Free Programs to View or Edit Very Large Text Files

 
For editing document files, Open Office or Microsoft Office contains all the tools you need.  And for working with plain text files, Notepad or WordPad are included with Windows and do the job just fine.  But what if you need to edit, view or search text files which are too large for Word, Writer, Notepad or Wordpad to comfortably handle?
 
As an example, I frequently need to search through a text file that’s a few hundred megabytes long.  Microsoft Word can do it, but it’s pretty slow.  Even slower if I work with native .TXT files rather than converting them into .DOC format.  Notepad gets there eventually, but it’s also too slow to be acceptable.  And WordPad, while faster than Notepad, still doesn’t provide the speed I’m after.  So it was time to go looking for free Windows programs that allowed me to view and search large text files, and two examples stood out from the crowd.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
First, The Gun.  It’s a simple Windows program that looks very much like Notepad.  It’s an unbelievably small download, at just 6 KB, and runs without needing to be installed.  It loaded my 250 MB text file in about 5 seconds, and a search for a string which is roughly half way down the file took around 2 seconds.  Read more, and download it, at www.movsd.com/thegun.htm.  There’s also an updated version called Top Gun, at www.movsd.com/topgun.htm.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Secondly, EditPad Lite.  It’s free for non-commercial use, and again looks rather like the Windows Notepad that you’re used to.   We’ve mentioned this program in the past, at www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-text-editor.htm, but I was specifically evaluating it for working with very large files.  It’s a 3.1 MB download, but it does have a number of features that The Gun doesn’t.  It can work with blocks of text, for example, and also convert to/from upper or lower case.  It also has a “reopen” menu option.  While searching seems slightly slower than The Gun (4 seconds as opposed to 2), loading and displaying my large file was instant. 

You can get EditPad Lite at www.editpadpro.com/editpadlite.html.
 
So, which one will I be using from now on?  Because I find the “reopen” command so useful, and because initial opening and display of a file is so quick, I’m going with EditPad Lite for now.
 
 
 
If there’s a great item of freeware, or a web-based service, that you think deserves to be a Hot Find, please let us know and we’ll do the rest.  Just fill in some brief details at www.techsupportalert.com/content/submit-product-review.htm.
 
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Comments

by mmaker1234 on 16. May 2012 - 11:52  (93551)

My work requires me to read log-files from servers on a Windows PC. Often these files are bigger than 1GiB. I just downloaded the most recent versions and tried to open a 1 GiB file with some of the tools mentioned - here are the results:

TheGun - file opening blocked (on WinXP on 3GiB RAM). I had to kill the program;

HxD - works fine but only in HEX view, which is not appropriate for me;

GigaEdit - does not recognize Linux line breaks;

EmeraldEditor - read from the file for about two minutes then fell with "Out of memory" error;

TexMaker Viewer 2010 - loads the file more than seven minutes then fired a "Not enough memory" message;

ConTEXT - displays "Error opening ..." dialog and stops the file read;

MetaPad - can not open the file;

[Commercial reference removed]

I hope this information will help further readers with the proper tool selection.

by Chiricira (not verified) on 2. May 2012 - 20:11  (92919)

My choice: http://mh-nexus.de/en/hxd/

by twinsen (not verified) on 31. October 2010 - 8:53  (60510)

I had trouble loading a 5.5GB binary file in a whole range of editors, including The Gun and EditPad Lite.
I found that worked, and opened the file instantly:

* HxD - http://mh-nexus.de/en/hxd/

HxD is my preferred one, since it is free, supports viewing and editing and is a stand alone. My large files are generally binary, so a hex editor is fine.

[Moderator's Note : Link and mention to commercial software removed. Please keep the discussion to freeware only.]

by Ali Adams (not verified) on 17. September 2010 - 11:44  (57989)

I have developed a UNICODE editor specifically to solve the issue of opening unlimited size files instantly by blocks of 1Mb with scrollbar to navigate effortlessly between blocks and a multithreaded search feature that brings result as they become available and allows you to go to matches instantly F3 / Shift+F3 even across blocks transparently.

