If you are still using a plain old generic text editor to support your website or blog, I strongly encourage you to use the freely available Notepad ++ available at SourceForge or do a Google search for “Notepad ++”.
Notepad ++ has many powerful features that will make your life easier. It supports traditional editing functions you would expect, plus:
- It is a nice environment for editing multiple files at a time:
- You can open one or many files at a time by highlighting them in Windows Explorer and dragging them into Notepad ++. Each file will be opened in a separate tab in Notepad ++.
- You can also open multiple files, filtered by the type of file, in the open dialog. For example, to open multiple stylesheet CSS files at once, use File-> Open and set your filter to be.CSS and Control-click all the files you want to open and they will open in separate tabs
- You can Save all open file tabs at once by choosing “File-> Save All”
- Use your middle mouse button to close a tab, or right-click a tab to close the tab or all but the current tab. Intuitively, the File menu also controls the opening and closing of tabs.
- Only one tab is active at a time, click on a tab to edit a particular file. CTRL-TAB and CTRL-Shift-Tab to switch through active files or use the right mouse button and scroll wheel.
- Sessions are a powerful feature in Notepad ++. You can save the state of all the files you are working on as well as current lines you have highlighted and where the cursor is. File-> Save Session and File-> Load Session will do this for you. When you close Notepad ++, it saves the current state using sessions automatically, so that when you reopen Notepad ++, the files are just as you had left them.
- Auto-completion – in Settings-> Backup / Auto-completion “you can enable Auto-completion to perform” Function completion “or” Word completion “. If set to” Word completion “, Notepad ++ will auto-complete any word you type that is already in your file, similar to the way MS Word or Excel operates. If set to “Function completion”, Notepad ++ will auto-complete any word you type that corresponds to a keyword for the particular type of file; for example, if you start typing the letters “ba” in a.CSS file, auto-complete will prompt you to complete with the words “back”, “background”, etc. associated with each matching CSS function.
- Stream and Block Comments – Notepad ++ offers the convenience functions to comment out highlighted lines of a file – using the comment tag appropriate for the type of file (for example, with a CSS document, if you highlight a group of lines in the document and select Edit-> Stream Comment the set of lines will be commented out using the “/ *” and “* /” markings appropriate for a CSS document).
- Enhanced Search Capability – Notepad ++ gives the advanced capability to do a search and replace functions. It even can use regular expressions to match the string to be found. Searches can also be conducted on all open tabs in Notepad ++. The search dialog can be made more transparent via the transparency checkbox/slider in the lower-left corner of the dialog box so you can continue editing while the find dialog is still visible. Special characters can be searched for and highlighting of found entries is very handy while editing.
- Color Coding – Notepad ++ features color-coding that helps when editing files to help ensure you are editing them correctly. For example, when editing a CSS file, with default colors turned on, comments are green in color and HTML items are blue. The color-coding in conjunction with auto-completion reassures you while editing that your syntax is ok.
- Plugins – Perhaps some of the most impressive features of Notepad ++ are included in the “Plugins” menu. The plugins that I have had the most experience include:
- Document Monitor – If you select the “Start to Monitor” submenu, Notepad ++ will watch for any changes to the current document and reload as necessary. This is particularly useful if you need to keep an eye on files that change frequently such as log files.
- Compare – This plugin will show the difference between two files in side-by-side tabs, which can be very helpful for determining differences between a file that works and one that does not.
- FTP_Synchronize – (FTP stands for file transfer protocol) This plugin gives you the capability to do file transfers between your local computer and a remote computer (such as your Internet Search Provider where your website is hosted). It is easy to set up and is much more convenient than using a separate FTP application.
- If these plugins are not available under your Plugins menu or you want to add additional plugin functionality, select “Get more plugins” on the Help Menu (the menu on the far right with a “?) And download to the” plugins “folder where Notepad ++ is locally installed on your computer.
Oh, did I mention that Notepad ++ is FREE?