Top 5 Best Linux Text Editors

by Ramesh Natarajan on July 1, 2009

As part of the contest that was conducted a while back, I got around 200 responses from the geeky readers who choose their favorite Linux text editor.
 
Based on this data, the top spot in the best Linux text editor goes to…
 
Vi / Vim Editor
 
Vim won by a huge margin and I don’t think this is surprise to anybody. If you are new to any of the Linux text editors listed in the top 5, read the rest of the article to understand little bit more about those editors.

 

Top 5 Best Free Text Editors - Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, CentOS, RedHat, AIX, Unix
Fig: Favorite Linux Text Editor Voting Results

1. Vim Editor

Unix Vim Editor Logo

Vim 101 Hacks eBook contains 101 practical examples on various advanced Vim features that will make you fast and productive in the Vim editor.

2. gEdit Editor

Unix gEdit Editor Logo

gedit is the default text editor for the GNOME desktop environment.  This is a UTF-8 compatible text editor.

3. Nano Editor

Unix Nano Editor Logo

4. gVim Editor

5. Emacs Editor

Unix Emacs Editor Logo


Linux Sysadmin Course Linux provides several powerful administrative tools and utilities which will help you to manage your systems effectively. If you don’t know what these tools are and how to use them, you could be spending lot of time trying to perform even the basic administrative tasks. The focus of this course is to help you understand system administration tools, which will help you to become an effective Linux system administrator.
Get the Linux Sysadmin Course Now!

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like..

  1. 50 Linux Sysadmin Tutorials
  2. 50 Most Frequently Used Linux Commands (With Examples)
  3. Top 25 Best Linux Performance Monitoring and Debugging Tools
  4. Mommy, I found it! – 15 Practical Linux Find Command Examples
  5. Linux 101 Hacks 2nd Edition eBook Linux 101 Hacks Book

Bash 101 Hacks Book Sed and Awk 101 Hacks Book Nagios Core 3 Book Vim 101 Hacks Book

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

1 NetSpider July 1, 2009 at 9:34 am

my favorites:
FreeBSD: ee
Linux: nano
:)

2 coral July 1, 2009 at 10:07 am

Ah, but you forgot jedit!

http://www.jedit.org/

3 Michael July 1, 2009 at 10:59 am

Vim is amazing. Nano, and especially gEdit, are a lot more convenient for beginning Linux users.

4 octopusgrabbus July 1, 2009 at 11:18 am

I did not see http://vim.wikia.com mentioned on your list of sites. It’s got great vim tips, scripts, and such.

5 Zeke Krahlin July 1, 2009 at 11:41 am

TEA text editor gets my vote! It’s a feature-rich GUI text editor, don’t know how I could live without it.

http://tea-editor.sourceforge.net/

6 Binny V A July 1, 2009 at 1:06 pm

My favorite is Kate/Kwrite.

7 Daniel July 1, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Looks like you got around 158 responses, which is a far cry from 200.

I’m all for rounding, but you basically added an additional 25% to the true figure.

8 bubblefish July 1, 2009 at 3:14 pm

I can’t believe it… only two votes for emacs?? lol

9 hans berger July 2, 2009 at 1:12 am

Anybody knows geany? My favorite!

10 lakshmanan July 2, 2009 at 3:00 am

vim rocks.

11 Rick July 2, 2009 at 12:23 pm

I like Vim and Nedit.

12 inkpad July 3, 2009 at 10:15 am

scite should have been in there somewhere

13 Arun Shivaram July 4, 2009 at 8:02 am

My choices are Vim and Gedit

14 Joe Klemmer July 7, 2009 at 9:32 am

It’s always difficult to cover text editors. There are almost as many editors are there are people who use them. Plus, the majority of techies tent to use more than one editor for different types of tasks. For example;

I use vim for the majority of my text editing but I also use pico/nano for email as (al)pine is The One. It would not be uncommon for me to use gedit, nedit or mousepad either.

15 Ramesh Natarajan July 8, 2009 at 11:22 pm

@NetSpider, @coral, @Michael, @Zeke Krahlin, @Binny V A, @hans berger, @Lakshmanan, @Rick, @Inkpad, @Arun Shivaram, @Joe Klemmer,

Thanks for sharing your favorite editor with us.

For those who are interested, following are the different editors mentioned in the previous comments that are not listed in the “top 5″ of this article.

