Geek alert: jEdit is a fine text editor for coders who have RAM to spare

jEdit is a Java-based programmer's editor with a boatload of optional plugins, color schemes, and configuration options.

Text editing is a task that just about every technical computer user must face routinely. Whether you're a coder, a Web developer, a system administrator or just about any other kind of techie, chances are you will find yourself editing a piece of code, a page of markup or a configuration file sometime today. If you're not perfectly content with your current text editor, jEdit is an alternative that might be worth considering.

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way: jEdit loves RAM. While the process itself (jedit.exe) consumes a trifling 380KB on my system, that's just because the Java VM is doing all of its heavy lifting--and it is currently consuming around 115MB with a single instance of jEdit running. After light use, this can easily go up to 150MB of RAM (although I've also seen it go down to around 35MB).

Luckily, you get quite a bit in exchange for these copious amounts of RAM. Being a programmer's editor, jEdit supports syntax highlighting for over 130 file types, including exotic ones like Erlang and DSSSL (a language for specifying stylesheets for certain types of markup documents).

Another key feature for coders is bracket matching: Place the caret immediately following a closing bracket, and the opening one is highlighted. As you may expect, jEdit also supports abbreviations, automatic source code indentation, and most of the other features Notepad++, Komodo Edit, and its other powerful competitors also boast.

While other editors also offer add-ons and plugins, you often need to find them on the Web (be it at Vim.org or on the Komodo Extensions page). jEdit features a built-in plugin manager, so you can easily find and install any plugin you need without even leaving the application. The plugin manager also checks for updates, and lets you update multiple plugins en masse. Another fairly unique jEdit feature is HyperSearch, which brings up a pane with a list of occurrences of the search string in the current file (similar to how the Find feature works in Word 2010).

Keyboard shortcuts are an important part of every text editor, and here, too, jEdit doesn't disappoint. Shortcuts are shown right next to menu items, so it's easy to learn the one for your favorite operations. You can also customize shortcuts and add new ones: The powerful Options dialog includes a search box that lets you instantly find the command you wish to bind.

A text editor cannot be summed up as a laundry list of features. Since advanced editors need to please so many diverse users, they all tend to be crammed full of features. So the deciding factor, for me, is how integrated an editor is: How well it melds all these disparate features into one whole that is both powerful and simple to use (text editing should be simple, after all). jEdit manages this difficult task by presenting an environment that is both familiar but incredibly customizable, and providing useful hints along the way. If you've got the RAM, this is one excellent text editor.

--Erez Zukerman

This story, "Geek alert: jEdit is a fine text editor for coders who have RAM to spare" was originally published by PCWorld.

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