A reader laments the difficulty of writing programs in a plain-vanilla text editor:

I have a question that I can't seem to frame correctly. It relates to my inability to format nested punctuation (in any language, on any day). I would dearly love to see a quasi-visual editor which replaces the {{ ... }} with nested shading, and bold type used to identify classes, italics for variables, etc. etc.

It clearly calls for a different approach to the text-bound, linear approach to coding. What would such a beast be called?

Most programmers choose their editor with more care than they put into the purchase of a car. I've been lusting after this vi reference coffee mug and I don't even use the program. I feel like H.I. McDunnough in Raising Arizona, driving past convenience stores that aren't even on the way home.

For years, sheer laziness caused me to write my Java classes, Perl scripts, and other software in Windows Notepad. When I did some professional development last year for Best Blinds, a local ecommerce company, I decided it was time to find a decent programmer's text editor for Windows.

I settled on UltraEdit-32, a $40 programming, web page, and hex editor that gets great reviews in places like PC Magazine.

There are some quirks with the software, such as a hidden-character issue that was causing the header() function to fail in PHP scripts, but otherwise I've liked the editor for both programming and web design.

UltraEdit offers some great features for programming (screen shot), including keyword and class highlighting and the identification of matching brackets.

Though I recommend UltraEdit, I'd dump it for an outliner that supported code highlighting. After writing UserTalk scripts in Radio UserLand's outliner, I'm convinced an outliner is the best way to write programs. The ability to expand and collapse blocks of code as you're editing, to see exactly what you need to see, is a huge benefit.

-- Rogers Cadenhead


I have to say that as one who has lived in the userland editor, I too lust after outliners for code editing. When I first started coding in PHP I actually wrote a lot of code in radio and then just saved the outlines as text. at one point I even toyed with an export script that added all the semi-colons and curly brackets based on indent level. I rencently discovered TextMate a text editor for the Mac (sorry) that does code folding as well as a lot of other editing goodness (and strong ties to the unix shell). I know there are some other editors out there that do code folding. I think there are even some extentions for vim and emacs for it.

Sam D


Just use vim and activate code folding - it's much like an outliner, if configured correctly. I'm sure that Emacs provides something like this, too. And both have graphical versions for Windows, too.


"What would such a beast be called?" - an IDE, perhaps?

Not actually a recommendation as such... I'd spent a good 5 years or so in one heavy-duty IDE or another mostly for Java, then a few months ago got fed up with that, largely because I was using 3 or 4 different languages virtually every day for a while (plus various XML dialects). So I switched over to emacs. I've since gone back down to one language (well, kind of: Python, XSLT, RDF/XML, SQL, SPARQL...) , but have kept on with emacs - the syntax colouring, XML validation (nxml-mode) etc are great.


My editor of choice is Editplus (editplus.com). It's versatile, small and cheap. There are lots of templates available so that you can see the code like you would to for a C# application or PHP or be whatever. It has some good regexp search features, including "find files" using regular expressions.

I've run this on everything from a P90 on up. Yes, I've crashed it: three times in 4 years of daily use. Like I side: it's pretty good.


UltraEdit v.11 allow you to expand and collapse code blocks.


check out vim or scintilla


Syn is nice as well...


I am biased, I won't try to pretend, but when it comes to PHP I honestly recommend PhpED from NuSphere. Download free trial version and see for yourself - you can configure settings for the editor to behave the way you like it - really.
It is a full featured IDE, debugger is state of the art. Db connection clients and wizzard - take a look, it is on www.nusphere.com


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On my own blog, which I just recently started up, I know I don't have much of a readership so it will take a while to develop comments and community, but I still want to do things right ... So I'll definitely keep this article in mind ... particularly your comment #5, which I think deserves to be a follow-up article in itself.
... I have found that the "be first to leave a comment" has worked sometimes, but possibly intimidated in other circumstances. Yeah, a lot of people would love to be the first to post on popular blogs, but on startups? Not always.


When I ask a question at the end of a post, I always get responses. I do it judiciously, though, as I like to ‘mix it up' and not always ask for a response.
Hi James – great advice. I'm trying to ask open ended questions at the end of my posts, but it doesn't always work, and often people will comment, but not answer the questions.


What am I doing wrong? Am I putting the comments in the wrong place? Should they be closer to the beginning of the post, or in the middle, or where? Thanks. Catherine
Getting comments is the bane of my existence! I try to end the post with a question about how my readers are using [insert topic] and no one responds. I have tried to hold contests where I will give them FREE PUBLICITY for a comment and nada.


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