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Greg Steen

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Microsoft. All prices were confirmed at the time of writing, and are subject to change.

Replace Your Text-File Editor


With my experience thus far, I feel pretty safe with the following extreme generalization: Text-file editing is a necessity for all developers and systems administrators. (I know: not exactly ground-breaking.) Also, developers and sysadmins all have different needs when it comes to a text-file editor's ease of use and functionality.

So if you aren't happy with your current editor, one candidate for replacing it is the free and open source Notepad++. Notepad++ is more than just a standard text-file editor—it's more of a source-code editor. At its core, it's based on Scintilla, a free source-code editing component. It comes with handy features such as syntax highlighting and collapsible sectioning of known file types such as script and XML files. It includes basics such as line numbering and cursor and character positions and counts. You'll also receive line "bookmarking" to help you know where you are in the file and help you jump back to those key lines via the bookmarks. In addition, you can define your own custom highlight patterns.

Notepad++ lets you have multiple documents open simultaneously so that you can easily switch between files. You can also split the editor screen either horizontally or vertically to compare lines. The application has great search-and-replace functionality, including the ability to search and replace by regular expressions.

If you need to repeatedly carry out a task that search and replace won't cover, Notepad++ also offers full macro-recording and playback functionality to help you reduce the amount of manual repetition needed. Notepad++'s plug-in architecture means that the application is extensible; numerous plug-ins are already available from the product's Web site. As defaults, Notepad++ includes plug-ins such as a document monitor, a set of MIME tools and a robust spellchecker.

You'll also appreciate the richness of Notepad++'s TextFX extensions, which give you a bundle of text-modification tools. For example, you'll get one to convert text to hex, one to split lines and one to Base64-decode a file, among others.

We've just scratched the surface of Notepad++, but if you're fed up with your text editor, or if you just like to support open source projects, consider Notepad++ for your IT Toolbox.

Price: Free.


Figure 1 Notepad++

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Greg Steen is a technology professional, entrepreneur, and enthusiast. He is always on the hunt for new tools to help make operations, QA, and development easier for the IT professional.