Editing Tools

As a software developer, a text editor is one your most important

desktop tools. My problem, like that of many developers, goes further

since I work on Windows, UNIX, and Linux systems. To help ease the

transition, I'm always looking for tools that at least work similarly

on each platform.

Many developers adopt the traditional UNIX editors: vi or Emacs. Both

are available in Windows versions and both have highly partisan

adherents. The Control-key shortcuts, which conflict with those of

standard business applications (and especially Microsoft Word), pushed

me away from Emacs. The conflicts make it hard to go back and forth

between text editing and writing project documents in a word processor.

Even so, both are good editors. See

http://www.thomer.com/thomer/vi/vi.html and http://www.emacs.org/ or

http://www.gnu.org/software/emacs/emacs.html for more on vi and Emacs,

respectively. A variant of Emacs called XEmacs can also be found at


For years, my favorite UNIX and Linux editor has been NEdit, a great

programming tool written to the Motif libraries. NEdit supports the

standard Ctrl-x, Ctrl-c, Ctrl-v shortcuts for cut, copy, and paste, and

also provides a host of programming features. You can download NEdit

from http://www.nedit.org/. For Windows, I use TextPad, an editor

somewhat close to the NEdit interface, available from


Lately, though, I've been looking for a new editor. I still love NEdit,

but I've been working on a new Linux system running SuSE Linux 6.4.

I've been having all sorts of problems with double-clicking in NEdit. I

often have to click about ten to twenty times to actually select a

word. As you can guess, this really slows you down. I'm not sure

whether the problem lies in the version of XFree86 (which provides the

graphics on Linux), the KDE desktop and window manager, or LessTif (the

free Motif-like libraries available on Linux) on this system.

So I've been looking at other editors, especially those that can run on

multiple platforms. Both the GNOME and the KDE desktops include a

number of text editors available from the desktop menus. All are worth

checking out. In addition, two editors I've tried recently include

august and j.

August (http://www.lls.se/~johanb/august/) is written in the Tcl/Tk

scripting language, so it runs on Windows, Linux, UNIX, and many other

operating systems. August provides a general-purpose text editor, along

with a number of HTML-editing features. It really isn't a programming

editor, but it does handle the double-click properly on my SuSE Linux

(leading me to believe the NEdit problem lies in the LessTif libraries

NEdit uses). Because it's written in Tcl/Tk, I found it very easy to

extend august, making the file dialog, for example, look for files

ending in .java first.

J provides another handy editor that also runs on Windows, available

from http://armedbear.org/. J, as you'd probably guess, is written in

Java, and it provides an interface very much like the Windows editor

TextPad, including a side window listing all the files you currently

have open. J seems to run well on Linux, with a more than acceptable

performance. This can be an issue with Java programs, because the Linux

performance of Swing, the Java graphical toolkit, has often been

bemoaned. I've been running j from the IBM 1.1.8 Java runtime and the

Sun Swing library with no problems.

There's no one true editor that works well for everyone. There are

plenty of editors available on Linux, though, so you should be able to

find one that meets your needs.

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