Text editors

adamtyoung's picture

I am curious about the text editors that people use. Does anyone still use Word or are the notepad style editors all the rage? Also, has anyone had success with a barebones text editor for Windows? My current workflow looks like this:
-Word for text input
-apply styles to inline quotes, headings etc. and save as .rtf
-import into Indesign with analogous paragraph styles set up

I would like to take Word out of the loop as it eats up a lot of ram and is often unstable.

tina's picture

Highly recommended: Scribble Papers.

It's an extended editor, more like a cardbox. I quit using editors like notepad for text transfers to InDesign altogether because this little program is so extremely useful. Best thing is that you can collect all texts for a project at single pages each in one folder without having to save each single file separately. Of course you can export the pages or folders as well, if you prefer. Can't imagine ever living without ...

At the moment it's in german, but there are icons, too, and actually you don't need the menu, because if you're accustomed to work with windows explorer, you'll understand scribble papers as well.


grod's picture

I love textpad. It supports regex, has tabbed, savable workspaces, and doesn't hog my ram.

John Hudson's picture

The best text editor I've ever used is my beloved UltraEdit (for Windows). Adam Twardoch also swears by it.

I use Notepad for testing complex script OpenType fonts, because there is less application architecture between the font and the output, so it is a more reliable environment to confirm exactly what the Uniscribe text engine is doing for a given writing system.

dezcom's picture

Tex-Edit Plus is my right hand.

Jon Whipple's picture

TextWrangler always, SubEthaEdit sometimes and Pages (gasp!) for pointedly not using Word, not choosing to annoy myself and to have a bit of fun while I'm at it.

Pico when pressed. Please don't say vi or emacs.

Web input forms. Especially in OmniWeb 5.

All that said though... with most of the text that I handle, it seems people don't edit their text, text editor or not.

speter's picture

I hate to annoy Jon, but I do use emacs, especially when editing TeX documents.

Jon Whipple's picture

You know, I knew it was going to happen. I just knew it.


Do I hear a vi? Anyone? Anyone?


Thomas Phinney's picture

I use Word, Notepad or emacs, depending on the task.


cswingle's picture


I'll bite -- I use 'vim' for all of my text editing. No need to touch the mouse, lots of regular expression support, and with vim, you get syntax highlighting, auto indenting and a wide range of other very useful features.

Probably not what I'd use if I was on a Windows or Mac machine and was putting text into InDesign, but the fast and efficient vim is perfect for the fast and efficient editing of TeX documents.


Chris Swingley, Fairbanks AK

Jon Whipple's picture


I just knew no corner of the universe was shielded. The vi vs. emacs wars may continue.

So I'm on Mac OS X and find Pico is fine for the small amount of editing I do in a Terminal window. Are there complelling reasons to consider editing text exclusivly in the Terminal with vi/vim/emacs/whatever? I do a fair amount of hand coding of XHTML. And another thing, just how easily are these programs learned?



Nick Shinn's picture

I use Word, much as I detest its bloatedness and the way it tries to correct my prose.

Up until last year, when I switched to OS X, I had been using the 1991 version 5, as a matter of principle (one small blow against the general practice of being milked for yearly upgrade fees; kudos to Microsoft for the backwards compatability feature of newer Words).

The main reason I use Word is that it's the standard, and people are always sending me documents in it. If I stop using it, I will forget how it works, or become accustomed to something alse, and then when I do have to use it, the air will turn blue.

cswingle's picture


I think there are considerable advantages to doing text editing in vim or emacs, especially when you're doing editing of structured text (like XHTML, TeX, or programming languages) because the editors can assist you in a variety of ways. Syntax highlighting (showing valid XHTML tags in a different color from text, etc.) and auto-indentation can be a real lifesaver. The code is easier to maintain if it's properly indented, and syntax highlighting makes it easy to see simple mistakes like failing to close a quote or tag.

More general features of real text editors like vim or emacs include the ability to move inside your document quickly and easily, regular expression support (which allows for really powerful search and replace), and the fact that you don't need to take your hands off the keyboard to move the mouse because the editing commands are all keystroke commands.

But the sticky bit is what you ask "just how easily are these programs learned?". Well, they're not particularly easy. emacs is probably simpler to learn because when you start up the program, it behaves much like pico -- you can type and words appear. vi has multiple "modes" of operation and typing only produces words when you're in "insert" mode. It's confusing at first. The other confusing part about vi is that the movement keys are 'hjkl' (left, down, up, right), but because these are under your right hand, it makes moving about the file very fast.

I'm sure there are many quick introductions and tutorials on the Internet that will get you up to speed quickly (vim has one built in as part of the help -- 'vimtutor'), but it will take a bit of effort to get up to speed.

I've been using vi for around ten years, and I still discover new features and tools that I wasn't aware of. Learning how to use all the power of a real text editor can take a long time!

Chris Swingley, Fairbanks Alaska

Jon Whipple's picture


Thanks for you comments and suggestions, I don't know just how much time I am willing to invest right now but I'm a sucker for trying new things.

As for structured text and highlighting both my usual text editors provide them quite nicely and I'm good with keyboard commands therein.

<i>I've been using vi for around ten years, and I still discover new features and tools that I wasn't aware of. Learning how to use all the power of a real text editor can take a long time!</i>

Deep can be nice.


<i>The main reason I use Word is that it's the standard(*), and people are always sending me documents in it.</i>

Always the case. I always like to say, "Thanks. Why don't you send stuff to me as an RTF or plain text next time. Here's how: [paste 'Save As...' instructions here].

<i>If I stop using it, I will forget how it works, or become accustomed to something alse, and then when I do have to use it, the air will turn blue.</i>

Yes I know this only too well, but for me I can live with the pain. It's in one of those poorly placed mislabelled menus someplace...

(*)What I have been noticing is this:

Many people don't know that alternatives exist or even that documents can be created with tools other than Word.

And further, if you do decide to take a minority position (for whatver reason, sound or not), the problem is mind share and perception.

The perception is that if my word processor opens the file but it displays differently from the Word doc, my word processor is at fault. If my word processor document is opened in Word and it looks different from its original, it must me my word processor that is broken. It's the prevailing illusion that Word is the program, not by which others should be judged, but to which others should conform.

It's too bad because what could be promising alternatives like OpenOffice.org suffer horribly by trying to act and interact like Word and its Office siblings. There is a huge opportunity to do things a little (or much) more differently and make things better than Word.


paul d hunt's picture

how 'bout for programming? I want something that can do some heavy-duty replacements with large TTX files without maxing out its memory allotment (for Windows: Wordpad keeps crapping out on me). Any favorites for this type of usage?

...Interesting, just found Wild Edit. Anyone have any experience with this one?

...And i think it just payed for itself! Highly recommended. It just took me half an hour to do what would have taken me hours without it. nice!

oldnick's picture

RogSoft's Notepad+ for the PC is useful for opening VERY large text files. The interface also allows you to increase or decrease the point size of the display, which is quite useful for those of us with aging eyes...

paul d hunt's picture

anything that numbers your lines of code & color codes syntax?

typequake's picture

Openoffice Writer

Dan Weaver's picture

Thomas I am suprised you didn't mention InDesigns text editing.

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