We all know that Windows comes with a simple text editor called Notepad. Notepad works, but it is severely feature limited. Some die-hard nerds swear by it. Power in simplicity, they say. Others want something more. In this article, I will outline several high-power replacements for Notepad. If you want to engage in some serious use of text files or do some programming, check these out.
The features that we’ll see in decent Notepad replacements are very similar from application to application. They include:
- Syntax highlighting (program will recognize various programming languages and automatically highlight certain functions and commands so that they are easy to see)
- Auto-completion (when programming, it will help you complete functions as you type them)
- Multiple document editing
- Regular expression search & replace (allows full pattern searching, not just simple text searches)
- Multiple language support
- Bookmarks (allows you to place a bookmark on a certain line in the text file and later automatically jump to it)
- Macros & scripting
Many of these power user features will be more applicable to programming. Many times, these text editors will have some advanced text manipulation features that can be huge time savers, such as automatically wrapping a long text file at a certain character number.
Notepad++ is free and open source. It is also an extremely powerful text editor. It offers the features listed above. It can also do code folding, whereby functions and common logic statement in programming languages can be collapsed to save room on screen when working.
When I was still using Windows regularly, Notepad++ was the program I used. It offers a lot of punch for being free. And as a guy who does do some text newsletters and PHP coding, the features came in handy.
This program is very similar to Notepad++ (you’ll find most of these do mostly the same things). In addition to those features useful to programmers, Programmer’s Notepad also supports code templates, comments, extensions, etc. The clip list is handy for being able to quickly insert a block of code without typing the entire thing every time.
PSPad is another powerful Notepad replacement. Like many of the others, it includes syntax highlighting, macros, clip files and templates. It also has an integrated HEX editor. You can group multiple files into projects. It also has a built-in FTP client which would allow you to do live edits on files on your server.
Notepad2 is a lightweight but powerful text editor with Scintilla-based text editing (like Notepad++). In a more true sense of open source, their website offers very little in terms of detail. But, it is (like the others) free to use.
Textpad is the first one listed here which is not free. However, it is a fantastic text editor. It includes all of the features you would want as a programmer. It contains a built in file comparison engine (very handy). It has unlimited redo/undo. It has a built-in spell checker. TextPad also has a big list of add-ons that you can explore.
Is there room for a paid text editor in this field? I say yes. I did use Textpad for a long time and it does have things which I missed when using something like Notepad++. It all comes down to preference.
EditPad comes in two flavors: Lite (which is free) and Pro (which is commercial). The difference between Lite and Pro is pretty stellar. EditPad Lite is more advanced than Notepad, but it does not offer the features many programmers might want (like syntax highlighting). For that, you need to go with the Pro version which will give you all of those programmer-centric features, a spell checker, clip collections, hex editor, regular expression search/replace, etc.
WinMerge is not a text editor, but it is a useful complement. It allows you to compare files and have the differences automatically highlighted for you. You can then merge the files line-by-line. Programmers who need to track multiple versions of the same file will find this a huge time saver.
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