Free and open source text editors

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

Here is a list of five free (or open source) text editors that he feels are worth checking out.

First on his list is, Notepad++ quite possibly the most popular open source text editor for Windows.  It has several developer-friendly features, like syntax highlighting and regular expression search and replace.  It recognizes all the major programming languages and has a ton of plug-ins.

Second  vi or it’s more advanced sibling vim.  Unlike many other text editors, vi’s standard mode isn’t “input text with access to commands”, but rather command mode. Entering text is just one of many commands.  With its heavy emphasis on commands, vi has a steep learning curve, but there’s a big productivity payoff for those who are willing to master this editor.  Vi is a lot like using a *Nix shell. It’s a small programming environment that lets you easily accomplish tasks by string commands together.

Third on our list is another favorite of many *Nix developers Emacs. Like vi, it’s open source and also available on Windows and other platforms. Over the years, Emacs has grown to be almost an operating system unto itself, and it uses a Lisp interpreter to provide a macro environment. As a result, you see things like chess game plug-ins for Emacs.  If you want a text editor with ultra-powerful customization capabilities, Emacs is where it’s at. Just don’t ask a group of *Nix code-heads whether Emacs is better than vi unless you want to start a fight.

The fourth editor NoteTab. It has most of the same features as Notepad++, but it’s a more refined and better-documented product.  The Light version of NoteTab is free, and with features like super-fast searching across directory structures and regular expression find/replace, NoteTab Light is definitely not light on features. For those who need more power, there are also Standard and Pro versions, that cost $29.95 and $19.95 respectively.

Last on our list is SciTE. It’s a zero-install-needed application, and runs on both Windows and X-based desktop environments. It also supports the usual code editing features, like syntax highlighting and regular expression find/replace.  Like Notepad++, it is based on the Scintilla editor, so the two share a lot of capabilities.

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