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2012-01-07 📌 More on text editors: NoteTab, jEdit and Programmer's Notepad 2.3

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The good news for people who like NoteTab Light is that you can get NoteTab Std or NoteTab Pro free, via TrialPay and careful selection of the offers available. The pro version (unlike the standard or light ones) allows multiple undo steps, which is helpful when you're writing code rather than general text.

Let's just ponder that for a moment. The standard version is a commercial text editor in 2011 and you can only undo the last bit of text typed.

NoteTab's really showing its age, these days. It has multiline regular expression support, and you'd be surprised how many text editors and how many regex implementations fail on this very simple point. It's light-weight, and a few of its text functions such as the ability to sort lines are oddly missing from a lot of editors. But those are the about the only things going for it now. Other text editors support unicode, include proper file browsers, have more customisable syntax highlighting, their syntax highlighting works with languages other than basic HTML, etc.

Basically it hasn't really changed since I last looked at it five years ago except for a welcome switch to PCRE, and at the time it hadn't really changed since I was in college more than five years before that. An incredible bit of coding for its time, one I still use daily at work for tasks that would otherwise fall to Notepad, and it's nice that it's still receiving minor updates, but I doubt it's ever going to get the complete rewrite of its input control that would be necessary to achieve the more 'modern' features listed above.

If you put my feature requirements together... well, jEdit technically meets them, but has never stuck as a long-term main text editor. Although it's possible to make jEdit truly portable and take your config with you by giving it its own local Java runtime environment (see the excellent X-jEdit project) and the scrollwheel behaviour appears to finally have been fixed to respect system settings, it still feels alien and a bit sluggish.

In these situations I tend to find myself googling all of the usual keywords, hoping that some new text editor has appeared or one I've looked at in the past has come on... and unusually, this wasn't an exercise in frustration. Posts on pointed out that although Programmer's Notepad uses Scintilla, its regular expression support has been extended significantly beyond the limitations of that component since I last checked it out... apparently full Perl syntax, although the online help hadn't been updated since 2009 at the time of writing to reflect this development. There's even a little add-on that sorts lines, as well as some features that look interesting: multiple selections, and highlighting all instances of a selected word.

For more complicated tasks, the editing buffer is exposed to Python scripting through an optional extension, with a range of user-written scripts already available to hack on. There'll be a learning curve, but provided the application itself remains stable it's very much future-proofed; it's probable that any text manipulation function seen in other software can be implemented in PN2.

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