Monday, January 25, 2010

Desirable features in a text editor in Linux or Windows

The selection of editor and choice of editors is something Windows users cannot imagine let alone comprehend. Windows comes with at most two text editors and one word processor. Notepad and Wordpad come under the heading of text editors. Wordpad is quite useful in this respect and notepad is very handy. However if one wishes to do any advanced word processing one has to shift to Microsoft Word. No doubt various text editors like TextPad, Emacs for Windows , Vi for windows are available to download.

Linux flavors be it FreeBSD, Ubuntu, Solaris, Red Hat,Gentoo or countless others come with host of editors for text editing. What are the features one loves to have in a text editor
  • F-01. EASE of use
  • F-02. EASE of scrolling/ searching text
  • F-03. EASE of editing text
  • F-04 Language syntax highlighting / command menu
F-01 EASE of use
The best for satisfying F-01 is nano. The reason is that most of the command are very easy to remember moreover the commands mostly needed are continuously written at the bottom of the screen. More commands can be accessed via the Ctrl-G Help Menu.

F-02 Ease of scrolling/ searching text
Nearly all the editors support scrolling up and down via arrow keys which comes in handy. Page Up and Page Down is also very convenient for scrolling. This feature bring them all to an equal level. Search feature of vi is extremely effective. the only thing needed to be done is to go to the command mode and then write "/SEARCH_TEXT_GOES_HERE". Replace the SEARCH_TEXT_GOES_HERE with text to search and the cursor will go to the first occurence of the search text and then by simply input of "/" one can cycle through the rest of the occurrences. The "/" also provides elaborate mechanism for search and replace.

F-03 Ease of editing text
Basic editing text in all the editors more or less the same. Efficiency can only be improved by learning a couple of new commands. Here nano again takes the lead by providing the text editing commands at the bottom at all times.

F-04 Language syntax highlighting / command menu
Language highlighting is a feature which is altogether missing on Windows platform. The platform provides language syntax highlighting feature in its Visual Studio product line. That too for a particular range of product. While the Linux editors (nano being an exception) provide language syntax highlighting which comes in handy. The best part is that new language syntax are being continuously added. Some editors also provide features of integrating compilation with gcc and/ or other compilers.

The features list is not comprehensive but for the needs of an average user these are sufficient to be able to select an editor. In the end the jury is still out for the best editor but given user preferences / usage the best editor can be shortlisted via the above feature lists.

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