18 great text editors for web designers

Visual tools are all well and good, but sometimes you need to do some old-school coding by hand. Here's our pick of the best text editors.

We're sure at some point, a visually-oriented app will come along and make text editors obsolete overnight. But people have been gleefully predicting the demise of the 'old way' of designing and developing websites for years, and yet text editors just won't die. Those who love text editors swear they are advantageous for speed and control, the best-in-class apps making a designer or developer more efficient.

Here's our list of 18 excellent text editors for a range of platforms, ideal whether you're bathed in the glow of an iMac screen, hammering away on a PC laptop, or frantically trying to update a client website using a tablet while connected to flaky beach Wi-Fi. If we've missed your favourite, let us know about the app in the comments and why you think it's great.

01. Notepad++

  • Platform: Windows
  • Price: Free

We admit there's a whiff of nostalgia about this entry, given that Notepad++ was one of the earliest text editors we used on Windows. But the app deserves its place on this list, because it can still compete with the best of them. For no money whatsoever, you get a capable (if sometimes workmanlike) editor with plenty of features, and you can also mess about with the interface to make it better suit your requirements. Download it today.

02. Atom

  • Platform: OSX 10.8 or later, Windows 7 & 8, Linux
  • Price: Free

Launched in 2008, GitHub has become the code storage and development site of choice worldwide, and so any tool it releases is going to cause a big stir.

That's certainly been the case with Atom. Dubbed "a hackable text editor for the 21st Century", it's designed to be simple to use out of the box, but also easily expandable using hundreds of packages.

Since launching in invite-only private beta early last year, it's now fully open source and available to download for free.

03. Brackets

  • Platform: Windows/OS X/Linux
  • Price: Free

Adobe's open-source text editor is created from the code that builds the web, and the developers note that if you can code in Brackets, then you can code on Brackets. In other words, although you initially get a simple, usable editor, seasoned programmers should be able to hack it to their liking.

04. Sublime Text

  • Platform: Windows/OS X/Linux
  • Price: $70/about £45

Available across all of the three main desktop platforms, Sublime Text is a great general-purpose text editor that offers plenty of power to anyone working on websites. It's especially well suited to anyone wedded to the keyboard, providing powerful shortcuts and tools to leap about a document, make (multiple) selections, filter the file, and quickly make edits.

Switching between projects is also lightning fast — perfect for anyone juggling multiple clients. Sublime Text may be downloaded and evaluated for free, but a licence must be purchased for continued use.

05. Vim

  • Platform: Windows/OS X/Linux/Android/iOS
  • Price: Free

Vim is essentially the text editor people flock to when they look at the others on this list and consider them toys for newbs. There's a pretty steep learning curve, due to its overtly techie nature; but if you can cling on or are just looking for something more powerful to work with, you'll find plenty to like in Vim's flexible tools, customisation and macros, and efficiency-oriented commands.

06. Emacs

  • Platform: Windows/OS X/Linux
  • Price: Free

There are various incarnations of Emacs but one of the most often-used is GNU Emacs; a free, extensible, customisable text editor. It's one of the most powerful editors out there and as such takes a while to learn your way around, but if you have very particular requirements you may find this is the one for you.

07. Komodo Edit

Komodo Edit
  • Platform: Windows/OS X/Linux
  • Price: Free

If you don't need all the features of a full IDE, you can get the text editor from Komodo IDE for free. Komodo Edit is a multi-language editor that does multiple selections, autocomplete, tracks changes and has a Markdown viewer.

08. Buffer Editor

Buffer editor
  • Platform: iOS
  • Price: $3.99

If coding on the go is your thing, this is a great option for iOS devices. It's designed to make it easy to make quick changes to your website and will sync with Dropbox and SSH/SFTP servers. It's also a fully-equipped code editor that you can use to develop software on your touch device, should you wish.

09. Webuilder

  • Platform: Windows
  • Price: €39.95

Webuilder is designed to be fast, easy-to-use and accessible for beginners, yet powerful enough for advanced coders. There's syntax highlighting that supports HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, PHP, Ruby, XML and more; it enables you to edit directly on your servers via FTP, SFTP and FTPS; there are auto-quotes and auto-brackets; a CSS prefixer and loads of special functions for JavaScript and PHP. Definitely worth a look.

Next page: nine more great text editors