Department of Mathematics

Math 300: Mathematical Computing

Text Editors

One of the principal tools we use when getting into the guts of computers is the text editor. Honestly, the choice of text editor is not that important - they all do more or less the same thing in a fairly intuitive way. However, there are a few differences in the details that we should be aware of.

The default text editor in Windows is notepad. It is simple, with no frills. By contrast, the default editor on Macintosh is textedit, which does come with exactly enough frills to mess you up. The first thing you should do when you use textedit on Mac is to make it work with HTML code. If you don't, it will show the results of interpreting HTML code, instead of the code itself, which prevents you from modifying anything meaningful.

Some text editors have a feature called syntax highlighting that supports their use in coding computer languages. This feature recognizes keywords from various languages, and displays those keywords in colors corresponding to their role in that language. This can be very helpful in distinguishing the parts of your code. One good editor that does this is gedit. It knows quite a few languages; is available for most platforms, and is easy/intuitive to use.

You might hear about an editor called vim. If you want to learn to use that, then it is very powerful and fast, and has syntax highlighting. However, it is not easy, nor intuitive. Its chief value is to allow you to brag to computing acquaintances that you love it. If you are good at regular expressions, that might actually be true.

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