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Best Free Programming Editor

 
Introduction

Programming editors, also known as source code editors, are text editors that are specifically designed for programmers or developers for writing the source code of an application or a program.

Most of these editors are built with useful features, which may include colour syntax highlighting, auto indentation, auto complete, bracket matching, syntax check, plugins, etc., to effectively support the users during coding, debugging and testing.

 
In a Hurry?

Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

 
Discussion

NotePad++Notepad++ is a popular and widely-used editor loaded with features to make the users' programming more productive, including syntax and brace highlighting for many languages, search and replace using regular expressions, macro recording, and playback.

It is also highly configurable through plug-ins, has a wide range of themes and offers multi-language support. Other features include color source code printing, auto-completion, multi-document and multi-view, drag and drop, syntax folding, bookmark, ASCII art display and more.

A plugin manager is included in the program showing the installed and available plugins. The installed plugins include Compare, Document Monitor, MIME Tools, NppExec, NppExport, Spell Checker, etc. Installation of the available plugins is made user-friendly, just tick the items the users need and click the 'Install' button. Some other Notepad++ plugins are listed here with their dedicated forums.

 

PSPadAs an alternative, PSPad is another programming editor which supports syntax and matching bracket highlighting for most popular languages. It has a hex editor, macro recorder, FTP client and other common features.

PSPad works with projects and provides extensions for scripts, user converters and syntax definition. It allows users to call external programs for different environments as well.

The program has a built-in spell checker but the dictionary needs to be downloaded separately, unpacked and saved in the ".\PSPad\Spell\" directory.

 

Programming Editors for Cross-Platform

BluefishBluefish is a lightweight yet powerful editor running on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. It is designed for experienced programmers and web designers, and works as a general-purpose editor as well with the IDE.

This program provides options to write websites, scripts and programming codes in many programming and markup languages. Its user interface is complete with toolbars, dialogs and user-customized menus to facilitate insertion of markups and codes. Line numbers are optional.

Other useful features include cold folding, customizable syntax highlighting, advanced search and replace, multiple projects support, integration with external programs to handle advanced text processing or error detection, auto tag closing and matched code highlights for HTML and XML documents, in-line spell checker which is programing language aware and so on.

 

KateKate works as an advanced and easy-to-use text editor supporting scriptable syntax highlighting, indentation and code folding for an amazing number of source files.

The program loads fast and runs stably. It allows for multiple saved sessions, each with numerous files and completes with a spell checker.

Other useful features include line numbers, block selection mode, configurable templates, text snippets, symbol viewers for C, C++ and Phyton, XML completion and validation, export to HTML and a built-in terminal.

 

jEditIf you are mainly concerned about text editing power and not concerned about startup time, try jEdit, a programmer's text editor which provides a huge array of features, especially if the users include the plugin library.

It has all basic features like tabs and syntax highlighting for over 130 languages. Its advanced features include a diff utility, an FTP browser, a powerful macro language, block select, and more.

A bit of a heavyweight, yes, but you can't beat the power. Like gedit, this program is cross platform and runs on Linux, Windows and Mac.

 

Other programming editors to be reviewed:

  • Notepad2, a Scintilla-based text editor with source code syntax highlighting, runs out of the box without installation, and does not touch your system's registry. It is small and fast, but unfortunately lacks the tabbed Windows.
  • Vim is based on the UNIX "Vi" editor and aimed at programmers but can be used for many purposes. It supports multi-level undoes, syntax highlighting for over 170 languages and runs on many different OSes. This editor has a learning curve but if you have spent most of your time in the UNIX world and chose "Vi" over Emacs, then it is a familiar face. Sure, Vim is friendlier than the command line Vi, but all the features you are used to seeing are there.
  • ConTEXT supports unlimited open files and editing file size, with other features including syntax highlighting for many languages, normal and columnar text selection, file compare, macro recorder, customizable color printing with print preview, etc.
  • Crimson, fast in loading and small in size, provides syntax highlighting for programming languages such as C/C++, Perl, Java, Matlab, LaTeX and HTML. Other features include custom syntax support, redo/undo, user tools, macros, spell checker and more.
  • Programmer’s Notepad, unlimited number of schemes supported, powerful syntax highlighting supporting both user-defined and built-in schemes.
 
Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

 
Quick Selection Guide

Notepad++
4.5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Syntax and brace highlighting for many languages, search and replace, macro recording and playback, highly configurable with many plugins with a plugin manager and supported in their forums, together with other useful features.
Running in the Windows environment only.
http://notepad-plus-plus.org/
6.4.1
7.05 MB
Unrestricted freeware
Windows

Some Notepad++ plugins are listed here.
v6.4.1 released 30 June, 2013
View version release notes here

Bluefish
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Lightweight yet powerful editor, targeted for experienced programmers and web designed, supports many programming languages, code collapse, matched code highlights, in-line spell checker, etc.
http://bluefish.openoffice.nl/
2.2.4
3.7 MB
Open source freeware
Windows XP to 7, Linux, Mac OSX

v2.2.4 released 12 February, 2013
View the revision history here

PSPad
3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Supports syntax and matching bracket highlighting, hex editor, macro recorder, FTP client and other common features.
Works on Windows only, dictionaries need a separate download.
http://www.pspad.com/en/
4.5.7 (2450)
4.45 MB
Unrestricted freeware
Windows

v4.5.7(2450) released 25 January, 2013
View the release history here
v4.5.8(2457)beta available here

Kate
3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Advanced and easy-to-use editor supporting scriptable syntax highlighting, indentation and code folding for many source files, loads fast and runs stably.
No auto tag closing and matching tag highlight.
http://www.kate-editor.org/kate
4.7.4
kate 4.7.4.orig.tar.bz2 1.9 MB
Open source freeware
Linux, and supposedly run under CygWin.
jEdit
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Cross platform, tabs and syntax highlighting, diff utility, FTP browser, macro language, block select and more.
A bit of a heavyweight, slower start-up.
http://jedit.org/
5.0.0 (stable version)
3.3 MB
Open source freeware
Linux, Windows and Mac

A java cross platform installer is available here
v5.1 prerelease 1 is available here

 
Editor

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Tags

free, programming editor, source code editor, text editor, editors, freeware

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Comments

by mamboze on 12. May 2014 - 4:33  (116187)

Hi, thanks for the excellent review.

I'm just a little surprised that jEdit gets such a low rating (I know, I know, everyone has their favorite programmer's editor).

I use a linux platform (ubuntu 12.04) and I've tried a several other editors, Bluefish for one, but the one I use now for an extensive web site development is jEdit.

I noticed that one post referred to saving file problems (bugs) with jEdit in a multi-platform scenario. All I can say is that I've found jedit to be rock solid on linux. And its fantastic configurability is a big plus for me too.

best wishes

by qwerky on 6. November 2013 - 19:10  (112074)

I've looked at all the editors mentioned in the comments as well as the article. RJ TextEd (mentioned in comments) and PSPad are about equal. Each has some features lacking in the other, but both are better (in my opinion) than Notepad++.

But I was shocked to see that neither the main article, nor the comments, mentioned SynWrite. This editor stands head and shoulders above the others, with a full compliment of features. The author is very responsive; new features get added; bugs get fixed.

Please consider reviewing this editor. Your readers will be glad you did.

by inthefog on 30. September 2013 - 14:38  (111121)

I've used NotePad2 for all my PHP/HTML editing over the last few years and I love it - fast and clean.

by Panzer on 23. September 2013 - 9:05  (110941)

Zeus Lite editor:

Features:

* Seamless FTP file editing
* Syntax highlighting for C\C++, Clipper, Cobol, Fortran, Java, Pascal, Perl, Python, PHP, SQL etc
* Compilers and builders run as background tasks allowing you to keep typing
* Fully Scriptable using the Lua, Python, SmallC, VB Script, Java Script languages
* Column, block and stream marking modes using both keyboard or mouse
* Search and replace, including support for regular expressions
* Brief, WordStar, Epsilon and Emacs keyboard maps provided
* Keyboard mappings are fully configurable
* Syntax highlighting is based on file extension and is fully configurable
* Code templates
* Keyboard macros recording, saving and playback
* Support for third party tools
* Unlimited undo/redo
* In-editor, in-line error location and correction
* Quick Help searches any number of help files for a specific keyword
* Standard status bar, tool bar, tab bar and navigation bar features
* Fast load time and small disk space requirements
* File Manager associations and drag and drop
* Supports both MS-DOS and UNIX file formats
* Supports for UNC and long file names
* MS-DOS OEM text translation is also supported
* Built in spell checker
* Split window allows you to create two views of the same document
* Line number and bookmarks navigation
* Perfect Notepad replacement

http://www.zeusedit.com/lite/index.html

by dhry on 7. November 2013 - 22:09  (112106)

And it crashes immediately upon running it under Win7 x64.

by Cthulhux on 7. September 2013 - 10:15  (110575)

I'd throw Emacs in for a comparison. With a decent default configuration it is pretty awesome, it supports "CUA mode" (default Windows keybindings) by default too.

by Ghost_Archer on 19. April 2013 - 18:59  (107199)

Geany might be adopted by the LXDE as default text editor.

