A Collection of the Best Text Editors
All Windows and Mac machines have basic text editors, but TextEdit and Notepad aren't sufficient for serious web developers. Fortunately, there is no shortage of alternatives. Below is a roundup of the best text editors including free and premium options.
Why would you need a more advanced text editor?
Best collaborative text editors
There are certain online-based text editors available which are built for collaborative use. Whether that be for interview purposes, team coding session, or easy code sharing, these collaborative text editors are great for easily getting more than one set of eyes on your code.
CodeShare is the first service that allows you to share your code in real time. It's extremely useful for remote hiring purposes, code reviews, debugging sessions, etc. One differentiator from CodeShare is that it also allows you to talk over video, which in some cases can prove to be quite beneficial.
You are required to port code over from your local development environment and it should be noted that code is only saved for 24 hours unless an account is created.
Codeanywhere provides a variety of useful features for coding on the go. It comes with an intuitive editor, allows you to connect remotely, has a built-in terminal console, and provides the ability to track revisions.
With Codeanywhere you can easily share files or complete project folders with any collaborator via a simple share link.
Codeanywhere does come with a free tier however also has plans starting at $2/month going to $40/month.
CodePen is already known as a quite collaborative platform. You can create pens directly on the CodePen platform and share them with others. However, CodePen also comes with a Collab Mode which allows you and other collaborators to edit a pen at the same time.
Although Collab Mode does require a PRO subscription for the pen creator, collaborators aren't required to pay in order to make edits. Furthermore, this mode also comes with a handy chat feature so that you can discuss any changes with your team in real time.
Best free text editors
All of the options below support most major programming languages, but none of them support every single language. Before you download a text editor, check the maker's website to ensure that your language of choice is supported. If you're primarily developing websites, then these editors should be sufficient.
1. Atom (not maintained anymore)
2. Visual Studio Code
Like Atom, Visual Studio Code is still relatively new (also released in 2015) however has been successful in gaining quite a bit of traction since then. It is built to run cross-platform, has an extensive plugin ecosystem, and comes with a few welcoming features to make life easier including:
- Built-in Git commands
- IntelliSense, which goes beyond highlighting and autocompletion with smart completions
- Debugging directly from the editor
VSCode has also shown to be faster than other popular text editors such as Atom. Furthermore, if you prefer to work with minimal distractions, you can also enable VSCode's "Zen Mode" which hides all menus/windows and maximizes the editor screen.
Brackets was made with web developers in mind. Consequently, there are versions of Brackets for Linux, Windows and Mac. Don't be deceived by the simple UI; Brackets supports dozens of keyboard shortcuts in addition to advanced features like split-screen editing. With the Live Preview feature, you can watch your web pages update in real time as you edit CSS and HTML files. Plugins provide additional support for things like W3C validation and Python tools.
As an upgraded version of the default Notepad for Windows, Notepad++ does everything its namesake can do and much more. It allows you to open documents in tabs so that you can edit multiple files without having to open and close them. You can also control all the tabs simultaneously to compare documents for differences, search for text and replace text.
Notepad++ only works with Windows devices, of course, but there is a mobile version available. There are also plenty of plugins you can download to set up auto-save features, merge text from multiple documents and much more.
TextMate is a great text editor exclusively for Mac users. This Apple Design Award-winning tool has all of the features you'd expect like search and replace, auto-indentation and word completion. You can code in any programming language, but TextMate also comes with a special tool specifically for building Xcode projects.
Vim was one of the best text editors when it was released in 1991, so the fact that it's on this list is a testament to this program's greatness. Developers are still producing new scripts and updates. Due to the editor's age, documentation and tutorials about Vim are easy to find. Vim works on all major platforms.
Check out our Vim commands cheat sheet for a complete overview of the Vim commands you need to know.
7. Komodo Edit
In addition to tabbed browsing, Komodo Edit offers numerous UI options to make editing as convenient as possible. For example, Focus Mode hides all other open windows so that you can concentrate on coding. Alternatively, you can choose to view folders on the side of the editor. An underrated but much-appreciated feature is the button that lets you return to your previous cursor location. If you need more advanced functionality like debugging, unit testing and code refactoring, check out.
Best paid text editors
1. Sublime Text
Just because Sublime Text is lightweight doesn't mean it lacks features. Sublime Text was built from the ground up with a Python API for developers who work with code all day long. Thanks to the editor's array of keyboard shortcuts, you can quickly navigate your code and make changes to multiple lines at once. Not only is Sublime Text cross-platform, but it utilizes the native functionalities of each OS to optimize speed and ease-of-use.
Sublime can be downloaded for evaluation for free however continued use requires the purchase of a license.
2. CoffeeCup HTML
As its name suggests, CoffeeCup HTML Editor is ideal for creating and managing HTML documents. Therefore, it's a popular option among web developers. Notable premium features include a code cleaner and HTML validation. There is a free version with fewer features, but you can try the full program for free for 21 days.
Another Apple exclusive, BBEdit is the spiritual successor to TextWrangler. BB stands for bare bones, which is an apt description for BBEdit's interface, but this premium text editor supports advanced features like code folding and Git integration. Try the full version at no cost for 30 days.
If you're new to web development, start with an open source text editor like Atom or Bracket. Many of the free editors are powerful enough to meet the needs of most web projects. As you gain confidence in your coding capabilities, you may find such text editors too restrictive, so a premium option could be worth the investment if it can help you work faster and more efficiently.