I'm always looking for new text editors. I'm in a perpetual search for the perfect text editor, the shangri-la of text editors, and for some reason or another, at the end of four or five months, I always for one reason or another, end up trying a new text editor. To date I've personally tried: PSPad, Gedit, Bluefish, Textpad, HTML kit, DarkRoom, YWriter, Komodo edit, Intype, Ultra edit, Sublime, and Notepad++, to name just a few. All of these I've tried on Windows. If you do a wiki search on text editors you come up with over 73 text editors. Who has the time to try all these editors out?
Just to be clear, we're talking text editors here, not word processors with all their extra formatting codes embedded in the text.
The reason there are so many text editors is everyone thinks they can build a better mousetrap with features that no other editor has. Things are getting so specialized that it's normal to have several text editors installed on your computer that you use for different things. Besides the standard Window's text editors of Wordpad and Notepad, which comes with the Microsoft operating system, that I rarely see anybody use, I count five other text editors currently on my system.
Text editors are easy to try out, and when you come across one that you think has something you like, you download it, and try it. Some last a couple of hours before you remove them, others stick around for months. What are the features that I like and look for in a text editor?
Free, I'm obviously not going to pay for an editor without trying it out, so everyone offers a trial. Since most of my text editors, don't last, I rarely stay with an editor that I will have to pay to use. Thus I moved on from some fairly good editors, like Ultra Edit and Textpad.
Tabs, I'm always loading multiple files at once. I like tabs that I can jump from one open file to another.
Extreme, and easy configurability, I want to change the editors to the way I want to work, and I want to adjust my colors and font. If I can't configure a feature I've grown to use, or it's difficult to set options, I tend to move on fairly quickly to another editor. Some editors have themes, or pre-set colors. I find these mostly, not what I want, and prefer to adjust individual colors to my liking.
Color syntax highlighting, I like editors that I can adjust the color syntax of different languages.
Fast opening, we're talking text editors here, not Microsoft Word. I want instant open, and I usually use a hot key to do it. See my article on AutoHotKey to see how I do that.
When I need an editor, I need it when I'm in the middle of something else, for example in the middle of editing code in my IDE editor, I want to save a snippet of code, to maybe come back to it later. I pop open my text editor, and paste the code.
Quick, when I'm typing I want the feel that the words are going on the editor screen as fast as I type them. With some editors there seems to be a slight delay that's very annoying.
Self-contained, I don't want my text editor to affect any other settings. I got rid of PSPad because it changed my Windows settings. It probably was a bug that long ago was corrected, but I've never gone back. I instead just moved on.
Not buggy, and well behaved, if I start finding bugs or quirks in the editor, I usually don't have any patience, and move on. This includes problems with interacting with the Window's desktop. I want a good citizen.
Explorer window, I like not having to open the "file load" window and leave the editor to load a new file. This is a functionality mostly found in IDE's, not text editors, but some text editors have this. It is not an absolute need, if I have tabs.
I can give you reasons for trying editors, and reasons I've moved on to other editors almost like a history. Let me recall some of the uniqueness I've found in these editors that separates them from the pack.
Intype. I loaded Intype, because they claimed to be close to the premier Mac editor, TextMate. I never have used a Mac, and so I was curious. What made this editor unique was bundles, and a bundle editor, essentially snippets of code from various programming languages that came with the editor that you could just use a hot key to put in your editor text. This editor also had some nice ways to move around your text in the editor. What made me leave this editor is theme colors only, a promise that the editor would be completed shortly that was nothing but abandonment of the editor by the developers. I got tired of the lack of progress.
Komodo Edit. The promise of easy integration with the Komodo IDE, but I felt this was more like an advertisement to buy their IDE. Komodo edit had an explorer window on the side, but ultimately it proved a little quirky to use and I moved on.
HTML Kit. I used this editor for almost a year. I liked their icons that had pre-configured HTML and CSS code. What got me away from this was they moved on to charging for the editor if you wanted plugins, and its over complicated options settings. Every time I loaded it up on a new computer, it took me awhile to re-learn settings, and set it up the way I wanted, too complicated, and in the end tiring to use. Too many screen options, a couple of quirks, and you had to buy it to stay current.
Bluefish. Was advertised as a cross platform text editor, which I tried and discarded quickly, because of their poor Window's implementation. This was more a Linux editor, than a Window's editor.
Sublime. Sublime is a fairly new editor with a gimick of having where you are in a long document in a small side window on the right. I found the styling which is theme based limited and did not stay long with the editor.
Gedit. I choose gedit, because it was cross-platform, so I figured I would just use one editor, gedit, no matter what environment, Windows, or Linux, in which I happen to be working. Gedit is the standard editor, like wordpad or notepad, with the Gnome desktop. It's a good editor, but I didn't stay with it on Windows for long. I'm not sure why. When I'm running on a Gnome desktop, its the editor I use.
Which brings me to what editors am I using now, and why.
YWriter5. YWriter is different. This is the editor you want if you want to write a book with an outline. It separates your work into chapters and scenes. It also integrates characters, items, scene notes, and locations with your main content. Once you get the hang of it, its easy to use. You can quickly navigate around your chapters. Its quick, although the styling could be better. It's written by an author, who uses it for his books. It's a special editor. You may want to check it out if your a would-be author or student writing a thesis.
DarkRoom. I use this to write blog articles. It's simple, and most important takes over the entire screen to eliminate all distractions, with the exception of this article which I'm writing on Notepad++.
Notepad++. This is my go to editor. I've been using it for quite awhile and it replaced UltraEdit in my arsenal. I found the Ultra editor rich with features but over complicated. Notepad++ is just the right mix, loaded with features, but easily configured, including the styles. It has tabs. I like that I can close the editor, re-open it and all the files I was working with are still open and there for use. Most important, its fast. I use a hot key to open it and its lightening quick. I highly recommend this editor, and it is my current favorite.
Having gone through these editors, I sure would want to know if I missed any good editors in my travels through the editors of the world. I'm always looking for the shangri-la of editors, if any of you have favorite editors, I'm sure I, and my readers are all ears.