I find myself using a basic text editor more and more often. Even the relatively well behaved openoffice.or Writer had a tendency to do stuff I don’t necessarily want to do with a simple text file, and certainly, something like Word is the work of Satan.
For instance, have you ever noticed strange goofy characters that are not supposed to be there in the title of the posts on this blog or elsewhere? That comes from using a text editor. What looks like “Hello World” in both a text editor and a word processor may not really be the same thing, when copied and pasted. Character encodings and all.
Anyway, text editors are important, and they are not just for coders. In fact, bloggers need an excellent text editor, as do many normal people.
Here is an overview of Linux text editors. I’ll make just a few comments.
As the review says, vi (or Vim or Elvis … variants of vi) is installed on virtually every *nix computer. Therefore, if you are a system administrator, you will find …. wait, wait, if you are a system administrator you do not need to learn anything from me about text editors. Move along. northing to see here.
OK, the review also discusses Gedit and Kate. I’ve written recently about Gedit, HERE, in what I think is my most under appreciated post … lots of work, good stuff, funny jokes, nobody read it. Go read that to find out more about Gedit. And spornography. And other stuff.
Kate is the KDE version of Gedit (well, not version, but analog). You can run it under Gnome, of course, and your package manager in a nice distro like Ubuntu will know how to do that for you. Kate is supposed to be more configurable that Gedit. Both do have tabbed interfaces, though it is not the default in Kate (you can easily turn it on).
For programmers, and possibly even for people writing complex blog posts, this is nice:
An immediately helpful feature is the ability to hide code that is within a certain scope. For example, to hide all the code within a foreach statement, double-click on the offending line. This is a significant help for uncluttering verbose scripting text. Also, under the Tools menu, you can change the end of line type to switch between Unix, DOS, and Mac, thus avoiding subtle issues in your text later.
I’m not sure if this will work the easy way or the hard way, but I may experiment with it. As far as I can tell, Kate does not by default recognize HTML for code folding purposes.
Kate will also pipe text to a console, as will Gedit. These things rarely go as one expects, but this is a potentially very useful feature.
(Warning: Kate, as a KDE beast, will assume that one click means two clicks. Careful. )
A text editor that I did not know about is TEA. It …
is a compact, configurable, and function-rich editor that takes up only around 500KB of memory. TEA provides a decent text editor, with markup support for LaTeX, DocBook, Wikipedia, and HTML. It does not provide any syntax highlighting, but does provide an extremely basic project environment for compiling code.
Thankfully, TEA also contains a delightfully named crapbook (read notes holder) for storing temporary text. The editor provides a spell checker and statistics for documents and therefore sits comfortably between an office suite and a plain editor. Other functionality includes a file browser and a calendar. Because the editor’s compact size is based on the fact that it relies heavily on using external tools, under the Help menu there is a well-thought-out self-check command that on activation mentions any missing dependencies.
The crapbook sounds great, but for now I ‘m going to declare Tea a crap piece of software. In ‘installed’ it but found no way to run it. If a program is named ‘foo’ and you install it, typing ‘foo’ at a command line should run it. If that is not the case, the software should have documentation telling you what unusual thing one must do to invoke it. The only way to communicate with the maintainer is to subscribe to Livejournal. No thanks. Tea, TEA and tea do not cause the program to run, and the site has no useful documentation, therefore I can’t recommend it.
Too bad, the crapbook sounded useful.
The review also covers Emacs, of course. As well as leafpad, mousepad, and medit. I’ve never used them but they sound like good no-frills jobbies.
SciTE is also covered, and I’ve used that quite a bit and found it a worthy rival of Gedit, perhaps better for certain kinds of projects. I did a biggish R-cran project using this as the text editor for the R code and it was pretty nice.