code editor article imag
code editor article imag
code editor article imag

I’m a web designer/programmer so I spend a good portion of a day in a code editor (at least if it’s a good day). I’m pretty particular about what code editor I use and what features it needs so I’m on a hunt for a great code editor for Windows. My plan is to use a code editor for at least 2 weeks to really get a handle on exactly how it works and to get as familiar as possible with all of the shortcuts.

The Requirements

So lets start by figuring out exactly what I’m looking for. I’m not going to list the normal things like syntax highlighting that are just required to even get into my list for testing.

  1. Code Completion of Some Fashion: I need code completion of some fashion. Whether that’s adding the end tag automagically upon completion of the beginning tag or if it’s hinting at the next tag to close. I’m not picky really on which way it works. Extra point for tab style tag and block code completion.
  2. Project Browser: The code editor needs to have a project browser (Sorry VI) even if it’s not included out of the box there needs to be a plugin to make it work.
  3. Dark Theme: It’s a personal preference but I need a darker theme to look at all day. My eyes hurt if I get stuck looking at something super white all day. Light greys or browns all work just can’t be white. And you need to make it easy to switch the theme with some template of some fashion. I’m not opposed to having to build a template if none exists already but it better be easy to do.
  4. Lite Weight: I don’t want to wait forever to open a file. I willing to wait on the first cold start of the day but after that you better be quick.
  5. Good Looking: If I have to look at and work with you all day you better be pretty, well pretty enough. I’ve seen a few editors that just look really freaking ugly. I’ll admit I’m a bit vain and I require a UI that looks good and works.

Nice to Have

  1. Snippet Management and Completion: I end up working across 3 different OS’s so while I like snippets built-in I find they’re never on the system I need them on. I’d like it but it’s not a deal breaker.
  2. No Project File: I’d love not to have a .whatever project file added to projects but if the rest of the application rocks then I’ll deal with adding it to my .gitignore file.
  3. Editing of Live Files: My workflow has me building all my sites locally and doing all my testing for browsers there. I don’t need to edit live files on a server often so I don’t have much call for publish on save but if you have it I’ll give you a point.
  4. Cross-platform: I end of doing a bit of work on Windows, Mac, and Linux so I’d love something I can learn and use across all platforms as my main development platform.
  5. Spell Checking: I write all my blog posts in a text editor so spell checking would be great but not a need. I use After the Deadline on by blog before posts go out and will continue to do so even if the editor has spell checking.

The Contenders

So I’ve got some contenders already. Some I’ve used and some I’m planning to try.

  1. Dreamweaver: I get it with CS4 Design Premium so I figure I’ll go over why I’m not using it (yeah that was a spoiler). Read Review
  2. Komodo Edit: Not the paid IDE but the free Komodo Edit. It appeals because it’s cross-platform and free is a good price. Read Review
  3. gedit: It’s the right price and on my two main platforms for development (Windows, Linux) so it’s in.
  4. InType: Heard lots about how it’s like Textmate for Windows. Textmate is the cat’s ass according to some programmers I know so I figured I’d be up for trying it. Read Review
  5. E Text Editor: Another Textmate for Windows I hear. I actually tried it a few months back and for some reason that escapes me right now I have no idea why I’m not using it still. So if I can get it running again on the trial I’ll review it.
  6. Notepad++: It’s a staple of any programmers “I’ve tried it” stable so now I’ll try to be its lover for a bit.
  7. PSPad: I’ve been told that real programmers on Windows are using Notepadd++ or PSPad so it’s in.
  8. Sublime: Suggested below and reviewed.

What’s Missing

Am I missing something in my list? Is there a code editor that you just love and hasn’t cropped up on my radar? Let me know. I don’t promise to use it but I promise to at least visit the site and see if it could be a contender.

6 responses to “The Great Windows Code Editor Hunt”

  1. Owen Greaves Avatar

    Hi Curtis,

    I use two tools, Expressionweb 3 & Notepad. I started with Notepad and then FrontPage 1.0, stayed with FrontPage until Expressionweb. I don’t use Fp Ext. or the Bots that came with FrontPage, I like the idea of OPEN.

    I use the code side of each of those tools most of the time, it’s what I know and I like to keep my hand in the old school way of coding websites.


    1. Curtis McHale Avatar

      If you like the OPEN idea how does Expression web fit into that? It’s a MS product and while I have no issues paying for a good product I’m not sure how those items go together. Of course I could just be misunderstanding you.

      I’ll take a look at Expression and see if it can get on the list to try.

  2. Douglas Campos (qmx) Avatar

    You forgot vim – powerful and cross-platform!

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar

      Does Vim have a project browser? Honestly I’ve discounted it because of issues I’ve had working with VI with mysysgit on windows but I’ll look again. Maybe I’m not savvy with the difference between VI and Vim?

  3. Charles Roper Avatar

    Vim does have various project and file browsers; NERD Tree is one of the better ones:

    But still, Vim is not the easiest thing to get to grips with – it takes a serious investment in time to get the most out of and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get to to feel completely comfortably integrated with Windows.

    You should keep an eye out for E Text Editor 2, which is currently in development and takes some inspiration from Vi.

    InType really shouldn’t be classed as a “TextMate for Windows” because it cannot use TextMate commands and is generally much more primitive. It looks a lot like TextMate but that’s a very superficial likeness. I think the developers themselves don’t like InType to be thought of as a TextMate clone.

    Sublime Text is the most obvious omission in your list. You should check it out if you like TextMate-style text editors. It has quite a few innovations of its own. I still believe E2 will be even better, though.

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar

      I would really love to try E Text Editor 2. Is there en ETA on it? I’ll be at this for a number of weeks/months so I can leave E 2 till a later date for testing.

      I’ll have to agree with what you’ve said so far on Vim. I find it fine to edit my .gitignore file or write commit messages in Git on Windows but I have tried it before as a fulltime code editor before and it was nothing but pain for me. I to hear that if you can get it you’ll write way faster code since you don’t really have to move your hands on the keyboard but so far to me it’s just been too painful. We’ll see if I get to trying it or if I can make it two weeks on it.

      I just took a quick look at Sublime and thanks for the awesome suggestion. On the list for sure.