Top text editors

Every computer user needs a basic text editor for Readme files and simple note taking capabilities. But if you want added features like a tabbed interface or extras that help you with coding projects, you need one of these programs.

Text Editors

Every computer user needs a basic text editor for Readme files and simple note taking capabilities--that's why Windows comes with Notepad. But if you want added features like a tabbed interface, search and replace functionality, or extras that help you with coding projects, you need to look for the more full-featured alternatives. The best editors come with numerous features and work great for editing code for Web sites, but also for simply writing quick notes, and pasting excerpts from the Web when aggregating research for a project.

Fortunately, some of the best software in this category is free, but you can also use "Light" versions of paid software and still get most of the useful features.

NoteTab Light

NoteTab Light offers a tabbed interface and adds several libraries of premade code bits called "clips" you can access through a pull-down menu on the left side of the interface. These clips can be anything from commonly used code to quick formatting tools available at a click of your mouse. You can also quickly preview your work in your default Web browser from within the interface. NoteTab Light offers a lightweight footprint and is a huge upgrade from the Notepad included with Windows.


TextPad is another excellent text editor with a "light" version that most users will find offers plenty of features. Like NoteTab, TextPad offers a host of features like a tabbed-interface, and helpful formatting tools for indenting, line numbering, character transposing, and condition-based word wrapping. TextPad will bug you with a nag screen periodically, but most features are available even in this time-unlimited "light" version.


EditPlus is a text editing tool that's popular with a lot of people because of its ability to use simple FTP commands to get your files online from within the program. Powerful features for Web authors like a built-in Web browser for previews and syntax highlighting for HTML, CSS, PHP, ASP, Perl, C/C++, and many more make this program an excellent alternative. Added handy features like a Windows Explorer-like file directory built-in to the interface and a wealth of commonly used code clips (like NoteTab Light) make this software particularly appealing. EditPlus is a 30-day trial, but with all of its useful features, the $35 price tag is more than worth it.


Notepad++ is a popular choice among serious code crunchers because it's loaded with useful features and it's completely free. It supports several programming languages, offers syntax highlighting, drag-and-drop functionality, and you can easily launch a preview in IE or Firefox from within the software. As a free option, anybody wanting to see what it's like using a text editor even if it is for making lists or doing Web research has nothing to lose with this excellent text editor. But the popularity of this software among serious coders is definitely warranted, with more than enough features for most projects.

About Jason Parker

Jason Parker has been at CNET for more than 13 years. He is the Senior Editor in charge iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.