FreeBSD ee Editor
JEdit
TEA Text Editor
Kate / KWrite Editor
Geany Editor
NEdit is a multi-purpose text editor for the X Window System
A free source code editor for Win32 and X
Pico Text Editor
Mousepad Editor

16 runlevel0 July 11, 2009 at 2:11 am

Kate opens my list,
I am also starting to use Geanny, alltough this is more a lightweight IDE, therefore quite convenient.

I have also been using Emacs for C development, but I am now trying to get into Perl and I find other editors more useful.

17 Ramesh Natarajan July 14, 2009 at 9:58 pm

@runlevel0, Looks like you are using multiple editors. Just playing around with all these editors can be lot of fun.

18 rakesh uv July 15, 2009 at 10:47 pm

This is for newbies,
I like vim, personally i feel for newbies, they should stick to an editor(i preferred vim),learn it thoroughly, explore and exploit it , add plug ins and customize it for your needs, see if you could do almost most of the work done(this is a gradual process, need lot of patients, but worthy).

If any editor doesn’t allow you do the above, then that seems to be not a better editor.
if you have a lot to do with editor and have an hacking attitude use vim/emacs, they have these common features

->few key storkes
->interface to shell, very rich inbuilt commands for text editing
->wonderful plug ins and help over net,
->good performance, almost on UNIX machine you could at least find a vi.
->along with plunging like c vim, c tags, c scope, and interface with gdb makes it perfect for development.

but you should also get to know and get updated about other editors to see if your editor is not falling behind, if yes then try to get that features in yours,

19 Ismael Casimpan July 16, 2009 at 3:40 am

Vi will actually be the clear winner as it’s always installed in whatever version of Linux or Unix based OS. If you don’t know vi, you will be paralyzed in critical situations where the OS is stripped down to the minimum with vi the only way to edit.

20 Eloar August 11, 2009 at 2:48 pm

There is no editors from KDE. I prefere Kate or kWrite, which are fast and simple, but powerful.

21 Electric Ego November 29, 2009 at 1:19 am

GEdit is nice one. Love its’ tabbed interface and syntax highlighting. For barebone, notepad like interface, I use mousepad.

22 MattE July 11, 2010 at 7:11 pm

Obviously followers of Ramesh are Vim fans. Emacs is the the mentally disturbed. Eclipse is for developers who have too much RAM or CPU. Vi and nano is always there for you. Vim rules them all!

23 anonymous July 1, 2011 at 3:35 pm

The best is gvim then vim

24 fionn February 18, 2012 at 3:51 pm

I’d like to point out that ‘ed’ is the standard editor.

25 Econ Wrangler, PhD CFA April 11, 2012 at 4:17 am

1’000 Karma Points for cracking me up…

MattE, “…Emacs is for the mentally disturbed.” Quite so. Emacs was my first editor after leaving vax/vms for att unix. Anybody remember getting mail and (the real) ‘news’ on Tin as a character window through Emacs? Or muttering in frustration at not finding Emacs, so typing $ vi -o.

fionn, who reminds us that ed is THE editor, gets a laugh at being one of those hard arsed types who actually likes writing awk scripts. Probably several before lunchtime.

26 james May 16, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Nedit … a hangover from Irix days but still useful and good.

27 Martin June 8, 2012 at 7:42 am

Emacs is suitable to lisp and ruby~
Vi and Vim is used to code like C/C++
Say gEdit is used to HTML, JS .etc.

28 Ardi July 27, 2012 at 1:10 am

Vim on console,
Emacs or Geany on gui

29 gw October 19, 2012 at 2:28 pm

emacs is the best. PERIOD.

30 Fergus November 18, 2012 at 7:04 am

Vim? Seriously? Do people pick this specifically because they want to make sure that people’s initial experience of Linux-type systems is as off-putting as possible?

If you still think of GUIs and user interface design as new-fangled fripperies, not fit for proper computer folks, then okay – VIM or EMACS are completely reasonable choices in that context. If you’re used to being able to figure out how to do anything at all in an application without having to look it up, or if you ever find yourself recommending text editors for anyone who isn’t a massive old-school geek, please, nano, every time. Or Geany if you have the option of using some kind of windowing system.

31 Roger November 29, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Mt McKinley is not the highest mountain in the world. But it has just about the largest distance from base to top. In similar fashion, vi/vim has the largest gap between availability (everywhere) and usability (practically non-existent, unintuitive, etc.) Emacs is not much better. @Fergus has it right: both of those are dinosaurs.

