Why I’m using Windows nagware on my Linux box

When I switched to Linux a couple of years ago, I was able to find excellent replacements for most of the software I used on Windows. In a couple cases I had to use Wine to run my favorite Windows-only programs until I was more comfortable with the replacements, but there was one that I never gave up: Textpad.

Textpad is a tabbed text editor with syntax highlighting. If that was all I wanted, I'd use Gedit or Gvim or some other native Linux app. But I haven't been able to find a decent replacement, regardless of operating system, so I've been running Textpad under Wine. Here's a list of the major advantages:

  • Regular expression find, mark, and replace: Not quite Perl-compatible, but pretty damn good.
  • Proper tabs: Supports tabbed editing and a [ctrl]+[tab] shortcut that works the same way [alt]+[tab] does on many operating systems, as opposed to acting as a next/previous tab action.
  • Syntax highlighting: Based on configurable syntax files. A user-contributed library of these is available for download at the main site. (Not multi-language highlighting, unlike vim.)
  • Regex searching of multiple files, even into subdirectories.
  • Search and replace on multiple open documents simultaneously.
  • Fast as hell.
  • Workspaces: Save and restore collections of open documents, including selections and cursor positions.
  • Auto-linking of file/line/position in command results: Textpad can be configured to locate file names in command results (e.g. compiler errors) and link to them on double-click.
  • Shell commands: Call command-line programs using keyboard shortcuts, accepts "macros" such as FILE_NAME and DIR_PATH.

Great stuff, but Textpad is also closed-source Windows-only nagware (I finally paid to register it after about 5 years of use), and I'd love to hear suggestions for alternatives.


Responses: 13 so far

  1. Nathaniel says:

    I'm glad to hear you're looking. While TextPad is undoubtedly my choice if I'm stuck working with Windows, I've learned that there are plenty of choices for Linux. They don't all have the features that TextPad has, but hey, vim has a lot more, and so does emacs. For non-shell editors, there is Bluefish, Gedit (with all the plugins) and Kate.. probably some more too. I think you can edit Bluefish syntax files, but I've never needed to do it. I think that if you want to wash the dishes with your editor, you need to migrate to vim or emacs. :-)

  2. Tim McCormack says:

    Thing is, TextPad isn't the kitchen sink. It has some power features, but not the bloat that I associate with them. Bluefish is a bit crowded for my tastes, and Kate is slow. Gedit, Bluefish, and Eclipse all have useless tabs that don't maintain a most-to-least-recent tab ordering. (Firefox does the same thing, annoyingly.)

    Sure, I could use vim, but I really want a graphical editor, or at least one that uses modifier keys for commands.

    Maybe I'm just being too picky. :-P

  3. Nathaniel says:

    Sounds like it's time to write "TimPad" or "MacEdit" or "Tedit" :-) Maybe you can even borrow from Bluefish (I prefer GTK over QT).

    I also don't like the way most editors order tabs... It's got to be an easy thing to keep a history of them. I think there is or was an option in one of the extensions for firefox that lets you return to the last tab you opened.

  4. grendelkhan says:

    There's always jEdit, the programmer's text edit. I use it for regex search-and-replace support, XML validation and column-select, but there's a ton of features there that I've never even poked at.

  5. Tim McCormack says:

    I have used jEdit, but it has a somewhat, erm, unique user interface. Maybe it just requires a bit more configuration -- I'll give it another try.

  6. Xaprb says:

    Dude. Vim. You know you want to.

    Seriously -- I used Textpad for years too. Hell, I'd give you my license if you wanted it, cuz I'm not going back. (To Windows, or to Textpad if I did -- Vim runs great on Windows). Textpad has a small fraction of the power of Vim.

    Modifier keys sound nice because they're um, modified, but once you learn the power of not pressing many keys at once, you tend to view them as complexity for its own sake, and you never go back. Ever. Plus if you have any issues with RSI and you use modifiers, it makes it much worse.

    Luke, come to the light side... use Vim.

  7. Tim McCormack says:

    @Xaprb: I know, I know, Vim for so many reasons. But there is a significant learning curve and paradigm shift required to start using it practically, and I haven't felt a strong enough pull to really tackle that. Perhaps I just don't know enough about the features of Vim, and how they compare to my favorite text editor?

    What would you regard as the best way to start learning Vim? (I already know how to open, edit, save, and close documents, but that's it.)

  8. Kamil Kisiel says:

    Definitely Vim. It can do all of the things in your list. If you want modifier key shortcuts, nothing keeps you from creating your own mappings within Vim. It might take you a while to get up and running, but once you do, you won't want to go back to anything else. As a bonus, it's cross-platform so you're not locked in to any platform/API like you are with something like TextPad. I've been a Vim user for years since I started out learning Vi on a UNIX terminal in early highschool because it was the only thing I had available for editing email. Once you get over the initial learning hump, it's fairly smooth flying from there and you can discover new things all the time. I keep all my configuration files on an HTTP accessible subversion server so that I can sync them to any machine I am working on and then send any new modifications back upstream and propagate them on to all my other machines. I recommend #vim on the Freenode IRC network for help.

  9. Cullen says:

    If you are not looking forward to trying to learn vim, there are handy Dandy faqs and stuff online. Also you could try Gvim. It's vim with a nice graphical interface around it. You can still use all the keyboard shortcuts and everything, but you can also use the mouse. Quite cool.

  10. Brian says:

    For learning vim, I've found the vim-tutorial to work great (I ran through it on Windows, came with the install of gvim). It helped me dip my toe into the more complex areas of vim editing, with a little assistance. It started out simple, but turned out to be surprisingly helpful!

  11. Paul Glover says:

    Yes, GVim is a good starting point. You can use the normal Vim commands and keystrokes, but have the option to fall back to the menus for commands you don't know or rarely use. Also the commands are shown alongside the menu options making a handy quick reference.

    Or you could take the approach I was forced into. I took on the sysadmin liaison role in my department (a Solaris shop), and had no choice but to learn vim. Up until then I'd wanted to, but the learning curve scared me silly. Started off knowing just enough to edit and save, and picked up more as I went along (having a crib sheet pinned up beside the monitor helped here).

    Now I use vim and it's variants everywhere I can, and feel totally out of my comfort zone if forced to use anything else. It can be learned, and it's worth it (just don't be surprised if you find yourself pressing Esc :x when you finish writing a blog post... ;-) )

  12. sunjammer says:

    Not to mention recursive search through a directory tree. If you want to do things like "look for every file with the word LINUX in it in this filesystem", Textpad/Textpad32 is your program.

  13. Tim McCormack says:

    @sunjammer: Absolutely! Sure, I could do it from the command line, but it's *way* faster do it from the editor interface.