By Sean P Aune

18 Free Text Editors To Clean Up Your Code

By Sean P Aune

While there are a number of paid solutions out there for editing your code, not everyone has hundreds of dollars in their budget to get them on their desktop. Luckily, there are numerous free solutions for just about every style of editing that you can think of. We focused this list on cross-platform, Mac OS X-only and Windows-only downloadable solutions, but we did include one online option. We hope in the future there will be more of these out there so you can truly collaborate with other members of your team. Take a look through the list of 18 editors, and you are bound to find one that is perfect for your needs!

Cross-Platform Editors

Amaya: A mixture of WYSIWYG Web editing tool and a browser that was originally developed by Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique (INRIA) and later acquired by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The project is open source and since it is a test bed, it features support for protocols and languages not yet supported by the major browsers, such as RDF. The program is available for Unix, Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, Amiga OS and more.


Arachnophilia: A Java-based editor that features the ability to edit multiple documents, a built-in FTP client so you can upload changes without leaving the interface, user-defined templates, user-customizable toolbars and several other features.


Bespin: The only cloud editor in the list, Bespin is a project from Mozilla Labs. It is a completely cloud-based Web editor project built to encourage collaborative working as it can be accessed from anywhere. The Web application allows for syntax highlighting of Arduino, CSS, HTML, JavaScript and PHP. You can read previous coverage of Bespin on SitePoint here and here.


Bluefish: Bluefish has been around in various formats since 1997 with only one constant staff member, Olivier Sessink. The program features customizable syntax highlighting for C, ColdFusion, CSS, HTML, Java, JavaScript, JSP, Perl, Python, Ruby, SQL, XHTML and more. It is considered by some to fill a gap between plain text editors and larger IDE development platforms and runs on Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris and Windows.


Eclipse: This editor was written with Java as the original primary language it works with, but thanks to numerous plugins, you can also edit in languages such as Perl, PHP, Python and more. Due to the open source nature, plugins are welcome for any language a developer feels like building one for. Due to Eclipse being nothing more than a run-time kernel, the program runs a bit more like a platform for plugins than anything else. This allows the overall program to be extremely lightweight, and you can install only the bits and pieces you need without weighing yourself down with excessive features. The program runs on Linux, Mac OS X and Windows.


J: J is a text editor written in Java that will work on any system with Java 1.4 installed, but 1.5 is recommended. This editor was updated in March 2009, although before that it hadn’t been touched since September 2004. The program runs on Linux, Mac OS X, OS/2, Unix, VMS, and Windows.


jEdit: In development since 1998, this Java-based editor has not had a major release since 2004, but has had numerous preview releases. While it is not the most current editor out there, the system does feature indenting and syntax highlighting for over 130 different programming languages. The program runs on Linux, Mac OS X, OS/2, Unix, VMS, and Windows.


JuffEd: JuffEd is an editor built for programmers and advanced users that features syntax highlighting for numerous languages including HTML, Java, JavaScript, Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby and many more. It also features several other useful tools such as auto-indent, auto-complete, line highlighting and so on. The program is cross-platform and runs on several different operating systems.


KompoZer: KompoZer was discontinued by the original creator a while back, but it is now being developed by the community that had built up around it. The program complies with W3C standards and generates new pages in HTML 4.01 by default. This WYSIWYG editor has a built-in HTML validator to check your work on the fly without having to leave the program. The program is compatible with Linux, Mac OS X and Windows.


NetBeans: This particular program is a mixture of an application framework and editor that includes syntax highlighting, JavaScript and CSS editing, tools for Ruby development and more. NetBeans runs on Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris and Windows.


RText: This text editor features syntax highlighting for over 20 languages, can support multiple fonts at the same time, code templates, edit multiple documents at once, and numerous other features. As RText is written in Java, it can run on Linux, Mac OS X, OS/2, Unix, VMS, and Windows.


SciTE: SciTE, short for SCIntilla based Text Editor, is a lightweight text editor that allows customization to suit your needs by simply editing text files. It features support for numerous languages, running scripts and even has a small EXE file so that you can run the program from a flash drive if your work calls for you to be at a computer other than your own. SciTE is compatible with Linux and Windows.


Mac OS X-Only Editors

Smultron: Smultron offers syntax highlighting for languages such as C, C++, CSS, D, HTML, Java, LISP, Python, Ruby, and XML as well as tabbed creation, column viewing, customizing shortcuts and a lot more.


TextWrangler: TextWrangler features syntax highlighting for multiple languages, file comparison, multiple undos and more. The program also allows for running scripts such as AppleScript, Python, Perl and Shell.


Windows-Only Editors

HAPedit: HAPedit provides syntax highlighting for ASP, CSS, HTML, JavaScript, PHP, SQL and more. Other features include an SQL console, FTP manager, statistics for your page to see how large the file is getting, amongst other features.


Notepad++: Besides supporting syntax highlighting for 48 different languages, the program is also designed to be more environmentally friendly than most editors. The program also supports split screen for viewing/cloning support, FTP browsing, auto-completion, WYSIWYG viewing and numerous other features.


