What are the top text editors?
Some text editors have special features for specific types of text including CSS, HTML, and PHP. Some editors work every while others work only on one operating system. Some work without depending on anything else while others force you to install Java or some other software before you can use the editor. Some editors are free. Some editors are also open so you can ensure they are clean from spyware. We will start with the free open flexible use anywhere editors with no prerequisites.
Free and open and use anywhere
Bluefish is the best choice for fast basic editing of the languages you use on the web, text, CSS, HTML, and PHP. Bluefish has some great features.
- Bluefish is very fast to load, making Bluefish a great replacement for Notepad, Vi, Pico, and all those other primitive editors.
- File opens are fast, making Bluefish a great replacement for Notepad, ...
- Bluefish can open all the files in a directory in one step and open them all amazingly fast.
- Bluefish understands and highlights many types of text including HTML and PHP.
- Bluefish works on every useful operating system. You only have to learn one editor and can use it anywhere.
- Bluefish is small enough to edit a lot of files at the same time on a little netbook.
- 2012: Bluefish has a search for text in a set of files without opening the files.
Bluefish lacks only a tiny number of features.
often crashes because jEdit is written in Java.
- Bluefish does not handle unlimited size files.
- Bluefish cannot sort file lists alphabetically, it uses that stupid Unix sort sequence.
Bluefish is sometimes a little slow updating syntax highlighting when you change a file in the middle.
Eclipse IDE is free, open, and can be used anywhere you install Java. Between Eclipse and Java, there is a lot of software to download, install, then load into memory every time you want to edit something. Bluefish is a better choice for netbooks and computers with limited or overloaded resources.
The problems with Eclipse do not stop when the program is loaded. To do something other than the simplest text editing, you have to load add-on modules for CSS, HTML, PHP, whatever you want to edit. you would only use eclipse as a text editor if you need to need to manage the text file as part of a project or through version control.
Eclipse works best with a large fast computer and in situations where you will use many features all the time. Eclipse has modules to connect into version control systems and to provide project management. See Eclipse 3 and PHP.
jEdit, from www.jedit.org, is half way between Bluefish and Eclipse in size plus features. jEdit is almost useless without some plugins. A small selection of plugins makes jEdit equivalent to Bluefish. A few more plugins makes jEdit better in some areas but all the plugins together do not match Eclipse. Unfortunately some jEdit plugins are primitive compared to the alternatives. As an example, the FTP plugin was, until recently, just a useless command line interface.
A jEdit plugin gives jEdit better file searching than Bluefish. You can select a directory and search through all the files in that directory plus all subdirectories. Unfortunately the search is written in Java and crashes. The search will crash if it thinks the file is a text file using a characterset not handled by Java. Sometimes the search just crashes because it has not crashed for a few days and wants to keep in practice.
Other free and open and use anywhere choices
Aptana Studio, www.aptana.com, is based on Eclipse and provides a similar range of plugins. Some people recommend Aptana because
they like it. I have not tried Eclipse and Aptana side by side.
Komodo Edit, from www.activestate.com/komodo-edit, accepts XUL based plugins the same as Firefox. In theory when editing CSS and similar Web related files, you could use Firefox extensions. If not then it should be easy for Firefox extension developers to make their extensions fit Komodo. Komodo should be able to reuse some of the development work from Firefox. Perhaps one day it will run inside Firefox and you edit files while browsing your Web site.
Emerald Editor, from www.emeraldeditor.com, started as a new version of an editor named Crimson Editor, is open source, and can run on many operating systems. Emerald Editor is in an early stage of development. Bluefish is currently a better choice.
OpenOffice is a possibility. Like Eclipse and jEdit, you have to load a mass of software. OpenOffice has the advantage of spelling and grammar checking. You can convert text case. If you already have OpenOffice loaded for word processing or a spreadsheet, there is little overhead required to open one extra file.
Abiword is a fast loading word processor that has good spell checking and can save files as text. Think of Abiword as Openoffice Writer without grammar checking or the overhead of the initial OpenOffice load.
Use anywhere but not free
UltraEdit, from www.ultraedit.com, is a commercial editor available for Linux, Windows, and Mac. It has a large number of features similar to Eclipse and jEdit fitted with a lot of plugins. If you use a lot of the UltraEdit features, the small purchase cost might be cheaper than the cost of upgrading hardware to run a large Java based application such as Eclipse.
UltraEdit for Linux is available and the Mac version is in development.
Notepad and Wordpad are built into Windows. Notepad is for text and can be used for HTML and other files. Wordpad cannot be used because Wordpad creates files that are not text files.
Crimson Editor, from www.crimsoneditor.com, was dropped by the original developer then others started working on a new version named Emerald Editor. Now the two projects appear to be alive and independent.
Notepad++ is often mentioned for Windows. When I tried to use Notepad++, it created more problems than it solved.
EditPad Lite, from www.editpadlite.com, will be forever limited by the developers selling a pro version and the fact that Editpad is not open source. Editpad might have been a contender before Bluefish arrived on Windows but not any more. There is nothing in EditPad Lite to recommend it over Bluefish.
emEditor, from www.emeditor.com, costs US$39.99 and the main special feature appears to be speed. There is a page comparing emEditor to Notepad and some unnamed editors but not to bluefish. Based on the comparison of emEditor to Notepad, Bluefish works at a similar speed to emEditor.
The Apple Mac operating system, named OSX, is Unix with a pretty face. Anything that runs on Unix should work on OSX. (If you have an older Mac then you may have one of the other operating systems Apple sold for Mac before they finally copied everyone else and switched to Intel based computers.)
BBEdit, from www.barebones.com, costs US$99 and does about the same as UltraEdit and the free jEdit. In fact the brand new latest edition of BBEdit sounds like it is still in catch up mode because all the new features in BBEdit are old features in the other editors.
The BBEdit creators offer TextWrangler as a free light version of BBEdit. Bluefish kills TextWrangler. Think of Bluefish as TextWrangler with most of the expensive features of BBEdit.
TextMate is similar to the free Bluefish, the free jEdit,andthe free Netbeans but costs US$59 and only works on one brand ofcomputer. TextMate has a multiple file search equivalent to jEdit and not in Bluefish. There is nothing else to distinguish TextMate. TextMate is somewhere in between TextWrangler and BBEdit for features. The TextMate Web site points out that OSX is just Unix with a pretty face then tries to sell you commercial software for an operating system designed for open source software. Weird.
If you like jEdit but want to spend $99 instead of $0 and want something that runs only on a Mac, Coda from www.panic.com/coda is for you. You buy the closed source base for $99 then download free add-on modules, just like jEdit. Instead of getting a Mac application that splatters little windows all over the screen, you get every part of the application in one window, just like Microsoft Windows.
The range of add-on modules for Coda is different to jEdit. jEdit add-ons are oriented to Java. There are more Coda add-ons oriented to PHP and one for CodeIgniter. If you build Web sites based on CodeIgniter and use a Mac, Coda might be a useful choice.