Windows has improved dramatically over the years but there is one thing in Windows that remain exactly the same. That’s the long-standing Notepad which is still the default app to open many text-based files, i.e. txt, log file, etc. So what the choices are if I need a better text editor that has a lot more advanced features?
There are many of them, maybe too many, which is probably one of the reasons why Microsoft doesn’t bother improving its own Notepad, knowing that you will be using one of the alternatives out there anyway. Here are 4 of the best ones for you to choose from.
Notepad++ is a free source code editor and Notepad replacement that supports several languages. Written in C++ and uses Windows32 API and STL, Notepad++ runs mainly on Windows platform. It’s light, fast, and comes with a lot of cool features, including:
- Syntax highlighting and folding, and highly customizable
- Perl compatible regular expression based search and replace
- GUI entirely customizable
- Tab-based multi-document
- WYSIWYG (printing)
- Macro recording and playback
I especially like the “Open with Notepad++” option added right in the right-click context menu. I can simply right-click any of the files I want to edit and choose that option from the context menu that pops up.
Notepad++ has been around for quite some time. It has a very large community and has been actively developed. There are also a lot of plugins to expand Notepad++’s capacity and you can add/remove them right from the built-in Plugin Manager.
Sublime Text is a powerful and sophisticated text editor for code, markup, and text, of course. It has a nicely designed user interface, works on not only Windows but Linux and Mac as well, and comes with some extraordinary features:
- Goto Anything – opens files with a few keystrokes to instantly jump to symbols, lines or words.
- Multiple Selections – allows you to interactively change many lines at once, rename variables with ease.
- Distraction Free Mode
- Split Editing – edits files side-by-side, or two locations in one file.
- Highly Customizable – just about everything in Sublime Text is customizable with simple JSON files.
Technically, Sublime Text isn’t free. You will need to buy a license for continuous use. But it does offer free for evaluation and currently, there is no enforced time limit for the evaluation.
Visual Studio Code
Visual Studio Code is Microsoft’s Answer to Sublime and Other Popular Text Editor. It’s lightweight, looks fancy, and also comes with tons of features that combine the simplicity of a code editor with what web developers need for their code-edit-debug cycle.
- IntelliSense – provides smart completions based on variable types, function definitions, and imported modules.
- Debug – launch or attach to your running apps and debug with break points, call stacks, and an interactive console.
- Built-in Git Command – so you can review diffs, stage files, and make commits right from the editor.
- Extensions – to add new languages, themes, debuggers, and to connect to additional services.
Visual Studio Code is a relatively new tool that represents a new and open Microsoft. It runs on not only Windows but Linux and Macs as well. We are actually very impressed by the way how Microsoft nailed it and made such a powerful tool for both coders and end users.
Atom is a text editor that’s modern, approachable, yet hackable to the core – a tool you can customize to do anything but also use productively without ever touching a config file. It’s lightweight, runs fast, highly customizable, full-featured right out of the box.
- Built-in package manager
- Smart autocompletion
- File system browsing
- Multiple pane
- Powerful search and replace
It supports multiple platforms so you can use it on Windows, Linux as well as Mac OS. It fully supports Markdown so it’s a perfect tool for HTML-based content creation.
Which to use?
As you can see, all these four tools I mentioned above are mostly built for coding. It sounds like they are overly qualified for a simple text editor but since because of that, we’ve also got hands on the powerful tools that can be used on many occasions.
If you are just looking for a better text editor to replace the default Notepad, Notepad++ is probably a pretty decent candidate to go with.
If you are also a developer or do coding occasionally, both Slime Text and Visual Studio Code are fully up for the challenge.
If you also write content for the web, give Atom a try. You may be surprised how clean your HTML content is after using the tool.