Open Source Musings The thoughts, ideas, and opinions of an open source guy

Editing text with Notepadqq

HTML code in a text editor

I don’t do Windows. The operating system, I mean. At least, not on my own computers and not with any of my own work.

But as a consultant, I sometimes have to work out of my clients’ offices. Which means using their hardware. Which also means using Windows in many case (although some recent clients have been Mac-using shops).

Even when using Windows, I try to install some open source software because it work as well as (if not better than) its proprietary equivalents. One of the applications I always install is Notepad++. It’s a solid text editor, with a number of nifty features.

And, to be honest, I’ve been wanting a version of Notepad++ for Linux for a while now. Well, it looks like my wish has come true in the shape of Notepadqq. While it’s billed as a text editor for developers, it’s not a bad tool for writers, either.

Let’s take a look at it.

Getting the software

You can do that in two ways. If you’ve got the chops, and have the right dependencies installed, you can grab the source code from GitHub and compile to you heart’s content.

On the other hand, if you’re like me then you install it via an Ubuntu PPA. Think what you will about me …

Once you have Notepadqq installed, fire it up and you’re ready to go.

Notepadqq after starting up

Using Notepadqq

Just so you know, from here on in I’m going to describe how I use Notepadqq for writing. Not for coding, cobbling together shell scripts, or anything like that. While I have done a bit of that, my main reason for using a text editor is to write. You have been warned.

You’re probably thinking that writing with a text editor only involves firing it up and then typing. Well, you’re right. Kind of. I’m not always writing in plain, vanilla text. I also work with a number of markup languages including Markdown, HTML, and LaTeX.

You need to save a file with the correct extension (for example, .md for a document formatted with Markdown) before the syntax highlighting kicks in. When it does kick in, it’s not too bad at all:

A LaTeX file in Notepadqq showing syntax highlighting

Notepadqq also has a couple of other features that I find useful when editing text. The first is the ability to convert between upper and lower case. I don’t use that a lot, but it is handy. I’m hoping the developers add a feature to convert text to title case.

Much more useful, and more often used by me, is the feature for trimming spaces from the beginning or ends of lines. I use it a lot when dealing with older text files, ones from those other operating systems, or with files that have been converted between markup languages.

Other features, and a problem or two

So what other features does Notepadqq have? Here’s a quick list:

  • Converting files between various types of character encoding
  • A search and replace feature that supports regular expressions and searching in files that aren’t open in the editor
  • Renaming a file from within the editor
  • Customizing the colour scheme

On the other hand, there’s no no word count (although Notepadqq keeps a running character and line count) and no spelling checker.

Final thought

Notepadqq isn’t a feature-for-feature Notepad++ clone for Linux. Then again, I don’t think it’s intended to be. It’s still under development, so I’m expecting the folks behind Notepadqq to add a few more features in the coming months.

While some coders may find Notepadqq lacking, it’s a light and fast alternative for writers who want to work in a text editor.

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