Unix Text Editors

Among Unix users there is great debate about the best text editor to use. The main divide is between whether to use Emacs or Vi. These are powerful programmers editors, which have tons of functionality and scriptability at the cost of a steep learning curve. For those who just want to use a basic editor or feel intimidated by Emacs and Vi there's also UW's Pico and its opensource clone GNU Nano.

Regardless, it's a good idea to at least learn the basics of Emacs and Vi. Pretty much any Unix system will have vi installed, even if they don't have any other editor. And Emacs is popular enough with people in BCS and CS here that sooner or later you will end up confronted with it.

Emacs
Vi(m)
Pico and Nano

Other Text Editors

Even if you don't want to use one of the traditional Unix text editors, it's still a good idea to use an editor more powerful and flexible than Notepad or TextEdit, particularly if you ever edit scripting or programming language files, or even HTML. All of the editors below do some sort of syntax highlighting and have at least some auto-indenting support. Some also have features like auto-complete. Most are free (as in speech and beer), a few expect you to pay eventually or offer more features in a paid version.

Editor

Platform(s)

License

Notes

Atom

MacOS X (10.8 or higher), Windows 7 & 8, RedHat Linux, and Ubuntu Linux

MIT

TextWrangler

Mac (10.6.8 or higher)

closed source, but free

Recommended Mac editor

Notepad++

Windows

GPL

Recommended Windows editor

Sublime Text

Windows, Mac (10.6 or higher), and Linux

Sublime EULA

Costs $70, but has an open ended free evaluation period with popups asking you to buy now and then

Visual Studio Code

Windows, MacOS, Linux (64bit)

closed source, free

New editor from Microsoft. Built on GitHub's Electron, just like Atom

Also worth noting

Editor

Platform(s)

License

Notes

BBEdit

Mac (10.6.8 or higher)

closed source, $49.99

Same base as TextWrangler, but with more features, e.g. version control integration, powerful HTML tools

Brackets

MacOS X (10.6 or higher), Windows 7&8, Linux

MIT

From Adobe, web development focused, but general use

LightTable

MacOS X, Windows, and Linux

MIT

Komodo Edit

Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Mix of GPL, LGPL, and MPL

Built on top of the Mozilla platform (but a standalone app), so it's pretty heavyweight compared to the rest. And they constantly try to upsell you to KomodoIDE ($295). It is a good editor though.

gedit

Linux (Gnome), Windows, Mac

GPL

Natively a Gnome editor, it looks like a Linux app even on Mac and Windows. Recent versions at least try to look more native.

jEdit

Windows, Mac, and Linux

GPL

Cross platform editor written in Java. Doesn't look or act native anywhere.

Kate

Linux (KDE)

LGPL2

SciTE

Windows, Linux, MacOS

Similar to MIT license. i.e. disclaimer and notice)

Windows and Linux versions free, but MacOS X version is $41.99 in the Mac App Store

HlpLab: TextEditors (last edited 2017-04-18 14:23:42 by AndrewWatts)

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