Currently I found it lack two useful tools:
Hexeditor plugin.
Code formatter. The old plugin can not fit 1.23

by Panzer on 29. March 2013 - 9:17  (106629)

Notepad2 Bookmark Edition

Bookmark Edition Changes:

- Bookmark lines with Ctrl+F2 and jump between bookmarks with F2
- Added wildcard search to Find/Replace dialogs
- Added help buttons [?] to the Find/Replace dialogs with quick syntax references
- Assigned F12 hotkey for 'Save as'
- Number of selected lines is displayed in the statusbar
- Tweaked 'Convert to Title Case' (based on my experience with Flash Renamer)
- Find/Replace dialog will automatically be filled with clipboard content first time used

http://www.rlvision.com/notepad2/about.asp

by Panzer on 13. March 2013 - 9:46  (106204)

Enki is a text editor for programmers. It is:

* User friendly. Intuitive interface. Works out of the box. You don’t have to read a lot of docs
* Hacker friendly Code as quickly as possible. Without mouse.
* Lighweight. Some IDEs show splashscreen. enki will never do it. It just starts quickly.
* Extensible. Operating systems are designed for running applications. Enki is designed for running plugins.
* Cross platform. Use your habitual editor on any OS. Currently has beeen tested on Linux, MacOS X, Windows.
* High quality. No long list of fancy features. But, what is done, is done well.
* Open source. This is our religion.

http://enki-editor.org/index.html

How to install it on Windows:
https://github.com/hlamer/enki/issues/19

by Panzer on 2. October 2012 - 7:15  (100097)

EditBone - Powerful text editing tool that comes with syntax highlighting support for over 50 languages and scripts, 22 different styles, a handy file comparison feature and support for multiple directories and search results:
http://www.bonecode.com/

by Rick S (not verified) on 10. April 2012 - 13:34  (91842)

Good article but I am still looking.

My requirement: I need a multi-platform (I work with Linux, Mac OS X [10.4 and 10.7] and Windows) editor that can open and save files via ftp and is bug-free. It would help if the editor had an easy mechanism for adding new language support. I deal with several arcane languages which would not be present. I tried or looked at:

Jedit: This editor meets my requirements but has so many bugs involving the open and save dialogs that I am giving up on it.

Bluefish: Ftp open and save is not currently supported for Windows or Mac OS X.

Kate: Website does not mention Ftp support. When I search the site for 'ftp', I get no hits. 'Features' page does not mention ftp.

If you know of an editor that will meet my requirements, please let me know.

Rick

by Omri (not verified) on 13. June 2012 - 9:27  (94790)

I would recommend Vim for that.
As they said in the article - there is a learning curve, but it is so extremely powerful
and has so many wonderful plugins that once you manage to learn it, you will never be able
to use any other editor.
There are also A LOT of good introductory tutorials out there.
Don't be shy of using the plugins and customizing Vim - the defaults are not so good.
And use Pathogen.

Hope this helps :)

Omri

by Ghost_Archer (not verified) on 15. March 2012 - 22:55  (90669)

One more additional I want to add -- aptedit free, for those who need to switch between hex, text and coding edit mode frequently.

Problem with notepad ++ -- I am not sure what affect Don's decision to disable the hexedit.dll each time a new update is installed, even though I nearly never encounter a crash on hexedit. But I am tired of moving the dll back from disabled folder to plugin.......

Problem with Pspad, starts a little slower, but the major problem is the hexedit mode need to decides during open -- in many cases, I just double click the file because I chose the default applicationm -- but when you find you have to reopen the file again in hex mode, you have to think for a replacement.

I searched around, most other editor is either too big, or have no hex functionality, till I find AptEditor Free. Even though its UI is can not beat the Notepad++, the hex edit mode is a fixed functionality without the need of any plugin.

Wish my experience can help you to choose

[edit] Download link for lite version added:

http://www.softpedia.com/get/Programming/File-Editors/AptEdit-Lite.shtml

by Ghost_Archer (not verified) on 18. March 2012 - 2:52  (90777)

Also I think Geany is worth of reviewing. One of the amazing feature is "Jump to definition" which will lead you to the definition of a function/global variable/macro if the file is open.

I would not rate it as IDE.

by bogdan456 (not verified) on 2. November 2011 - 19:40  (82612)

I was under the impression that Notepad++ needs a separate download (Aspell) for dictionaries/spell-checking. PSPad doesn't support code folding as far as I am aware.

by Sergei Vertiev (not verified) on 25. October 2011 - 11:32  (82086)

From my point of view, PSPad is Mostly Usefull programmer's editor.
It contains one thing, not mentioned here:
Perfect (probably best ever) "Code Difference tool" also with syntax highlighting.
PSPad can be used as Code Viewer/Editor/Difference Tool with any version Source Control system
such as CVS,SVN etc. No WinDiff and other tools needs if you have PSPAD.
And also: in case of some complex tasks you can write plugins, using using JavaScript.

by Tapan (not verified) on 29. July 2011 - 16:32  (76464)

Notepad2, a Scintilla-based text editor with source code syntax highlighting, runs out of the box without installation, and does not touch your system's registry. It is small and fast, but unfortunately lacks the tabbed Windows and allows only a single-level undo.

