Linux text editors: Do any make the grade?
This turned out to be a rather slender category after one of the apps I'd tested, EditPadPro for Linux, was discontinued. Still, one worthy entry remains.
Quanta Plus bills itself as a Web development environment, saying its goal "is to be nothing less than the best possible tool for working with tagging and scripting languages." It goes a long way toward meeting that goal.
It eases HTML coding tasks with built-in tool bars for commonly used functions (bold, alignment, links and images). Many of the tags bring up dialog boxes that allow you to enter information for things like adding tables and images to HTML documents. But Quanta also has key capabilities that writers and editors need: spell check, handy text manipulation (capitalize, join lines and so on) and sophisticated search and replace that includes support for regular expressions.
Quanta Plus offers a lot of one-click options for common HTML tasks. (Click for larger view.)
Quanta is highly customizable, even offering the ability to design your own tool bars. There are three levels of what are called "user-definable actions": text actions, tag actions and script actions.
Text actions let you store commonly used text snippets -- "by Sharon Machlis" might be one for me.
Tag actions are what the name implies, allowing you to create a macro that includes opening and closing tags around highlighted text (or right next to each other if there's no highlighted text). It's easy to alter existing tags or create new ones and add them to tool bars.
Scripts are a little more complex. As far as I could see after checking the manual, there's no way to simply record keystrokes or built a nontext, nontag macro within Quanta. Instead, "script actions" run external code. This makes it fairly easy to write a Perl script and run it on your document without leaving Quanta, but not to, say, use the application's own search and replace to store commonly used search and replace tasks.
That's my major complaint with what's otherwise a great application, and one that can be addressed by writing a script outside the editor. Quanta is not an editor for people who want to keep their macros within a single app, or who don't like to code to get nondevelopment work done.
My other quibble with Quanta is that after I tagged something and decided I want to remove the tags, "undo" (Ctrl-Z) didn't simply remove the tags, but also deleted all the text within my tags. Occasionally, it even erased additional text.
Faceoff: Nine Linux text editors
Quanta Plus ratings (on a scale of 1 to 10):
Ease of learning and use: 8
Look and feel: 9
Content editing (spell check, search/replace, etc.): 9
Simple HTML editing (bold, line breaks, ordered lists, etc.): 10
Customization (macro power, ease of creating): 6
The bottom line
So, did I find the single killer text editor I'd been seeking? No, but I uncovered several good applications that should meet the requirements of users with different needs. If I switch to Linux full time, I'm confident I could stitch together a couple of separate apps that would largely do what I need.
But I bet I'll be even happier once that planned UltraEdit version for Linux is released.
Sharon Machlis is Computerworld's online managing editor.
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