My Text Editor of Choice

First a little history:

I first started programming using the MS-DOS Edit program while programming QBasic (I know, I should have learned C first, and I regret it!). Edit was the first text editor I ever used.

When I started writing HTML web pages, I used Microsoft's Notepad. It wasn't until many years later that WYSIWYG editors came out and made creating HTML pages as simple as writing a letter in Microsoft Word. I learned to use Macromedia's Dreamweaver when I started to manage hundreds of separate HTML files (Microsoft's FrontPage is crap!). A WYSIWYG editor is a godsend if you have lots of tables to work with. However, I've learned to use CSS styling in place of tables, so that doesn't even apply to me.

There were many "enhanced" Notepad clones that I have tried over the years. They added useful things like tabs for working with multiple files, and the ability to change the fonts. An excellent replacement for Notepad (without the tabbed browsing) is MetaPad. If you're looking for a simple enhancement to Notepad, MetaPad should do the trick.

I have tried several different IDE's for programming, including jEdit and Eclipse. Although they are both nice, they are a little too heavy for my tastes. I tend to steer away from big heavy applications which often have features I'll never use.

A really nice text editor for coding is SciTE. I used it for editing my PHP code for awhile. It's small, fast, and has all the features I could want for programming, including tabbed windows and beautiful syntax highlighting.

OK, history lesson is over. On to my favorite editor.

While learning Linux, I quickly found the need to edit things, especially configuration files. I looked up the name of a text editor common to Linux machines and the first one I came across was called vi. OK, that’s pretty simple I thought. Two letters. I can't forget that! It took a little getting used to, but for a long time vi was the only editor I knew of on Linux. I later learned of another easy text editor, nano, however I'm glad I forced myself to learn vi, as it's extremely powerful. Eventually I learned about the holy war between vi and emacs users. Of course I related it to the Microsoft/Mac and Intel/AMD wars.

I love using the vim editor (same thing as vi, except with a bunch of improvements, vi iMproved). I can even create my own little IDE by using the :20vsplit command to create a split window on the left that uses 20% of the screen and then typing :edit . to use that window as a file browser. (gVim screenshot, vim screenshot) When I learned that I could do this with vim, I instantly fell in love. There doesn't seem to be anything I can't do with vim. Things might take a little getting used to, but in return for speed and productivity, they are well worth it.

Sometimes while using other editors I find myself automatically pressing ESC :w to save or ESC :q to quit (vim commands). I have downloaded and used gVim on Windows, but it's a lot of work to get the gVim configuration setup exactly the way I want. However, now that I think about it, maybe I will spend the time configuring gVim and then backup my configuration to my thumb drive. That way, I'll have my own customized editor wherever I go! Hmmm...

Write a Comment


  1. I hated the time in school when we had to write a song (2 minutes max) using Basic or QBasic (I don’t remember). And of course I picked “Maple Leaf Rag”.

    Agreed – don’t like Frontpage. I have dreamweaver but never used it, I’m stuck on NetObjects Fusion.

  2. I haven’t tried NetObjects Fusion. I’m a console (read: text) geek, and I love anything that is plain text. That’s why this site looks so plain and simple.

    The more I can do without moving my hands from the keyboard, the more I enjoy it. I tend to use keyboard shortcuts for as many things as I can remember.