The Best Free Text Editor

How many times have you’ve seen this title in a blog? There certainly are enough opinions out there and everyone has their favorites. So without further ado here’s my choice - EmEditor.

This editor does the four things I demand in an editor.

  • It opens very large files quickly
  • Does not cutoff long lines
  • Supports Unicode fully
  • Scrolls quickly no matter line length or file size

I have found very few text editors that can do all four things. For instance, the text editor in Visual Studio 2008 does not meet these requirements (it cuts off long lines). Others like NoteTab Plus and PS Pad come close but fail on one or more points. Of course EmEditor does much more like syntax highlighting, clickable URLs and regular expressions, but those are all nice to haves. The first job of a text editor is to render text files fast, accurately and with low friction.

Here’s a particular torture test I like to inflict on text edtiors that is always revealing. Open a multi-megabyte PDF file. Yeah, I know, PDF’s have binary portions and so are not strictly text files but it is quite revealing how many editors deal with this particular test. Many crash. Others take a very long time to open. Still others scroll like a dog on downers. EmEditor handles this test with no problem.

There are certainly other requirements that could be added to this list. For instance, the editor should load quickly (not a file but the editor itself). However, I’ve found if the above 4 requirements are met, the editor usually is fast to load. Line numbers are also highly desirable (for me at least).

Like many choices, mine is personal and fits my particular workflow and usage. Give it try and tell me what you think and if you have one you think is better (and free), don’t hesitate to tell me.

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