WARNING:
There is no UNDO after saving so make sure you know what you are doing.

Download:
http://www.heliwave.com/GigaEdit.html

Ali Adams

by Webgrunt (not verified) on 29. June 2012 - 21:28  (95555)

Brilliant use of the double-scrollbar for huge files! However, the search/find seems disabled. Is there any way to enable it?

by alexxx46 on 16. May 2012 - 12:53  (93552)

No support for Cyrillic character set.

by mmaker1234 on 16. May 2012 - 9:34  (93548)

Very interesting editor but supports only Windows line breaks. If the file comes from the Linux world you're out of luck!

by Akash (not verified) on 19. April 2012 - 14:08  (92288)

Hi Adam,

I had been looking for these kind of tool. Your tool is really best of all for very large files.
Thanks for sharing free of cost !

by abhishek on 9. June 2010 - 16:23  (51729)

I have opened very large files (as big as 20 GB) on a unix system with a 64 bit self compiled gvim. Only downside is the memory requirement with that big a text file... :(
-Abhishek

by Anonymous on 25. May 2010 - 7:55  (50278)

I think that security is crucial, also, with large texts. What text editors do with bits of your text, if the text is personal, is essential and must be considered, at times. The only text editor that never uses the swap or any temporary files, to the best of my own current knowledge, is Notepad, as primitive as it is. That's got to mean an increase in security, even if features, capacity and speed are casualties, at work.

by BosseWeb on 24. May 2010 - 16:35  (50205)

My Favourite is the free Crimson Editor for int´s fabolous "Column Mode".
http://www.crimsoneditor.com/
Inspired heavily by Crimson is GNU GPL, is the texteditor Emerald Editor
http://www.emeraldeditor.com/

by Anonymous on 21. May 2010 - 23:33  (50078)

Am I the only one who use Vim? http://www.vim.org/

by wally (not verified) on 22. September 2011 - 20:09  (80137)

vim an excellent viewer to 931.000 lines or so but that's it.

by Anonymous on 24. May 2010 - 11:42  (50193)

No, no you're not.

by Anonymous on 21. May 2010 - 21:31  (50068)
by Anonymous on 21. May 2010 - 19:24  (50063)

I guess it all depends on what you define as a "very large text file". I was expecting to be able to edit, say, a 6GB logfile with TheGun, until I read its limitations:

"TheGun does not have an effective file size limit and the maximum size that can be loaded into it is determined by available memory and loading speed of the file. It can typically load files in excess of 10 megabytes with no problems."

Limited to available memory? I don't consider that a very large file.

ConTEXT will edit unlimited-size files (although it will only deal with line lengths up to 4096 characters): http://www.contexteditor.org/

by Anonymous on 21. May 2010 - 17:27  (50052)

Ah, the Gun - the power of plain assembly language. Thanks to Hutch and company!

by Anonymous on 21. May 2010 - 14:27  (50045)

I use Metapad to edit all kind of (text) files. It opens very large files as well and takes a huge 94 Kb to fit the good amount of features. No install needed. Metapad is not very new but (the newest version is from 2002) but still a very nice notepad replacement and worth trying. You can grab it at: http://liquidninja.com/metapad

jms

by Anonymous on 21. May 2010 - 14:26  (50044)

Wonder what the fastest big-file editor is for Linux?

by Anonymous on 21. May 2010 - 12:58  (50034)

PSPad editor opens extremely large files in no time and has many more features: http://www.pspad.com/en/

by Anony (not verified) on 21. May 2010 - 7:04  (50024)

To my understanding "Very Large Text Files" means files above the 4GB limit. Unfortunately, I didn't managed to find free editing program capable to "swallow" such volume of data for the last couple of years.

For information only, a browsing, i.e. read-only, software with search and copy capabilities is still available:
- LogViewer Pro: http://uvviewsoft.com/logviewer/

by Anonymous on 21. May 2010 - 6:23  (50022)

Have tried thegun and it's fast but also very handy it eats everything.

Open an exe or pdf and you can "browse" the file looking for that piece of text no need to rename to .txt ;)

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