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My Text Editor Final Four

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Want to support your favorite text editor in our March bracket? You can vote here.

I’ve been coding for a long time primarily in .NET (though I recently taught myself Ruby on Rails). Consequently, I have used many different text editors throughout the years. For developers, choosing a text editor is like the wizards in Harry Potter choosing a wand at Ollivanders Wand Shop before entering Hogwarts. The text editor will be a special bond between user and the program, the instrument of choice to wield your code magic.

Discussion on text editors can insight a sort of passion and fanaticism among developers in the same way that sports fans debate for their teams in March Madness. If I were to create my own personal Text Editor Tournament, here’s what my Final Four would look like:

Notepad++

Out of the tough Windows conference, Notepad++ has been my go to editor of choice when I’m on a PC. It’s been around since 2003 and supports opening large files and doing regular expression based search and replace, which is a must have for any text editor I use. However, watch out for Extended vs. Regular Expression vs. Normal when doing your replaces, as this can change the search and replace behavior. While not particularly beautiful, it’s responsive and stable, two requirements that I need. Notepad++ also has a wide range of macro libraries and syntax highlighting built in, but you can always add your own syntax and autocomplete files. It has a large and active ecosystem of plugins that adds almost any functionality you want to this flexible editor. Being open source and at a price of free, it’s hard to beat.

Vim

Out of the powerful and historic Linux conference, Vim is my preferred editor when connecting into a remote terminal. It’s completely text based and thus beautiful in its simplicity. No fancy menus, no distracting animations; with Vim, it’s just you and the code. Vim adds syntax highlighting, brace matching and all the other programming goodies modern text editors provide. And it ships with virtually every Linux and Unix distribution, so SSH away and you’ll have access to this lightweight and powerful editor on any server. Since Vim doesn’t really use the mouse, training my fingers to use the keyboard for navigation and commands showed me how quickly you can really be by keeping your fingers on the keyboard and away from the mouse.

Sublime Text

Introduced in 2008, Sublime Text is the new kid on the block. It picked up steam with the release of Sublime Text 2 in 2011. It is cross platform (OS X, Windows, Linux), but seems to be making the most waves in the Mac conference. Unlike most cross platform apps, the UI is not clunky and slow. Much effort has been put into Sublime Text to make the app look great on each platform. Sublime Text is quite speedy and has a skinnable, minimalist elegance that works well and blends in on all operating systems. In a stroke of genius, the creators of Sublime Text added compatibility with TextMate bundles, which immediately gave it a large variety of extremely useful tools and plugs that the Textmate ecosystem had created over the last few years. Since MacroMates took so long to get TextMate 2 released, it opened the door for Sublime Text to come in and create some momentum. This editor also has a vi compatibility feature named Vintage Mode, so you can put all those super-fast keyboard tricks you learned in vi and Vim to good use.

EditPlus

Sometimes you have to stick with your heart instead of your mind. In this case, EditPlus is my emotional choice, as it was the first text editor I enjoyed working in. I would pick it to be the Cinderella story of my tournament, upsetting the big boys to make my Final Four. I still look back fondly on the pale salmon colored background I spent hours tweaking to get just right, and it was the first editor in which I used regular expressions to transform my data on the fly using search and replace. It was fast and had an easy way to add color syntax highlighting. I started using it not long after it was released in 1998 and kept using it long after EditPlus 2 seemingly stopped being updated. EditPlus 3 is now on the scene, but unfortunately I had already moved on to Notepad++. However, this editor will always hold a the special place of being the first one that I started using besides Notepad when I thought, “I don’t want to open up my whole IDE/editing suite, I’ll just quickly edit this in EditPlus.”

So what text editor is your favorite? To correspond with the start of March Madness, we have our own brackets of text editors that you can vote on over the next four days, culminating in the people’s choice for the best text editor out there. Be sure to drop by tomorrow and each day this week to pick your favorites for each round. The bracket will be updated daily with the winners advancing to the next round.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Bret McGowen.

Bret McGowen is a software developer at Rackspace, designing and building RackConnect, which lets customers have the best of both traditional and cloud hosting. Bret has spent most of his professional life writing software using Microsoft’s .NET framework but is beginning to see the light and has started to dabble in open source technologies. When he’s not on the jogging trail or volleyball court he enjoys working on and reading about tech startups.

Follow Bret on Twitter at @bretmcg.


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  • Matt

    I had used Notepad++ pretty much since it was first released and I love it for editing Windows.

    When I switched to linux full time a few years back (2008), I wanted to find a text editor with similar features to Notepad++, since that was what I used used to. I ended up finding and falling in love with geany. Geany is a cross platform editor which works great for any type of development.

  • Jeff

    Although I like sublime its vim emulation is quite horrible, especially when compared to the vim emulation provided in jetbrains tools which provide many more command mode as well as insert mode modal keyboard commands. With that said, I’ll be rooting for vim as it is my favorite editor… of all time.

  • http://geekyweirdo.postach.io James

    Although I love sublime than vim as it is more stable, but the price of sublime text is terrible it will cost you about 70$ :(

  • Ted

    My friend linked me to a new editor for Windows called Fire that I like, but I’m more of a writer. It’s also free.

    http://resonancecascade.com/fire-text-editor/

  • Cliff

    I like Zeus Lite as my free one and BOXER as my paid version

  • EditPP

    I like SynWrite, it’s open source code editor for Windows. It has more power than Notepad++ without plugins. Give a try.

  • Sergio Fredes

    Sublime text is my favorite, definitely a very complete editor, simple and friendly.

    I recommend you try Brackets, an Open Source text editor developed by Adobe, still in diapers but is seen to have great potential

    http://brackets.io/

  • alan

    You should give a try for EverEdit, It’s powerful and lightweight.

  • Olson

    EditPlug is a text editor for windows with a plugin system. It has built in FTP Save As feature to quickly upload files to a server. It comes with some plugins and you can create your own in visual C or Delphi. I noticed other editors such as EditPlus are missing plugin systems.

    The download page for EditPlug is here:
    http://z505.com/editplug/