5 free Linux text editors for programming and word processing

A programmer looks at the current versions of five well-known text editors and offers his take on how well they perform.

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Developer: KDE

Latest version: 4.10.5

Linux support: Flavors that support KDE

License: LGPLv2

KATE -- KDE Advanced Text Editor -- is an ideal choice for any KDE user who is looking for a great GUI-based programming text editor, especially for an IDE. KATE has been included with the KDE software package since 2001.


It can also be used with KDevelop, Kile and other KDE applications as an editing component.

What's new

With the release of KDE 4.10, many new features have been added to KATE. Open bugs were reduced from 850 to 60, while new features include a new project management plugin, new quick open functionality (which allows a hot key -- Ctrl+Alt+O in KATE -- to open one or more files quickly) and an optional "minimap" that can be used as a scrollbar.

What's good about it

KATE gives the knockout punch to heavy and complicated IDEs by providing features that help create projects. For example, it offers a project view that makes it easier to search, edit and compile code files. The screen is divided in two main parts: The left part lists files and folders in a tree view, while the right part is for editing the currently selected file.

Another smart feature is the ability to open a search bar in the right view of its window. You can start typing a name and KATE will suggest all the matching file names -- very much the way that Google makes suggestions when you type a search query. It's a lot simpler to find files this way as compared to using your mouse to navigate through a tree structure.

Besides standard features, KATE comes with support for GDB and breakpoints (for debugging). This is very helpful for programmers who need to do a lot of debugging.

With all these features (and more), KATE feels more like a full-blown IDE than just a programming text editor.

What needs to be fixed

One of the biggest downsides of KATE for me is that it comes as a part of the KDE package, which means that it will not work well with other popular desktop environments such as Gnome. And in general, I feel that programming using GUI-based editors is a bit slow when compared to command-line based editors (mainly due to mouse usage).

Bottom line

Go for KATE if you develop and/or program on a KDE-supported system but do not like purely command-line programming editors. I think it's the closest a GUI text editor can get to an IDE.

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