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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Each text editor reviewed here has its own good qualities. Which you use depends on both your requirements and your own work habits.

Vim is undoubtedly best for those -- like system admins -- who need a feature-rich command-line programming text editor. For normal editing, the learning curve is not very high, but for using it as an IDE, a level of expertise is required.

KATE is a good alternative for those who are not comfortable with command-line text editors. It is one of the best GUI alternatives for Vim, although it works best with KDE.

Gedit doesn't compare with Vim and KATE in terms of features but, because of its wide range of plugins and other features, it enjoys a wide following. I personally prefer Gedit when I edit single source files, makefiles and configuration files. I've heard other users say that just after migrating from Windows to Linux, Gedit made them feel home. The only limitation is that it is a Gnome application and is not supported by KDE (although there are some workarounds).

Like Vim, GNU Emacs has a steep learning curve despite its GUI environment. But as with Vim, the more you learn about GNU Emacs, the more powerful and in control you feel about this text editor. Its ability to compile code, get the compiled output and jump to erroneous lines, among others, places Emacs a step ahead of text editors such as Gedit.

Talking about Nano usually brings up a comparison with Vim. I would say that using Nano or Vim is just a matter of choice. People who like Nano think of Vim as complicated computer, while those who like Vim think of Nano as a piece of paper -- easy to use but not much can be done with it.

My advice? If you are new to command-line text editors, go for Vim (it requires some hard work to learn, but it's worth it), but if you have been using Nano and it suits your purposes, there's no harm in staying with it -- it's definitely easy to use.

This article, 5 free Linux text editors for programming and word processing, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Himanshu Arora is a software programmer, open source enthusiast and Linux researcher. Some of his articles have been featured in IBM developerWorks and Linux Journal. He (along with some like-minded friends) blogs at MyLinuxBook.


Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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