The Best Programming Text Editor For Windows

Sure you can turn to a heavy IDE when you want to edit your code, but if you prefer a simple, lightweight and extensible programming plain-text editor, our first choice is the free, open-source Notepad++.

Notepad++

Platform: Windows Price: Free (open source) Download Page

  • Lightweight and fast
  • Tabbed interface
  • Syntax highlighting, including parenthesis and bracket highlighting (to make sure you don't forget to close anything)
  • Code folding/collapsing
  • A long list of plug-ins
  • The option to install user-defined language files
  • A multi-item clipboard
  • Split-screen editing
  • File comparison
  • Auto-completion for supported languages
  • Built-in FTP browser

It's hard to beat Notepad++ in terms of price (free) to features. Since it's extensible, you can bend it to your will either using plug-ins someone else has written or by creating your own, and if it doesn't support your language-of-choice out of the box, you can install user-defined language files easily enough. We've already walked through how to get the most out of Notepad++, including enabling more advanced features like automation, column editing, auto-saving, syncing via FTP, and so on. Once you've got Notepad++ set up for the kind of coding you do, there's little you'll miss from other programming editors.

Our biggest complaint about Notepad++ is that it's not necessarily the prettiest or most user-friendly application you'll ever use. It is, in fact, fairly ugly. Luckily you can do a lot to customise its looks, and what it lacks in polish, it makes up for in functionality. Like most programming text editors, you'll want to dig through the documentation to get the most from it.

If the Notepad++ ugly factor gets to you, SublimeText is a more attractive but also considerably more expensive option. The feature set is similar, but it's hard to justify $US59 when you can get something as powerful as Notepad++ for free.

In fact, there are a lot of premium options that all come in around the $US50 mark, including E Text Editor (which aims to be for Windows what TextMate is for Mac, EditPlus, UltraEdit, and so on. Again, though, you won't find many features in any of those more expensive editors that you can't get for free in Notepad++, which is, of course, why we've chosen it as our favourite. Got a good argument for or against it, or have a different favorite? Let's hear about it in the comments.

Note that we're not focusing on command-line text editors this time around.

Lifehacker's App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories. This week, we're focusing on programming text editors.


Comments

    I use Notepad++ its perfect for me copying and pasting logs. I use it like FireFox tabs, for text editing!

    gvim > all other text editors.

      And vim > gvim ;)

        http://xkcd.com/378/

    My fav is Gedit which I use on Ubuntu (Linux). Not sure if its available for Windows, but it has HEAPS of prog language support and extensions.

    P.S. Could you please consider using "Disqus" for your commenting system?

      There is a change to the commenting system coming soon -- not Disqus though, sorry Wayne!

    I've been using PSPad (www.pspad.com) as I work mostly with a custom built language which I have to slowly build the key words.
    Another advantage with the program is it allows me to work with the files as a project.

    Still love notepad++ as a text editor.

    jEdit all the way. Given the amount of plugins and syntax support I've never seen a need to use anything else. The fact that it is cross-platform is just a bonus.

    I used to use Notepadd ++ But have moved to Aptana which is cross platform and also free but has a lot more features.

    If you want a feature rich editor for free definitely give it a shot!

    vim all the time.

    Unless I'm on windows when notepad++ wins hands down.

    Though for a really nice drop in replacement for notepad, look at notepad2.

    Notepad++ is fairly rubbish. It is very slow. You notice this when doing search+replace on a huge file or on multiple files all loaded at once.

    TextPad kicks arse, but hardcore coders will use Vim. Single user TextPad is only $16.50, but you can also use it without paying a cent.

    Many times I have heard that Notepad++ donations go to the church of Scientology. This was just an April Fools joke by the programmer. I thought I should mention this as a few co-workers decided not to donate based on that made up fact. Notepad++ is good.

      That sucks for the dev... try to have a little fun and people stop donating. There's a blog post linked to from the front page indicating that it's an April fools joke, it's a shame they didn't read it.

    No FTP support makes it unusable for me.

      Then you should try the FTP plugin...

    I'm currently torn as to which text editor to use, I've been a huge fan of Notepad++ for a long time, but now I'm coding Python, it just feels like its lacking something.

    I don't want something like Vim's learning curve, I love the look and feel of Sublime Text (1 but not 2)

    Ideally some bizarre mashup of Notepad++ and Sublime Text would be fantastic.

    Doesn't anybody find the Notepad++ menus horrible? The whole TextFX menu is a mess and takes way too long to find things (Half of the stuff should be in the Edit menu for a start). They need to redo the menus from scratch.

    I use the free RJ TextEd. http://www.rj-texted.se. Powerful, nice to use and easy to use menus!

    Sublime Text 2, anyone? It's the best I've seen on windows. Much nicer to use than NP++. In fact ST2 rivals TextMate.

      Agreed I'm using Sublime Text 2 daily. It's fantastic.

    It's certainly not a web developing editor by any stretch of the imagination! It's just a word pad remake! :) True web developing editors have (HTML/CSS/JS) components, color code pickers, character pickers, font family pickers, instant running of scripts, etc, at your disposal.

    This editor has nothing! :)

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