Text editors are becoming more essential in today’s Web-basedcomputing world. Gone are the days when users need hard-copy versionsof their documents. Also gone are the days when documents need to begussied up with fancy fonts and fanciful page formatting.
Now HTML handles the visual tune ups for online document displaysconverted from text documents. For the bulk of documentation nowcreated with computers, text displays suffice. Content is whatmatters. When a more formal document requires graphical alure, wordprocessors such as AbiWord (see review here) and OpenOffice will take a plain text file to the more visual level.The Linux OS probably has more text-writing apps than any othercomputing platform. For many users, a text editor will meet or exceedwriting needs most of the time. Two popular text editors are gEditand Leafpad.
Text editors are not all the same. Some have a basic feature setthat makes the app more suitable to a variety of writing tasks. Othersare very simple with basic text-entry capability.
gEdit falls into the first category. It is text editor bundled in the Gnome desktopenvironment. Leafpad is a simple GTK+ text editor that focuses onsimplicity. Its lightweight structure makes it a good choice forcompact distro configurations.
Gnome World App
gEdit is relatively simple to use, but do not dismiss this appas being wimpy. It has all the power typical users need for generalpurpose text handling.
For instance, gEdit has full support for internationalized text(UTF-8) coding. It also supports configurable syntax highlighting forC, C++, Java, HTML, XML, Python, Perl and many other programminglanguages.
One of gEdit’s most useful enhancements is its ability to handlemultiple open files. The app uses a tabbed page structure. Clicking ona page tab displaying the file title across the top of the app windowlets you move quickly through the list of open files.
While the tabbed navigational structure is essential to my workflow,gEdit has a feature set that includes must-have writing tools such as several levels of Undo/Redo and File reverting options.
This text editor also has Print and Print Preview, so I can check onthe hard copy results if I need to have more than a digital copy ofthe document. The Clipboard support is also essential forcut/copy/paste functions.
The Search and replace feature has a nifty option or two I do not seein most other text editors. It has an incremental search command thatlets me step through locations in the document containing my searchstring. Couple this with he Clear Highlight command and gEdit is avery convenient app for processing text.
gEdit has settings for auto indentation and text wrapping. It supportsline numbering and bracket matching as well the ability to turn on/offthe right margin line and set the right margin column number forwrapping. For me, being able to turn off current line highlighting isa big plus. So is the ability to configure fonts and colors.
In fact, it is in the preferences panel that gEdit excels. Programoptions for viewing and editing choices are a check box away. Forexample, under the Editor tab, I can set the tab width and whether ornot to insert spaces instead of tabs. There I can also choose tocreate a backup copy of files before saving and set the autosaveinterval.
One of the most powerful features is Plugins, which is built intothe preferences panel. This feature really puts gEdit in the high-endclass of text editors. For example, it is here that options forchanging the case of selected text, turning on document statistics andspell checking, adding a file browser pane, and snippet insertions arecontrolled — and there’s much more.
Turning a New Leaf
Leafpad has a much smaller feature set than text editors typically labeled”high end,” such as gEdit or Kate (see review here). However, the Linux OS isfilled with not-so-able text editors that do much less than Leafpad.In a Linux world of high-end and low-end text editors, Leafpad claimsthe middle ground.
Leafpad lacks the ability to open more than one file at a time, butthat is OK if you need a fast and simple app for entering notes ormaintaining To-Do lists and such.
This text editor has a tiny footprint on system resources, and itallows multiple instances to run. That makes for an ideal workaround.I open several copies of Leafpad, adjusting the size of the window forthe tasks at hand. This lets me refer to several pages of researchnotes and other reference content simultaneously.
Lightweight but Useful
Leafpad’s tiny feature set includes a codeset option (Some OpenI18Nregistered) and Auto codeset detection (UTF-8 and some codesets). Ithas an unlimited Undo/Redo feature.
Leafpad taps into the system fonts library so users are not stuck witha single default font. A preview window in the Options tab shows whateach font looks like in each of the four accompanying styles –Regular, Italic, Bold and Bold Italic. Similarly, point sizes rangefrom 6 to 72.
The bare-bones feature set includes Auto/Multi-line Indent, the optionto turn on/off line numbers display and Drag and Drop editing. Theonly other enhancements are Cut/Copy/Paste/Delete under the Edit menuand Search/Replace options.
The Print Preview option is also useful. Print Previews are not alwaysa close match to the actual printed page an editor app delivers, but thatis not the case with Leafpad. What you see in the preview window ispretty much what you get on the printed page.
gEdit and Leafpad are two handy text editors. Rather than choosing oneover the other, use both. Having them both available gives you plentyof flexibility.
gEdit is a more full-featured writing app with most of the high-endbells and whistles needed for fast and efficient text handling.Leafpad is much more basic, but it has enough features to raise itfrom the muck of unambitious typing-only apps.