Tools: Notepad++

Dealing with text is a huge part of a programmer’s job. While issues of proper design, working with the product requirements, and appropriately testing your code might be more difficult to master, simply navigating massive amounts of code day to day can be a challenge in itself.

Hence, text editors have sparked a million flame wars across the internet. My needs are more modest than the sort of flexibility in emacs or more costly proprietary editors like SlickEdit. I primarily use it for editing snippets of text, cleaning up lists, tracking check-in notes before pasting them into our bug tracking software.

My absolute needs:

  • Fast startup (as close to Notepad as possible)

  • Keystroke macros (learned in Brief on my Dad’s knee and still use those skills today)

  • Regex find/replace

Most of the rest is gravy.

Now why, you might ask, wouldn’t I just use Visual Studio? I’m constantly running it for my main code editing. Well, it clearly fails the first test. Especially when hitting “special” files such as XML and HTML, it bogs down loading up specialized editors I just don’t need. It does have a keystroke macro mode, but it also takes an absurd amount of time to start first time around. That just bugs me. Yeah, I use it, but never happily.

So what is the current winner for my random text editor/formatting/processing? The venerable Notepad++. As the name suggests, it’s a better replacement for Notepad, and it scores on all the points I listed above. Even better, the macro record has the same shortcut key as the same laggy feature in VS. Such symmetry makes my nerdy heart go pitter-patter.

Notepad++ has some other nice features too–some keystroke customization, syntax highlighting, viewing options. My only beefs are no multi-window support (it’s single instance) and the Open File dialog hitting the last opened directory rather than the directory of the current file (a minor detail I just love about VS, and wish was done everywhere).

I’ve also toyed with Notepad2, which was almost equivalent for my needs except the lack of keystroke macros. In any case, if you’re using Notepad still for minor text edits, stop it and give something a little better a try.