Our favourite text editors (Rose)

I hope we can start a conversation about this because a good text editor can make a big difference to a newbie, so PLEASE REPLY!!! I wanted to proselytise about Npp, but it only runs on Windows. So if you use a different OS, please make that BLEEDINGLY OBVIOUS.

Notepad++ (WINDOWS )

I’ve tried a numerous text editors over the years (like Context), but Notepad++ (Npp) is easily my favourite. It only runs on Windows, but I use it to export Unix formatted files routinely. You can set shortcut keys to change formats very easily. Npp can highlight lots of languages, including R, perl and unix. You can also define your own languages for highlighting – I did that to make my Migrate parameter files easier to read.

As well as the usual highlighting and bracket matching capability, there are several other useful features built in, like a search results window and a file browser. The ability to manipulate several files at once is really cool – you can search and replace in all open files if you want, save all of them with one click and close all of them with one click, which is great when making parameter files and such like. NPP has an active community of plugin writers (and users), plus some standard plugins that work really well. The ones I use a lot are MultiClipboard and NppFTP. There’s also one that communicates with R, but I haven’t used that one yet – I’d be interested to hear what it’s like (I’m using Rstudio at the moment).

Let us know if you like or hate Npp, or if you have a different favourite text editor.

7 thoughts on “Our favourite text editors (Rose)

  1. I use gedit mostly. At least when I am writing Perl on my computer. It has lots of nice highlighting options, numbered lines, bracket completion and so on. It comes installed on ubuntu with all this functionality. It has a pretty good R plugin (if you can get it installed properly). It is called R-gedit, it basically opens a terminal in the bottom half of the window which you can send a line or lines to. You can open a terminal in it for other uses also. I think it is able to fun on windows (npp may not run on linux)

    When I am writing in a terminal I normally use “nano” which is probably the most basic option out there. There is very limited functionality and its not overly pretty but if you want to just get something done without having to re-invent the wheel its always going to be there.

    >nano fileuwanttoedit.txt

    After watching Chris do some work I think I might spend some time getting to know Vim. This looks very powerful and is the level of program that true computer people use. Maybe Chris can say more?

    edit: I use linux

    • thanks greg. Didn’t know about R-gedit. I like. I like!

      Installation is pretty straightforward. Just download and extract the .tar file. then follow the instructions in gedit>help>content>Configure and use gedit Plugins>Additional gedit plugins.



  2. Great post Greg. I like vim for command-line editing too.
    By the way, could you please make it more obvious that you’re using LINUX?

    • I like vim, too, and gedit. However, it turns out notepad++ works very well in ubuntu (LINUX), using wine. So, I’m playing around with that a bit – seems like a good program.
      For those interested in trying this out, download notepad++ portable from this link:
      You may have to make the downloaded file executable to install, but otherwise (assuming wine is already installed) just right click and run with wine to install, then run with wine as usual (you may have to browse to find

  3. +1 for Rstudio!
    I like Vim, mostly for its visual mode. It’s available for every operating system.
    Here are some online resources that you might find useful:

    A gentle introduction.
    “Mastering the vi editor” – I suspect almost all of it is applicable to vim as well.
    “7 Habits For Effective Text Editing 2.0” – A 1hr20min Google Tech Talk by Vim’s creator.

    I also like that it loads a preset file when it starts. On *nix OSs the file is located here:
    Mine looks like this:

    set background=dark
    let g:solarized_termcolors=16
    colorscheme solarized
    let perl_extended_vars = 1
    syntax on
    set ruler
    set autoindent
    set smartindent
    set tabstop=4
    set shiftwidth=4
    set number
    set showmatch
    set vb

    This is a ‘dotfile’, which is normally hidden from ls. Bash loads one too. You can use ls -lash to see them.

    • It is safe to copy the lines from “syntax on” to “set vb” to your .vimrc, if you choose.

  4. For short to medium sized scripts: Notepad++ on windows. As Nolan mentioned, you will need WINE to get it running on linux. Or you can just use Gedit for a graphical user interface or VIM on a terminal on linux.

    For anything big or anything using an object-oriented language, I highly recommend using an IDE (integrated development environment). They will have quick buttons for navigating class hierarchy, navigating last edit/view points, refactoring, debugging, compiling, unit tests, etc.

    On Windows and Linux, you can use Eclipse IDE for java projects. Eclipse also has perl plugin called EPIC, which comes in handy if you have complicated perl scripts with many modules or functions.

    For C++, I have always used Visual Studio IDE on Windows. The professional version can be quite expensive, but there are free student editions out there. On Linux, I started using CodeBlocks, which is free.

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