November 19, 2003

An editor to ease Windows to Linux migration

Author: Joe Barr

I'm writing this review with EditPad Pro, running on Red Hat 9 with Ximian Desktop 2. Normally I use gedit for my writing chores, but this is a trial by fire. EditPad Pro's creator, Jan Goyvaerts, wrote to NewsForge a couple of weeks ago and asked if we would be interested in reviewing the editor he has recently ported to Linux. EditPad Pro is a known quantity in the world of Windows, but this is the first edition to be ported to Linux. Knowing that few issues are as incendiary as editor wars, I hesitated to accept the assignment. But in the end, my curiosity got the best of me and I agreed to give it a whirl.


After downloading the tarball containing the full version of EditPad Pro, installation was very straightforward. All you need to do is decompress the tarball, peruse the README, and then run the setup program. The default installation directory is your home directory, but you can tell the setup program to put it anyplace you want. So long as you have write permissions at the specified location, of course.

EditPad Pro was written with Kylix 3. That means it needs a special Borland version of a QT library. It's included in the tarball. The setup program writes the EditPad Pro executable, the QT library, and a shell script (called editpro) to the directory you specify. The script allows the executable to find the library, so that's what you execute.

One side-effect of this installation approach is that you may not end up with the script in your path, and thus have to enter the full path as well as the script name in order to run it. I solved that problem by placing an extra copy of gedit on the bottom panel of my XD2 desktop, then changing the properties so that 'sh /usr/local/editpad' is run whenever I click on it.

Ease of use

Edit Pad Pro comes with a Tip of the day feature which you can toggle to reappear next time or not, as you prefer. I've found some handy features just by cycling through the tips. For one thing, Ctl-H shifts you into binary mode. Another Ctl-H shifts you back to normal text. That also exposed a small bug, as a vertical line appears on the right side of the window when you shift back into text mode. The snapshot below shows this line. Click on the image to get a better view.

You might also notice that there is a colored tab beneath the toolbar. Tabs are used to allow you to shift between multiple open files. The color indicates that it has been changed since the last save. If no changes had been made, it would be white.

And finally, for you reprobates out there that think rodents and other pointing devices are silly, you can do just about everything I've seen so far from the keyboard as well as by point-and-click. If you don't like the key-sequence used to invoke the behavior, fine. You can change that too.

The menu

The menu contains File, Edit, Project, Block, Bookmark, Tools, Extra, Convert, Options, View, and Help commands. Just by clicking and looking at each of them you can see that Editpad Pro's features far surpass that of editors like Kedit and gedit. There are many choices under each.
But even with all the extras, one thing I miss under File is a list of recently opened files. Instead of seeing them, you have to click on Recent to get the list. On the other hand, you can keep a hundred files on that list if you like, instead of just three or four.

In addition to normal edit functions, the Editpad Pro Edit command reveals a number of commands related to the Editpad Pro "Pastebook." The pastebook is a set of 16 separate clipboards. You can highlight a block of text and Cut|Append or Copy|Append to put data onto the clipboards. I'm sure this feature is important to some, but I didn't spend the time to learn how to save to specific clipboards, or to edit/paste the clipboard data.

More on page 2...

The Project and Block commands seemed to be aimed at developers who write code in Editpad Pro. The Project command, for example, lets you save a list of open files as a project. The next time you need to work on them, open the Project instead of the individual files and you'll have them instantly at your fingertips.

The Block command seems especially handy for grabbing very large chunks of code spanning more than one file. You can also indent or outdent blocks as well as print, append to a new file, move or delete by block.

Bookmarks allow you to put markers in the text of an open file and then immediately return to that spot. That's a handy feature, whether coding or writing text.

There are no Tools listed on the toolbar right out of the box. But that's because you have to set them up first in Options->Preferences->Tools. According to Jan Goyvaerts, "The purpose of the feature is to run external programs or scripts, such as compilers, text processors, etc."

Extras has several features included under it.
Spelling for one thing. But you do have to download the dictionary from the Editpad Pro site, then install before using it though. I grabbed the American English version of the dictionary and I'm using it now in "Live" mode, meaning the words turn red while their spelling is in question and stay that way if they aren't found in the dictionary by the time I move to the next word. They also have dictionaries for British English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, and Spanish.

It also has a statistics function which will show you the date and time it was last updated, and the number of bytes, words, paragraphs, letters/numbers, and characters in the file.

The Convert command has another set of handy functions. You can change case, invert case, or capitalize words. You can change a text document to Windows (CR LF), Unix (LF), or Mac (CR)_format. You can change from Unicode to ANSI. You can also do ROT 13 on text, add or remove line breaks, and change back and forth from Tabs to Spaces.

Options allows you to auto-indent, use line numbering, show paragraph marks and spaces, change fonts, turn word wrap on or off, and show only specified file types in your file dialogues. Options is also the place to go when you want to set your preferences. As you can see from the image below, there are so many preferences that they've been grouped into different areas: Appearance, Toolbar, Statusbar, Editor, Files, File Types, Keyboard, Tools, and System.

There are too many to enumerate completely, but among the things you can set here are your color choices for about a million selectable items, the location and contents of the Toolbar, contents of the status bar, where to save files, when to do backups, your favorite keystroke sequence for virtually any command, and browser/mail selections.

The bottom line

The Linux version of Editpad Pro is clearly aimed at users who are moving from Windows to Linux. I suppose it is a function of my personal bias that when I began to review Editpad Pro, the conclusion already forming in my mind was that "why would someone pay for Editpad Pro when they can get Kedit or gedit for free?" Now I know why.

Editpad Pro is not perfect. It is painfully slow when copying text from Mozilla to the editor, for one thing. In fact sometimes copy-and-paste between the two doesn't work at all. For another, it was written using Kylix 3. As reported in and elsewhere, Borland may be abandoning the Kylix project. There was also that annoying black line left on the screen when switching back and forth from text to hex to text again. And for those of us writing for Internet sites, a feature that allows instant insertion of pre-defined HTML would sure be nice to have. Perhaps that can be done in a feature I've yet to discover.

But those flaws are far outweighed by Editpad Pro's ease of use and sheer power. I like gedit, don't get me wrong. But I'm thinking of switching to Editpad Pro just because it can do so much more. As a matter of fact, I have downloaded an Editpad Pro icon and completed the conversion of the gedit entry on my panel to Editpad Pro.

It's hard to beat free, of course, but at $39.95, Editpad Pro is reasonably priced. I think this editor could do quite well in the Linux market, not just for recent emigrés already familiar with it from the Windows world.


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