factors. Just comparing features is not so important, it's also about usability and efficiency. And, after it replaced N++ for me and I have spent some time with it, I think there is no text editor out there which could beat Vim/GVim there.
It's not like I mind vim, it's the editor I use on linux, but I really don't see what's so great about it compared to a decent Windows editor. Yes, you can do some pretty impressive ninja kung-fu keystrokes with it, but I find most of the time I don't need anything that fancy - jumping/selecting/deleting at word boundaries can be done by any normal Windows editor, and is the main feature for getting things done quickly. There's a few "jump around" and selection things from VIM I sometimes miss a bit in NP++, like jump/select inner/outer brace/nesting level, but it's not terribly important for me - and I plan to eventually support it via a plugin. I can "jump to matching brace" (not select, though!), which is good enough most of the time. When I need "powerful navigation", VIM tends not to be good enough anyway - Visual Studio class browser and "find all references" (et cetera) is so much more productive.

Oh, and VIM loads those fractions of second slower, which annoys me - my system default text editor needs to load superfast.
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Tuxman
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« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2010, 10:46:04 PM »

jumping/selecting/deleting at word boundaries can be done by any normal Windows editor
Yes, word by word. Not so fine.

When I need "powerful navigation", VIM tends not to be good enough anyway - Visual Studio class browser and "find all references" (et cetera) is so much more productive.
VS? And two lines later you state something about "superfast"?
I may have missed something.
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f0dder
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« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2010, 10:51:58 PM »

jumping/selecting/deleting at word boundaries can be done by any normal Windows editor
Yes, word by word. Not so fine.
[/quote]Which is all I need most of the time, really. Start-line/end-line/entire-line/word boundaries. If I need to jump/select/move more than that, it's not very often something that can be "better defined" (i.e., it'll be n lines rather than block/nesting level... and it would be slower counting lines and using vim "select n lines down" than actually selecting the lines windows-style Wink).

When I need "powerful navigation", VIM tends not to be good enough anyway - Visual Studio class browser and "find all references" (et cetera) is so much more productive.
VS? And two lines later you state something about "superfast"?
I may have missed something.
You may have missed my distinction between "normal edits" and "complex source code editing with features VIM has no chance of doing".
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Perry Mowbray
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« Reply #15 on: February 13, 2010, 06:54:28 AM »

I've been using PSPad for ages now, at home, at work, for everything. And although I keep an eye out I think I'm just used to it now  Wink  It's comfortable  Thmbsup

and that's the main thing really: all the good editors will do a good job. The best one for you is the one that feels most comfortable to you. If you've narrowed it down to two, why not install them both and use them both. You'll know which one to uninstall in due time.

« Last Edit: February 13, 2010, 06:58:39 AM by Perry Mowbray » Logged

widgewunner
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« Reply #16 on: February 13, 2010, 08:54:39 PM »

Recently I've been spending more and more time in Linuxland and have been forced to come up to speed with one of the editors there. I chose Vim simply because it is ubiquitous. I've learned the very basics - enough to open, navigate, edit, save and exit. But I have to say - I have not really enjoyed the experience (it reminds me of the old days working in DEC's KED (and TECO) editors on a VT-100 terminal connected to a PDP-11). Yes, I am aware of the power of Vim and Emacs but I've been unable to justify spending the time required to come up to the power-user level (i.e. learning all the seemingly archaic keystroke bindings and non-perl-like regex syntax).

However, one of my coworkers from my last engineering job was extremely proficient with Emacs, and he could work absolute miracles with it. He also was an amazingly fast touch typist and had setup the Dvorak keyboard layout on his machine - (which effectively kept the rest of us mere mortals from ever messing with his box!) I know that Emacs has evolved a long way and is very configurable. But say what you will about Windows, one very good thing that has resulted is a standardized user interface and a common set of keystroke bindings (which I have grown very used to over the years). If I could get Emacs to look and feel like a Windows editor, this might be a viable solution. I was wondering if there are any Windows users here who have setup Emacs to emulate the Windows keystroke functionality?

Oh, and thanks for all the input!
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Tuxman
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« Reply #17 on: February 13, 2010, 09:03:13 PM »

one very good thing that has resulted is a standardized user interface
Which they effectively broke up with now.

If I could get Emacs to look and feel like a Windows editor, this might be a viable solution.
There are a few approaches to make Emacs feel rather native on Windows, like ErgoEmacs:



However, a Vim or an Emacs with Windows' default key bindings would eliminate all of their efficiency immediately IMO.
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« Reply #18 on: February 13, 2010, 09:26:31 PM »

Recently I've been spending more and more time in Linuxland and have been forced to come up to speed with one of the editors there. I chose Vim simply because it is ubiquitous. I've learned the very basics - enough to open, navigate, edit, save and exit. But I have to say - I have not really enjoyed the experience (it reminds me of the old days working in DEC's KED (and TECO) editors on a VT-100 terminal connected to a PDP-11). Yes, I am aware of the power of Vim and Emacs but I've been unable to justify spending the time required to come up to the power-user level (i.e. learning all the seemingly archaic keystroke bindings and non-perl-like regex syntax).