NoteTab: NoteTab does offer a free light version, but it is more like a taste of what you can find in the paid versions. It is usable, and it doesn’t nag you about purchasing, but as you get familiar with it you will probably end up upgrading to Standard or Pro versions anyway.


PSPad: PSPad can edit C, HTML, JavaScript, PHP, Perl and others, it can also edit files directly on your server via an FTP interface, full hex editor, syntax highlighting, file comparison between text files and a lot of other features.


What is your favorite free program for editing your code?

  • I hate Eclipse with a passion. It’s buggy, bloated, slow and horrible.

    I may try some of the others there though.

  • Notetab was my first text editor I saw someone using it a few months ago and it brought back memories.

  • If you just want a simple editor with syntax highlighting, you can do a lot worse than Crimson Editor, which is Windows-only, but is also free. This seems to always get omitted from these lists, for some reason…

  • leelong

    why no mention of Komodo Edit(

  • Ylodi

    Geany – – Linux and Windows

  • Crimson’s not bad, but development stopped a while back. ConTEXT is better. I’d also add Komodo, TotalEdit, and Aptana (based on Eclipse).

    Really, though, if you’re using Windows, you won’t do much better than Notepad++. It’s lightweight, fast, completely configurable, has a thriving plugin community.

    Where are all the Vim and Emacs fans? They’re usually the first to comment on “my editor is better than yours” articles! ;^)

  • I have sworn by Notepad++ for years, first as a superior replacement for Notepad, and then as a good quick-and-dirty editor for when Dreamweaver is overkill for editing code. Its “Find in Files” feature is tremendous for searching multiple php files for a particular line of code that might need mass-editing.

  • Jaap

    I’m loving Netbeans for Ruby on Rails :-D

  • Galen

    I have been using EditPlus recently and it does a pretty good job. You are supposed to pay $30 for it but it works just fine if you continue to run it on the 30 day trial. It’s interface isn’t fancy, but it is fast and easy on your computer. I use Dreamweaver for the big stuff, but it it just something small, EditPlus works well.

  • walterbyrd

    Would gedit qualify? I usually use gedit on the linux side, and notepad++ on the windows side – that two editors are a lot alike. Then I use vim on both side.

  • Arkh

    You forgot to include vi and emacs. Nothing can beat them as text editors.

  • whyulil

    I quite like context. I dont know why, all the others seem to do everything it does and more.

  • alanrew

    I’ll also put in a word for Komodo Edit, which is free and runs on Windows, Mac and Linux.

  • Anonymous

    Programmer’s NotePad is my text-editor of choice.

  • Go TextPad go!

  • You forgot to mention my choice – Komodo Edit. It’s a great IDE.

  • I’ve been using NetBeans lately and really like it. Highly recommend it.

  • I happen to use Komodo Edit on both Linux and OS X. I’ve used it on Windows as well at times i had to use Windows (the sorrow… ;)). It’s great software in my opinion. The “Edit” (free) version is feature-complete, while the IDE (paid for) version has debugging tools and SVN/git/bazaar support for people who dream in code. Considering the scope of this article, Komodo Edit is more than enough and still appears as one of the most feature-complete editors (along with Eclipse/Aptana or Notepad++-cum-plugins). Regarding performance, it’s somewhere between the very lean Notepad++ (as some have said this is a great editor to use when you need to see the contents of a file quickly) and the massive Eclipse.

  • Bullardino

    You forgot to mention Komodo Edit. I love it, it has syntax highlighting, suggestions, autocompletion, and it’s open source.

  • AnandC

    Definitely Komodo Edit for Ruby on Rails.

    However my favorite light weight Editor is EditPlus (

  • …the program is also designed to be more environmentally friendly than most editors

    I think that statement could do with a bit of elaboration. How is Notepad++ environmentally friendly?

  • Anonymous

    For convenience, I need a text editor that has a built in FTP client, an upload on save feature, synchronization (get and put), a “no to all” option when overwriting files that are newer on the remote server, and a site-wide find and replace feature.

    Dreamweaver has all these features which I use every day. I only use the layout view when I’m trying to modify a previous developers table code with inline styling. Other than that, I stick to the text editor and FTP client. You can disable the auto formatting feature, which I hate and therefore do. Though lots of people hate it for whatever reason, I like Dreamweaver very much for the features I suggested, if only for the great amount of time it saves in development.

    If there was another program (Windows or Mac) that matches these features (and for a fraction of the price, or free), I’d highly consider it.

  • Andy

    No love for Notepad++?

  • Anonymous
  • @cranial-bore:
    I was wondering about the environmental friendliness of Notepad++ as well.

  • I used Arachnophilia eons ago. It was okay, but clunky (but then again, so was I). If it’s been revamped to become more powerful and efficient, it might not be a bad choice.

  • @Anonymous

    If there was another program (Windows or Mac) that matches these features [FTP & Search] (and for a fraction of the price, or free), I’d highly consider it.

    Notepad++ with the FTP Synchronize plugin (provided in the default installation) does all that. There’s no design/layout view, but it’s got auto-complete and a WebEdit plugin that makes manual HTML coding far faster anyway. It’s also open source. It’s Windows-only, but works well under Linux/Wine too.

