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14 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 14 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. CoffeeCup Free HTML Editor

Here's another great choice for beginners looking for a simple, free text editor. CoffeeCup Free HTML Editor is the free version of the full version, and so missing a few tools (CSS menu design, FTP upload) but there are plenty of powerful editing tools, a local Help file to walk you through the more complicated parts, and you can also upload your page to CoffeeCup's S-Drive platform, where it will host it for free. Download it today.

03. BBEdit

  • Platform: OS X
  • Price: $49.99/£34.99

Having been around for over 20(!) years, BBEdit's a true veteran. Although the interface hasn't quite kept pace with modern Mac apps, there's a huge amount of power buried within – the app is configurable, scriptable, and fast, with superb find-and-replace, syntax highlighting for a slew of languages, and support for version control. Recent updates have added handy text suggestion that works beyond elements and properties, attempting to match strings from anywhere in the current document.

04. Bluefish

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

Bluefish is a text editor with plenty of designer-friendly tools and options. Among the goodies on offer are syntax highlighting (ASP.NET, CSS, HTML, JavaScript, PHP and more are supported), code folding, powerful find and search and replace tools and autocompletion. Bluefish also supports document templates; has wizards to add CSS, forms, tables, forms, audio and video objects; and quick tag editing and easy previewing of the current document.

05. Brackets

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

It's early days yet for Adobe's open-source text editor, but we already like what we see. The 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.

06. Coda

  • Platform: OS X
  • Price: $74.99/£49.99

Specifically designed for web designers and developers, and boasting the attention to detail that comes from a designer's eye, Coda is a truly modern Mac app for working on websites. A big leap forward from the initial release, Coda 2 added a ton of features to make editing more streamlined and enjoyable, including code folding, code focus, excellent new clips, and a built-in MySQL editor. For users of Apple's tablet, there's also an impressive iPad sibling, Diet Coda, available for $19.99/£13.99.

07. Code Writer

  • Platform: Windows 8
  • Price: Free

Windows tablets hardly look set to blaze past Android and iPads, and the app ecosystem is therefore relatively limited. We're therefore delighted Code Writer exists. The editor boasts a sleek interface that's perfectly suited to the UI formerly known as Metro, and the app provides advanced features such as code outlining, syntax-error flagging, text formatting, and auto-correct. Handily, snapped view is also supported, so you can code while 'researching' things on the likes of Twitter.

08. DroidEdit Pro

  • Platform: Android
  • Price: $1.99/£1.64

Quite a few text editors exist for Android, but many of them feel rough and ready. DroidEdit Pro is anything but, and for the low price tag you get an app that looks great and works nicely for coding on the move. The simple interface gets out of the way, and the app supports syntax highlighting, bracket matching, Dropbox, and SFTP/FTP. There are also configurable shortcuts, to cut down on hunting and pecking on smaller Android device keyboards.

09. 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.

10. Textastic

  • Platform: iOS
  • Price: $8.99/£5.99

Although Textastic's a touch limited on the Mac, it comes into its own on the iPad, in our opinion nudging ahead of Diet Coda through an efficient interface. Along with all the usual bits and bobs you'd expect (FTP/SFTP support, local and remote preview, syntax highlighting), you get a handy additional row of keys on the virtual keyboard that provides fast access to regularly used characters. There's also TextExpander support for working with and expanding snippets.

11. TextMate

  • Platform: OS X
  • Price: Free/€46

There's some visual and conceptual overlap between TextMate and Sublime Text, with both offering a quite similar feature-set. However, TextMate for a long time had pride of place on the Mac, in part through being designed specifically for the platform. However, a major update long languished in development hell, hitting the app's reputation.

There's now a 2.0 preview available for download, and the source has been released for end users to tinker with. For the time being, it's also free to use, although you can buy a license if you wish. That said, we'd urge caution with this one, because although it's still a great app, who knows when a final 2.0 will appear?

12. 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.

13. Atom

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

Launched in 2008, GitHub has become the code storage and development site of choice worldwide, and so any new 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 earlier this year, it's recently been made fully open source and available to download for free.

14. ICEcoder

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

ICEcoder is an open-source code editor that lets you work directly within the browser, whether you’re online or offline. Very lightweight, you can install it and start using it almost instantly. Despite its size, it contains many great features you'd expect from a code editor, including broken tag indicators, highlighting themes and secure login.

Words: Craig Grannell

This is an updated and extended version of an article that previously appeared on Creative Bloq. Let us know what you'd like added in a future update in the comments!

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