However, one of my coworkers from my last engineering job was extremely proficient with Emacs, and he could work absolute miracles with it. He also was an amazingly fast touch typist and had setup the Dvorak keyboard layout on his machine - (which effectively kept the rest of us mere mortals from ever messing with his box!) I know that Emacs has evolved a long way and is very configurable. But say what you will about Windows, one very good thing that has resulted is a standardized user interface and a common set of keystroke bindings (which I have grown very used to over the years). If I could get Emacs to look and feel like a Windows editor, this might be a viable solution. I was wondering if there are any Windows users here who have setup Emacs to emulate the Windows keystroke functionality?

Oh, and thanks for all the input!



Actually you do not need to learn Vim keymaps, you just need to initialize your own configs, same with Emacs. Without customization both apps are painful to master.
I also suggest you to move to Gvim, it is graphical, has menus, offers customization etc. Vim is amazing because it offers so many weird ways of customizing. Really there are hardly any editors out there that would let you assign a shortcuts the way Vim does(like multiple key combinations), probably Emacs has it similar as well. I have recently started playing with Emacs, definetely feels great too.

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« Reply #19 on: February 14, 2010, 12:23:05 AM »

Notepad++ and nothing else.
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f0dder
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« Reply #20 on: February 14, 2010, 07:25:50 AM »

one very good thing that has resulted is a standardized user interface
Which they effectively broke up with now.
Huh?

Most Windows applications have pretty damn standardized interfaces and keybindings. There's a few deviations here and there - sometimes it's justifiable, other times it's moronic developers who decide they need to be different just to be different. Things are a lot more standardized than in *u*x land, though.

But I guess your remark was meant to target Microsoft and the differences Vista and Win7 brought? Which is pretty off-topic, since we're discussing Editors, and the post you (part-)quoted was about standardized keybindings.
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kartal
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« Reply #21 on: February 14, 2010, 10:24:41 AM »

f0dder,

I think that standardization is fine, but the thing is that not all user wants standard stuff, especially when it comes to layouts and key bindings. For example I never use the standard keybindings of anything any given app, except C-c C-v in , mainly because some apps do not allow you to change mappings of those. Thus  I never bother to mess with those 2 in the apps that would let me change. Most of the time I tend to think that key bindings suck in many apps that includes text editors, graphics applications etc. For example Photoshop has standard shortcuts that many might think as industry standard, but the thing is that most of those industry  standard shortcuts are inefficient and painful to use.


Anyways my point is not to critique your point, rather I just want to iterate that customization especially when it comes to window layouts and key bindings is very important. Some apps claim to offer customization but they offer very limited one. I think that Vim or Emacs excel at custom stuff because you can hack them like crazy.
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f0dder
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« Reply #22 on: February 14, 2010, 10:36:28 AM »

Anyways my point is not to critique your point, rather I just want to iterate that customization especially when it comes to window layouts and key bindings is very important. Some apps claim to offer customization but they offer very limited one. I think that Vim or Emacs excel at custom stuff because you can hack them like crazy.
I agree fully that the ability for customization (including, but not limited to, keybindings) is very important - yet I still think a set of system-wide defaults that work across all applications is really useful. This goes from standard edit control keybindings, stuff like Ctrl+S for save and Ctrl+O for open, Alt+letter for menu access, to things like standardized open/save dialogs, standardized multi-document paradigms (there's several to choose from, like MDI or tabbed, but those are mostly standardized), etc.

Obviously I don't expect *u*x to follow the same standards, problem is that *u*x doesn't have the same kind of standardization... but ah well, this is a different rant, for another thread.
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kartal
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« Reply #23 on: February 14, 2010, 10:39:26 AM »

Obviously I don't expect *u*x to follow the same standards, problem is that *u*x doesn't have the same kind of standardization... but ah well, this is a different rant, for another thread.
I agree, it would have been awesome if Vim and Emacs were using the same standard keysets smiley
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f0dder
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« Reply #24 on: February 14, 2010, 10:49:57 AM »

Obviously I don't expect *u*x to follow the same standards, problem is that *u*x doesn't have the same kind of standardization... but ah well, this is a different rant, for another thread.
I agree, it would have been awesome if Vim and Emacs were using the same standard keysets smiley
Think bigger, though: systemwide standards. I can user Ctrl+Arrowkeys to jump at word boundaries in most edit controls (whether single- or multiline), I can use shift+navigation to select, ctrl+backspace/del to delete to the respective word endings, there's home/end/pgup/pgdn, et cetera. ONE set of (reasonable) keybindings that are simple to remember and work across pretty much every application on the system.
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