That is incorrect - Notepad2 does allow multi level undo.

by drdos on 18. November 2012 - 10:31  (102505)

All,

Been using this as a replacement for notepad.exe for about a year.

Several registry changes, made by Notepad2_4.2.25_x86.exe (the install program) are flagged by SUPERAntiSpyware (and no others so far) as noted below.

Security.HiJack[ImageFileExecutionOptions]
HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Image File Execution Options\NOTEPAD.EXE
HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Image File Execution Options\NOTEPAD.EXE#Debugger

These have been submitted as False/Positives based on an email from the author stating

See here [1] for details about the technique used by Notepad2 to
replace Notepad. It's likely that some antivirus scanners may think
this is malware.

[1] http://www.flos-freeware.ch/doc/notepad2-Replacement.html

--Florian

Hope this helps.

by JediVictor on 29. July 2011 - 17:09  (76467)

Thanks for the correction! I have verified that, indeed, Notepad2 has multi-level undos. It appears the number of undos is limited by the amount of memory available to your system. I was able to undo several dozen changes without a problem.

by Attila (not verified) on 25. April 2011 - 13:03  (70869)

I wonder why eclipse is missing from this section... I think it has to be included as the most comprehensive tool. It is incomparable better as editor than some of here listed ones. Maybe a new section required with RAD and IDE tag. Best regards!

by JediVictor on 29. July 2011 - 17:10  (76468)

Attila,

I just took over as Editor of this section and I will definitely do a review of Eclipse as soon as I can.

by bagMan (not verified) on 12. April 2011 - 9:56  (70035)

I've used Notepad++ and PSPad for a long time, then I've tried Komodo Edit, but the slowness of this editor makes me quit it.

And a few months ago, I've discovered RJ Text Edit, a powerful and free text editor, that's exactly what I wanted, the author of the tool answers you very quickly if you report him a bug, and there is updates frequently. I'm still using it now, and don't think that I will change it soon.

>>> http://www.rj-texted.se/ <<<

P.S: Sorry for my bad english :p

by luke (not verified) on 29. July 2011 - 23:54  (76491)

see here is a comparison

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_text_editors

which includes many free or commerical editors.

by luke (not verified) on 29. July 2011 - 23:47  (76490)

I also changed my editor from Pspad, UltraEdit to this one which is really an excellent freeware. The lastest version is flexible and stable. The most different function for it is that it supports four kinds of script, Jscript, Basic Script, C++ Script and Pascal Script.
It also provides many functions as its contemporaries, such as column mode, supported ftp and sftp as UltraEdit's. It has a good UI more like UltraEdit's that is why I prefer to choose it as default editor.
Until I found its website, I knew that it has a long term lifetime since 2004.
In a short, it is a clean, flexible and functional freeware.

by JediVictor on 29. July 2011 - 17:12  (76469)

bagMan:

Nothing wrong with your English. Thanks for the suggestion! I will review it ASAP.

by richotchkiss (not verified) on 3. March 2011 - 20:38  (67395)

I have been using XEmacs for years. There are modes for almost any programming language imaginable. If you are a programmer, you can easily extend it using lisp. I have developed modes for some obscure programming languages used to automate CAD programs (I-DEAS prg & NX Knowledge Fusion dfa) by copying other modes and modifying them. I just added a menu to my dfa mode which allows me to add any system class or function (with argument placeholders) speeds things up a lot.

by shrsv (not verified) on 4. January 2011 - 14:35  (63786)

IMHO, the best programming editor is VIM. It's so convenient not to move your fingers from the home row while programming. And those common edits such as delete word, delete line, copy entire line are much much easier than any editor in VIM.

by Daniel Audette (not verified) on 19. August 2010 - 23:32  (56385)

Hello

You may also want to add IDE's to this section or possibly add another section. There are some very good free IDE(Integrated Development Environment)
Microsoft offers the "Express versions" of all there languages including the express version of their database software.

http://microsoft.com/express/

There is also another free one out there that uses the .net frame work called sharp develop available from http://www.icsharpcode.net/OpenSource/SD/

Just wanted to add these seeing no one has mentioned them here.

by JediVictor on 29. July 2011 - 17:14  (76470)

Daniel,

I will be adding IDE software (including those you suggested) in the near future.

For now, I will mention that MonoDevelop is a great alternative to the Microsoft free products. In either case you are dealing with .NET, although Mono is more focused on C#.

by George on 26. May 2010 - 13:38  (50349)

Great review. Thanks.

I personally prefer Programmer's Notepad from the above mentioned products. It is extremely fast and provides all important features.

However, what all of these are missing is simple code beautifying (just line breaks and indenting). It does not seem to be easy to built something like that into an editor.

Regards,
George