  • Anonymous

    You haven’t mentioned Granny Basher.

  • Biju

    My fav is EditPlus and Windows NotePad.

  • Greg

    Komodo Edit FTW

  • m4tty

    i tried a few like those shown in the article inthe past and gotta say that they all pretty much sucked in getting my messy code cleaned up
    so better off keeping your code clean from the beginning than later on getting to use some thing like these apps

  • jameos

    Homesite. Plain and simple.

  • Aptana is an IDE I’ve been using at work for a while. Great software. I prefer it over Komodo in fact.

  • Jethro Larson

    I can’t believe you missed Textmate, e-text-editor, EMACS, VIM, and Notepad++. Seriously didn’t do your homework

  • I’ve been using Notepad++ for over a year. My conclusions:

    1. Pros: (1) You can code and save in just about any language you want; (2) You can save your HTML pages as UTF-8 without BOM, the preferred way of saving HTML pages. A few other editors I’ve tried don’t have this feature; (3) Very stable in Windows XP; (4) The plug-ins I’ve tried I like: ftp, and explorer.

    2. Cons: (1) Notepad++ has had a few bugs the past year for Find and Replace. Every update, it seems, is trying to fix this. I hope they’ve got it right now; (2) When I updated to version 5.2 the updater had to remove my Explorer plug-in because it was an ANSI plug-in not compatible with my new Unicode version. This ANSI versus Unicode thing is aggravating. The plug-in pages at Sourceforge must improve their text to better explain all of this, and better explain the install of plug-ins generally.

    Conclusion: Despite my complaints above, I’m very satisfied with Notepad++, and I really appreciate the effort the developers have put into it. Thanks to everyone who has worked on Notepad++. I hope you take my complaints as constructive criticism. (I suppose I should email this to the developers.)

  • Alek Davis

    I have been checking out Notepad++ and other text editors every now and then, but I always come back to PSPad. It serves me better than any other editor I tried including PSPad, TextPad, and TotalEdit. I am also a big fan of the minimalist Q10, but mostly because of aesthetics (don’t really use it much).

  • Aptana is great, I switched from my dreamweaver to it.

  • I love Notepad++ to bits! =) Particularly when editing PHP code. It saves me a lot of time when I’m customising our CMS. There may be better things out there but because Notepad++ has always done everything I’ve wanted I’ve never really looked for a replacement.

  • miklb

    @Jethro Larson – perhaps the post title of “Free” would be why there was no mention of Textmate :-/

  • Dave_L

    Prefer Scite, Komodo, Notepad++ and for down and dirty quick Wordpad

  • @Jethro Larson, Notepad++ is right there in the list.

  • AnilG

    Hey! You didn’t mention VIM !!!

  • WebKarnage

    If you want free text editing and FTP on the Mac, I’d use Smultron for editing and Cyberduck for FTP. You find the file you want to edit in CYberduck and can have Smultron set to be the preferred editor allowing you to double-click the file in CYberduck, edit in Smultron and when you save, it’s uploaded.

    TacoHTML v1.73 is still out there and free too (V2 is paid for) and has a split live preview/code edit layout. Very good. If you fancy paying the poultry $25 for TacoHTML 2 it is very good.

  • rimmer333

    I used to prefer Eclipse some other days, but now NetBeans is my favorite, providing me the same level of intelligence and usability wherever I do my development (I’ve got Windows, Linux and FreeBSD at hand). When it comes to just editing a couple of bytes or taking simple notes or formatting a long message to client, I take KDE’s Kate or Notepad++ under Windows – both fast and lightweight enough to catch my light thought. Most edited document in all of my systems is Untitled :)

  • Rod

    I’ve used textpad for a while, now I work with notepad++

  • theken

    PurYel also has a selection of 12 plain text editors in their directory:

  • Busy

    I’m always appalled that notepad2 never gets a mention. For a lightweight and blindingly fast notepad replacement for quick coding there is nothing better.

  • peval

    PSPad + KompoZer

  • I’ve used a few different editors like notepad++, context but have found HTMLKit to be the best for me.

  • Donnie You’re Out of Your Element

    Surprised TopStyle has not made this list – It’s the best. If only there were a Mac version… sniff.

  • Kevin

    E Text Editor is fantastic. Textmate like functionality for windows.

  • paul

    you forgot quanta plus

  • Kew

    I like TED Notepad (, for its simplicity and large variety of text-processing functions. Although it has no toolbars and fancy gadgets, its arsenal of tools is like a swiss-army-knife for text.. And it’s portable, which means it can store it’s settings on a USB stick.

  • Why haven’t you mentioned “Komodo Editor”?
    It has also a free version

  • Andrew

    Tried them all, but Scintilla wins every time. It seems to be the the only editor that is fully customisable. Fiddly at first to configure, but the time spent is worth it.

  • Eric Burdo

    Don’t shoot me, but you can also use the Visual Web Developer 2008 Express edition for web design. Yes, it’s a Microsoft product. But it works well, and is free.

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