Though it might not seem like it, the topic of Linux text editors is a huge deal. Debates on which one is the best have been going on for years. Everyone has an opinion; everyone has a favorite, a certain one they absolutely swear by. There is no doubt there are dozens of text editors to choose from.
It is because of this that we’ve decided to round up the best text editors available.
If you’re looking to jump in at the deep end of text editing, then the GitHub-developed Atom could be for you. It can be a bit confusing when starting from scratch and knowing which packages to install, but that’s the nature of the text editing beast.
Atom isn’t the lightest text editor out there, and if you’re just configuring files or other small-ish jobs, then it might not be for you. For things like programming and scripting however, and working across multiple files at the same time, Atom is up to the task. It supports thousands of packages (all accessible via the built-in package installer) and plugins written in Node.js. If you’re coming to Atom from the popular Vim, you can use it in vim-mode to help you find your feet, and in 2017 GitHub released an IDE version that can help speed things along for a lot of users.
Atom has an elegant GUI implementation, though you can also use its command-line mode for a more familiar experience. It’s trickier than most text editors to grasp, but invaluable for heavier-lifting tasks.
Vim: the fastest, most efficient command line editor currently available on the Linux platform. It’s blazingly fast and packed full of advanced features. Lots of users swear by it, and others absolutely hate it. It’s a very divisive piece of software (to put it lightly).
When you use this text editor, you’ll find yourself needing to conquer a very steep learning curve. If that doesn’t bother you – if you can handle learning all of its shortcuts and the Vim way of doing things, then Vim is totally worth it.
3. GNU Emacs
Looking for an advanced text editor that also respects your software freedom? Look no further than GNU Emacs. It’s a free and open source advanced text editor created by the GNU project.
Emacs has both a GUI and CLI implementation. Each of these versions have many, many different features that allow for an awesome text editing experience on Linux.
Much like Vim, GNU Emacs comes with a bit of a learning curve. It’s not something you’re going to be able to just jump into and be happy with right away. Not everyone will like Emacs as it takes a lot of exploration before you’ll feel comfortable with it.
Still, with that in mind, if the Emacs way resonates with you, check this program out. Install it! There is no question that it is a great choice for editing.
Looking for a more IDE-like text editor for Linux? Geany is probably your best choice. This is a text editor specifically designed around development. In fact, it has tons of development features: call tips, code navigation and even a code building system.
All of the text editors on this list are capable of development (of course), but if you’re looking for a graphical text editor and have a serious interest in writing code, Geany should be on your list.
Just looking for a basic text editor with no frills? Try out the Gedit text editor. It’s a basic editor on the surface, but overall it is fairly competent. Like all the other text editors listed, you’ll be able to highlight syntax, edit multiple programming formats, and have line numbers.
The strength that Gedit has is that it is most certainly the king of user-friendliness. If you just need to jot down some quick text or code, and don’t want to fiddle with fancy shortcuts, check this program out.
If you prefer a lighter weight version of Gedit, Xed is a fork of Gedit (by LinuxMint) that is backward compatible and supports most standard editing features.
6. Sublime Text
Sublime Text is a wonderful IDE-like text editor for Linux (and other platforms). It’s a wonderful piece of software. The developers themselves say that Sublime text is “a sophisticated text editor for code, markup and prose”.
Unlike all other text editors on this list, it is not 100% free. When you download it, you’ll be able to get some trial-software (which doesn’t end). However, to continue using the software, it is encouraged that you purchase a software licence.
This program sports all of the features you’d expect when using a text editor, along with some unique features (Goto Anything, Distraction Free Mode, Split Editing, etc.). If you’re a developer, Sublime Text could be promising.
Linux Text editors are serious business. Everyone has a strong opinion about what they feel is the best one. None of them are wrong, of course. Each editor has their strengths and weaknesses, and even if none of the text editors in the above list interest you, there are still many alternatives around. My colleague, Ivana, even swears by CherryTree Notepad which doesn’t make the list above.
What is your favorite text editor on Linux? Tell us in the comment section below.