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Komodo Edit: A Free Programmer’s Text Editor with Syntactical Error Reporting

I’m taking a break from my series on Amazon Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2) to talk a bit this week about programmer’s editors. Like most programmers, I’ve been trying super-powered text editors since I could type printf("Hello, World!");.  For the past few months, I’ve been using Notepad++ as my programmer’s editor du jour. It’s an improvement over Notepad (low bar, I know). And it has many great features, such as syntax highlighting for various languages, support for Unicode encodings, and a powerful find/replace facility.

Over time, however, Notepad++ began to exhibit odd behavior. Syntax highlighting never worked quite right for new files; PHP files I created in Notepad++ wouldn’t color-code correctly until I closed and re-opened them. A few times, a critical XML file went “missing,” and the interface looked like something from my worst nightmares of Windows 3.1. Finally, one day, Notepad++ told me it couldn’t find the langs.xml file, and ceased syntax highlighting altogether!

So I went looking for a new programmer’s editor…and found Komodo Edit from ActiveState. Komodo Edit is a stripped-down version of the Komodo IDE, a full-scale programmer’s development environment akin to Eclipse.

Because Komodo is derived from a full IDE, the syntax highlighting is top notch. But Komodo goes a step beyond Notepad++ and provides full syntactical error reporting for a wide array of languages, particularly Perl, Python, and PHP. Here’s Kodomo reporting on a basic error in my PHP code.

Another way Komodo excels over Notepad++ is its support for projects. When you create a .komodoproject in a directory, Komodo considers all of the files in that directory and any subdirectories to be part of that project. This enables you to open, close, and save all projects defined inside of a directory as a single unit. While it takes a while to get used to, I actually found the Komodo project system easier to use than the project system in Eclipse.

Another missing feature I was happy to find was a full set of macros for inserting HTML tags into an HTML or PHP document. You can unveil this by clicking the Show/Hide Right Pane icon in the toolbar. Unfortunately, Komodo Edit doesn’t support one of my favorite features in Notepad++, which is HTML tag auto-closing. (Notepad++ users can activate this by selecting TextFX->TextFX Settings->Autoclose XHTML/XML <Tag>.)

Komodo has most of the other features you’d want out of a powerful programmer’s text editor: Find and Replace, Find in Files, a diff tool (called Compare Files), and a macro recording and execution framework. It’s fast, has a clean interface, and provides excellent value for the price (free!). If your current text editor is giving you stomach cramps, Komodo Edit may be just what the doctor ordered.

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