Best Free Programming Editor


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.

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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.
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Quick Selection Guide

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.
7.05 MB
Unrestricted freeware

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

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.
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

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.
4.5.7 (2450)
4.45 MB
Unrestricted freeware

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

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.
kate 4.7.4.orig.tar.bz2 1.9 MB
Open source freeware
Linux, and supposedly run under CygWin.
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.
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


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by rik on 26. May 2010 - 14:06  (50352)

This can be done. I worked on a project like this many years ago at uni that covered C and Pascal, although the 'process' was generic.

To make it work you need both a language grammer and layout rules. The grammer provides details of syntax, the layout how to beautify the code.

Needless to say, producing a full grammer for languages such as C or Pascal is akin to writting a compiler, you just leave out the easy bits.

Perhaps that's why people haven't done it?


by Anonymous on 26. May 2010 - 12:18  (50346)

i used to use notepad++ but now i use RJ TextEd.
windows only. Free. comes as install or protable version.

by Anonymous on 22. April 2010 - 20:39  (48211)

Another good cross platform one is Geany. It supports many popular languages, along with the ability to compile them. It also supports a virtual terminal.

by Anonymous on 16. April 2010 - 10:08  (47765)

The link for Notepad++ plugin page is broken - shows
as a wiki page title. Correct link is


Moderator's Comment : Email address removed. Please do not post email addresses in comments. Its for your own safety.

by Jojo Yee on 16. April 2010 - 12:38  (47772)

Thanks the link is now fixed.

by Anonymous on 3. April 2010 - 12:54  (46863)

PSPAD does not support code folding. if you are looking for code folding. i need a free editor that has code folding .

by Anonymous on 3. April 2010 - 12:34  (46860)

I have tried scite to configure to use with rebol. I had to give up after a few trials. I couldn't get it to run a rebol script.

if you are new to scite, Scite is the most difficult editor to configure.

its instructions are so confusing. e.g some settings say 1 , 2 etc.. then it doesn't show you if the 1 or 2 is on the left hand side of the "=" or the right hand side.

It should include examples for each parameter that can be configured.
it looks like you have to set a lot of things to get it to do one activity ( in my case to get it to run rebol script) and you have to guess which ones are working together.

it was a bad experience overall with Scite. I use context and crimson right now. will try others based on feedback from this web page.

by kiravi (not verified) on 10. August 2010 - 21:54  (55755)

Scite is probably the best one to have.

Just change the user configuration to the one below and install the consolas font and you will truly be rewarded!

[Moderator's Note : Lengthy configuration posted removed. Please do not post such lengthy posts here. Please use the forum for that purpose.]

by Anonymous on 2. April 2010 - 23:54  (46809)

A list of Free Programming Editors that ignores Eclipse, XEmacs and JEdit is not a good list at all.

by Anupam on 3. April 2010 - 6:34  (46836)

jEdit is mentioned in the review. It is a pretty good list I think.
The review is presently without an editor. If you would like to contribute, and become an editor, please apply for it :). Click on the "become a reviewer" link...

by Anonymous on 27. March 2010 - 20:59  (46321)

The bluefish 2.0 release is out. Code collapse and matched codes highlight are both available on 2.0 together with many more features (autocompletion, in-line spell checking etc.). Also a native windows installer is available.

by Anonymous on 24. January 2010 - 14:46  (41910)

I'm quite surprised to see SCiTE missing from your list. It's superb.

by gapo on 24. January 2010 - 15:38  (41916)

Yea ! SciTe is quite good too.

We're right now reviewing a lot of editors and they'll be added to the list soon.

Editors under Review:
Notepad GNU
Emacs ( it's definitely in )

Readers please add on to this list, so that a comprehensive review is obtained.

by Anonymous on 22. December 2009 - 9:53  (39147)

Notepad++ is fast, but it's more of a text editor than a code editor. I really need things like proper code completion and grouping files into projects. Komodo Edit seems to be popular with a lot of programmers, and I've found it very helpful too.


by Anonymous on 8. December 2009 - 5:39  (38054)

Where's EMACS? What other editor has been in constant development for 25+ years and has more capabilities than anyone can possibly remember, including a web browser, email, ftp, newsgroup reader, sql client, and burn CDs and DVDs (thats right) developed and extended by a huge number of extremely devoted, almost cultish brotherhood of software developers but without the secret handshakes and dark rituals?

by Anonymous on 31. December 2009 - 7:41  (39880)

Yeah. Emacs is a great collection of software. The only thing it lacks is a decent text editor.

by Anupam on 31. December 2009 - 9:58  (39885)

Emacs is more than a decent text editor. Emacs and Vi have been the primary editors on Linux and Unix, for a long long time, and they are extremely popular because of their capabilities as editors. If you get to know how to use them, and make use of their command line shortcuts... they are much better editors than any that Windows uses.

But still, Emacs and Vi cannot be considered as programming editors, they are excellent text editors though.

by Anupam on 16. October 2009 - 16:42  (34801)

Saw this today on Freewarefiles :

Its a new programming editor... still being developed.. but looks good. The code completion feature caught my attention. Do any of the existing editors have this feature?


by Anonymous on 13. October 2009 - 4:34  (34488)

You simply cannot beat jEdit for customizable syntax highlighting.

by Anonymous on 12. October 2009 - 6:07  (34381)

I second Notepad++ as the best. Small, fast, plenty of useful plugins available for download.

PSPad has more options and is theoretically more versatile, but using PSPad is so much more complex than Notepad++ that Notepad++ has to be the clear winner in this category.

by Anupam on 11. October 2009 - 19:09  (34358)

I think Vim cannot be considered as a programming editor. Its just simply an editor :). Although it has lots of keyboard shortcuts, which make the job of editing and writing really easy, and its really feature rich in that way... but it cannot be said to be a programming editor.
I have worked on vi for quite a long time, when I was using Solaris/Unix at my workplace. Its a great editor.


by thr (not verified) on 4. November 2010 - 12:37  (60767)

Sorry, then you don't know what you are talking about:
Vim is *the* programming editor. You can do almost everything. Including the IDE stuff like "intellisense", autocompletion of keywords, snippets and what you want in almost any language.

by Anonymous on 11. October 2009 - 4:39  (34306)

i currently use Notepad++, and its awesome. got it to compile and run my java files without too much trouble. extremely lighweight and fast. nothing to not like.

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