A Tribute To Text Editors

This is not a post about the fancy tools we often write about here.

Instead, we’re getting back to basics. This post is a tribute to one of the most basic tools that all online journalists use: the text editor.

Text editors range from the basic (Notepad on PCs and TextEdit on Macs) to the fancy (TextMate on Macs), and we continue to use them for their simplicity and their ability to give us cleaner markup than any WYSIWYG editor.

There’s something relaxing about typing in raw HTML code. Plus, it’s a lot faster than pointing and clicking to style that text or to add links.

So, here are a few of my favorite text editors.

Mac: TextMate ($57, free 30 day trial)

I hate to use this space to plug software that’s a relatively expensive $57, but seriously, it’s that worth it. TextMate supports more than 50 different programming languages (with the ability for more by using so-called bundles). It also features auto-indent, auto-complete, visual bookmarks and tons more.

I’ve used TextMate for about three years, and couldn’t be happier. Another great option for Macs that’s free: TextWrangler.

PC: Notepad++ (free)

What is there not to like about Notepad++? It’s a full-featured, open source text editor. It’s a pleasure to use at work, where I have a PC.

Like TextMate, it has support for many different programming languages. It also supports macros, and it integrates with FTP clients. Lots of third party plugins are supported as well.

The best part? It’s free!

Web-based: Real-time HTML Editor (free)

This no-frills, Web-based HTML editor doesn’t have fancy colors, auto-indent or any other fancy features. But it’s simple, platform independent and fast. Most importantly, it offers a live preview. This text editor is a favorite of co-workers at my day job, especially when we’re editing our site’s homepage. The live preview allows for quick troubleshooting. Be warned: it’s not designed to integrate with a site’s CSS stylesheet, so you’ll need a fancier text editor if that’s what you’re looking for. However, it does interpret in-line CSS.

There you have it, my three favorite text editors. Never underestimate how important a good text editor is, and always try to avoid making live changes in a WYSIWYG view!