Linux text editors: Do any make the grade?

Our exacting editor test-drives a whopping nine Linux text editors. Which ones crossed the finish line ahead of the pack?

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KVIM improves on the remote Unix vi experience, allowing the delete key to delete a character and a click of the mouse to reposition the cursor (neither of which I could do when using vi in a remote shell in the '90s). There's also a save icon, which takes the place of the [escape]:w needed in remote vi, as well as icons for cut, paste, find, find next, find previous and find/replace. I still find line wrapping to be dicey; you can see this when cutting and pasting into and out of the program.

I know vi and its derivatives have plenty of fans. In fact, one of our Web developers told me that he likes the powerful things it can do -- not knowing I was working on this story -- as he was updating a script on one of our servers. Later in the same conversation, though, as he went through a multikeystroke sequence to change a line of code, he added: "I wish I could just delete!"

My point exactly.

KVIM ratings (on a scale of 1 to 10):

Ease of learning and use: 1

Look and feel: 5

Content editing (spell check, search/replace, etc.): 5

Simple HTML editing (bold, line breaks, ordered lists, etc.): 3

Customization (macro power, ease of creating): 5.5 (10 for power but 1 for ease of creating)

Total: 19.5

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Writing code the modern way

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If you're primarily interested in coding and don't need a full-blown integrated development environment (IDE), there are quite a few attractive options that were developed sometime after the Beatles broke up.

Arachnophilia

Arachnophilia is a multiplatform text editor written in Java that offers a fair amount of features. It does a decent job of light HTML coding that an editor or blogger might need, including built-in buttons for bold, centering, lists and the like. It's highly customizable; it includes editing buttons on the top default tool bars and allows you to create your own options in the "right-click wizard."

Arachnophilia does not appear designed for writing and content editing, since there's no spell check, thesaurus or grammar help. There is quite a bit for coders, though, including syntax coloring, Java and C++ compilers and support for a number of file types, including CSS, XML, Java, Perl, PHP, Python and SQL. (Ruby, alas, is absent.) There's even a "code beautifier" that will autoindent your code for languages with C-like syntax.

If you do a lot of search and replace, there's a prominent tool bar just for that, which expands to offer added options such as Replace All, Count Instances and Use Regular Expressions.

 
Arachnophilia
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Arachnophilia includes tool bars for some common HTML tasks. (Click for larger view.)
 

It's hard to complain about something this feature-laden that's available for free, but I did have a couple of quibbles. It appeared that files could have either line numbering and syntax highlighting or word wrap, but not both, which is a bit of an issue when trying to code a text-laden HTML file.

Also, the "add link" button that comes with the package simply added a <a href=""> and </a> around selected text, requiring me to move my cursor manually between the quotation marks and paste in a URL manually. I'm spoiled with my NoteTab Pro macro that automatically inserts a URL I've saved to my clipboard between the quotation marks. My attempts to create a macro in Arachnophilia with text from the clipboard always seemed to place the URL outside of the quote marks instead of between them.

In any case, while Arachnophilia didn't meet all of my particular needs, it's a fine piece of freeware that I'm sure would be useful to others with different criteria.

Arachnophilia ratings (on a scale of 1 to 10):

Ease of learning and use: 7

Look and feel: 6

Content editing (spell check, search/replace, etc.): 3

Simple HTML editing (bold, line breaks, ordered lists, etc.): 7

Customization (macro power, ease of creating): 7

Total: 30

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