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++.
Price: Free (open source)
- 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.