NEdit 5.1.1 Makes Editing Nice

NEdit 5.1.1

$Free/GNU Public License


In a Nutshell

Rating:4 Penguins


* User friendly

* Highly configurable

* Feature rich


* Primitive online help

* Confusion over keyboard mapping

Review (NEdit)tiff
Good Lookin’: NEdit’s interface, showing its search bar (beneath the main menu) and online help.

System Requirements

* Almost any Linux or Unix-like system

* Almost any CPU

* Enough RAM to run Linux with a GUI

* Motif or Lesstif .89.4 or later libraries

* 2.5 MB hard disk for source / 1.7 MB hard disk for executable only

Supported Platforms

* Linux * AIX
* VMS* Digital Unix
* Ultrix* Solaris

In a world of Emacs, vi, and their progeny, not to mention countless other unaffiliated editors, why bother talking about yet another text editor for Linux? That’s a fair question, and in the case of NEdit, it has the best possible answer: because the program itself is so good.

NEdit is the work of a gaggle of programmers and other contributors, and is available as either full source code licensed under the GPL (GNU Public License) or prebuilt binaries for Linux and other platforms. Users can debate the value of various features in such programs endlessly, of course, but the things that make NEdit stand out in our judgment are its “100% GUI from the ground up” orientation, its availability on a wide range of operating systems and architectures, and its overall feel and operation.

N is for Nice

Power and usability often pull software in opposite directions, making one person’s flexibility another’s unavoidable hassle. NEdit dodges this conflict nicely, as it’s very full- featured and can be extensively configured, yet it still works fine “right out of the box.” Many users will like the default key bindings, and the menus list shortcut-key equivalents for their entries in almost all cases, further flattening the learning curve.

However, new users have to contend with two different mechanisms for seemingly identical configuration tasks — keyboard shortcuts. Accelerator keys are used to bind keyboard actions to menu items, while the X toolkit translation is used to associate keystrokes with all other commands.

We can’t begin to describe all of NEdit’s features in a review, but they include syntax highlighting (C, C++, Java, Ada, FORTRAN, Pascal, Yacc, Perl, Python, Tcl, and other languages are covered), keyboard configurability, macros, columnar and rectangular text operations, optional line numbering, an “incremental search line” that adds a persistent text search box just below the program’s main menu bar, multiple-window editing with instant updates in all views when text changes, numerous keyboard and mouse shortcuts, and many more.

A pleasant surprise is how easily NEdit can be built from the source. A program this complex is often very fussy in this regard, but we had no problems compiling NEdit. We untarred the source files, ran a make linux command, and it all worked perfectly the first time. The provided files support building NEdit on 24 different platforms, making it one of the most versatile packages we’ve seen.

One minor annoyance is NEdit’s online help system. While it contains a great deal of useful information, it’s not hypertext based, which can make it difficult to find a specific nugget of information. This isn’t much of a burden as the program works well and there is also extensive HTML documentation available on the Web site.

File | Quit

Is it worth converting from your favorite editor to NEdit? Possibly not, since many users become so attached to their text editors that they’ll never willingly switch. But if you’re not happy with your editor, or you’re new to Linux and looking for something that’s free, accommodating, and still has more features that you’ll likely need, give NEdit a spin.

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