Which editor, besides those, is the most generally findable/installable/usable without a lot of training? One GUI-based, of course. (What used to be called WYSIWYG.) If nano or Geany is easy to get and install, fine, as long as the process of getting it installed and usable is not worse than the curve to learn one of the old dinosaurs.

32 boutrosdu93 December 15, 2012 at 10:01 pm

I’d like to understand why so meany people chose win
because they are clearly not the best to use them when you begin with linux but have a completely inuintitive way of functionning and saying it’s the best because it’s on every unix system dooooh
i’m sure many hours are spent in training people in these useful stuff whereas it would be easy to add a small text editor and if you want efficiency you still have vi

33 hadi ghasemian January 23, 2013 at 1:24 am

only eclipse

34 suvarna shinde May 22, 2013 at 9:59 am

Vim is good one……

35 Personne September 19, 2013 at 7:28 am

Another vote for Geany!

36 rg November 8, 2013 at 1:38 am

I gotta go with Fergus on this one. While tinkerers and those with guru meditation syndrome might like vim, vi, emacs, nano whatall… reality is a GUI based editor is so so so much more intuitive AND more so productive.

Linux is alive in various flavors much in the same way FreeBSD has lived. Apple took BSD and made iOS from it. Linux sits on many many web servers, servers and yes… even home users. But, when comparing how many average folks use a computer both WIndows and Mac’s win hands down.

Using a computer means the ability to use it. Period. Not have to go through craploads of crap to do so.

I am a software engineer, C++,C#, VB, PHP etc along w/ MSSQL, MySQL, Oracle etc.

I just set up a dell server for some software I am coding up in PHP (unfortunately) mainly so I can do load tests under CentOS. What FUN! It took me only 9 hours from start to finish to get the whole rig development ready. Cool huh?

In WIndows it’d taken about 2 hours that being the time to install and configure Visual Studio, .NET and MSSQL.

Its no wonder that Linux admirer’s like to remember 7000 commands and use things like vim and the reason is they never have really used something thats up to todays mark. Try a fully integrated environment like Visual Studio say with C++ as a fair comparison. I can get easily 400-500% more productive. Everything I need in one place, all nice and consistent to use.

I have to do the linux stuff due to what I am working on. As a coder of 30 years now and WAY back working with unix I see not much has changed in 30 years. While the rest of the computing world stepped away from DOS and into the operating environments that have moved computing, gaming, portable devices forward some still love to love what is really painful to adore.

SO why not use MicroJunks stuff on my project then? Simple. I need maximum bang from the server bucks. Linux is far far faster than the Microsoft technologies as the paradigm is different. Microsoft is and still does count on hardware becoming a dime a dozen and speed/storage becoming a non-issue. They are on the money with that btw. The plan is no matter if its a home PC, intelligent TV, tablet, phone, laptop or game machine everything is accessible and usable via any device.

Eclipse is a very good editor in comparison to anything else I have saw mentioned. No surprise, java developers.

C++ and java run the enterprise world (not just online btw).

While PHP is what it is and oodles of coders think its just the “BEST” its not. It in fact is written in C++ as is Apache, mySQL etc. That in itself ought make a want to be coder go, “oh”.

Host firms love PHP, I know, I worked for two. They love it because any site that develops real traffic ALWAYS trys the “I need buy a faster host plan” VPS, dedicated etc to try and make things keep working… Yet, same people bitch about Windows Server speed. Amazing, wanting play “sides” yet never having tried the other side.

Microsoft’s stuff is scalable, all of it… and in fact is far far more robust. One can code real client/server apps in Visual Studio with relative ease. One environment for development. C++ or Java based solutions will run rings around .NET or PHP assuming decent code.

So what?

Well… this what. Whats funny is here is a blog about what editor is best and the editor people think is best is vim? What do you have sitting on your desktop? A i486 DOS PC?

37 Ingear November 11, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Programmers above who really think usability of an editor(or any tool) equals to how easy it is to learn (and everyone with another preference is a masochistic moron) – consider Notepad.exe and BASIC or Logo as your programming language.

For a non-developer or end user spending little time with a particular tool, of course intuitiveness is the primary concern.. as the learning investment is just not worth it.

For the rest of us, usability of a has more to do with productivity than intuitiveness(~ease to learn).
This applies to power-tools like a dev editors, spending most of our time there makes the steeper learning curve a good compromise. As always, usability is a subjective notion, what’s great at the beginning (eg point and click) gets in the way very quickly, and “insane” shortcuts are turning into life saver.

Long live Emacs, Vim and even Eclipse!

38 rathindra nath karmakar November 16, 2013 at 10:08 am

I use jedit

39 Edward Kimble January 2, 2014 at 6:12 am

Why shoot yourself in the foot with a kludgey wordstar compatible editor from 1979, use Geanie.

Geanie uses all standard international and MS keystroke combinations, instead of 40 year old mealy mush, It also does all the terminal handling, and it makes EMACS and VIM look like they just stepped out of the cow barn after wrestling with cows. MOO!!

40 Paul Gresham January 6, 2014 at 5:05 am

I’m writing a novel and tend to use Geany for writing and Cherry Tree note taking software for organising the scenes and chapters.
I tried Vim but it fails on a couple of things. Firstly, It can’t export as plain text, it can only export as html or some other obscure format, I forget what it is. Geany can export as plain text.
Secondly, I can’t highlight a piece of text and move it somewhere else with my mouse, like I can with Geany.
I’ve also tried Gedit, Kate, Kwrite, Ted and just about every other text editor and word processor there is out there.
The biggest failing with them all is, when you launch the software you have to re-open the document you were working on again.
When I launch Geany, the document is there, ready for me to work on.
If I could get Vim to export as plain text I would use it more often because it’s light and portable, it looks as if it’s only 50kb in size and I can use it off a usb stick.

41 Chidanand March 26, 2014 at 7:31 am

Dear @rg,

After reading your long crappy comment, I am really in doubt about your experience you mentioned.
Windows actually was created for dummy(no-voice) users. Linux are for servers. GUI eats the system resources like popcorn and geeks don’t need that. So Linux is used where reals geeks work like web servers and Super-computers. Your Windows have no work there,it’s only for non-geek users.

In command line I can login on 200 servers at a time and can run command at a time. Go, and do the same in GUI. In bash I can maximize my server uptime and productivity by not wasting my resources on GUI.

Go and try hacking or pen-testing via your Windows.
Thing is that all you can do with Windows, I can do that on bash CLI. But you can only do 30-40% of job on Windows GUI of bash CLI.

I doubt your experience because you took 9 hours for that simple thing. I work on AWS cloud with 166 CentOS servers. I can configure all servers SIMULTANEOUSLY just in 3 hours through CLI.

42 Dr. Jochen L. Leidner March 30, 2014 at 8:39 am

*XEmacs* has been my favorite editor since 1992, and it runs on a variety of platforms (I’m using it and have used it in the past on Linux, HP-UX, Solaris, Windows, Mac OS X). As a computational linguist, I’ve always found it useful to have powerful macro capabilities and a full LISP interpreter built in for automating tasks like text processing (e.g. for editing lexicons). XEmacs has a shell mode, VM for email, and the GNUS news reader built in, so like your Web browser, you will never really close it.

Recently, I’m enjoying Sublime for note taking and coding as well.

43 antgaucho May 6, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Fionn, that was too subtle. I’m not confident enough of these posters, e.g. the credential wrangler, have seen this . That post, but come to think of it ed as well, has brought me near tears more than once.
My two cents–I’m a vi user, so I use vim and gvim (depending mostly on whether I’m coming from a gui interface.) I’d say most days I use both of them. Discussing GUI editors per se is off-topic IMO, and would make another interesting poll. Development environments are way off topic. OSes are, well, you get the idea.

44 h2 August 25, 2014 at 9:35 am

vim for in-terminal editing

sublime for a GUI interface editor (much better than g-edit, the improved ctrl+f is worth it enough)

45 CFWhitman October 27, 2014 at 8:50 am

@Paul Gresham

I realize Paul will probably never see this comment, but just to make something clear for anyone who reads Paul’s comment. The editor vim does indeed save documents in plain text. In fact, as far as I am aware, like most text editors, that’s the only format it can save documents in. Everything else is just the extension you use to name your file.

Yes, you can save a file with an html extension, but html files are plain text files; the extension just lets programs know that the file is expected to function as html code. Saving something as plain text is as simple as naming the file with a txt extension (in Windows anyway; in Linux no extension can also work)

The only stumbling block you may run into is that Unix/Linux uses a line feed as an end of line while Windows/DOS expects a carriage return and a line feed.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: