John Bokma MexIT
freelance Perl programmer

Which editor for Perl hacking are you using?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 | 0 comments

Back in December 2007, the 15th to be exact, I posted a message in the Dutch Usenet group "nl.comp.programmeren", in which I asked people to reply with the name of the editor they are using, the reason why, and what are the advantages/disadvantages.

I explained in my message that I wanted to migrate from Windows XP to GNU/Linux, and that my current editor is TextPad, which has the following disadvantages (in my opinion):

A summary of the replies is shown in the following table:

Hans Woltersvi(m), nedit, EclipseVi(m), because he can use it on HP-UX, AIX, Tru64, and Linux. Used nedit for quite some time, prefers Eclips for projects on OS X
De Vliegende HollandergvimMain reason: can be used everywhere, anytime. Uses the built-in editor while working with Visual Studio
Philip PaepsvimMissing feature: folding limited to preprocessor directives. Is working on a solution.
Nico CoeselEclipseFor C and C++ development.
Jan ClaeysSciTE, GEdit, and JoeRecommended to check out PIDA
Stefan ArentzEmacs, macvimRecommended to check Emacs Tutorial at DeveloperWorks. Also uses macvim
HT de BeerKate, vimHas been using Kate for years. Uses vim if a GUI is not present.
HPnanoFor small edits, remote in a terminal.
ArpheticEditPlusUses it only for PHP.
VetzakSyn Text Editor, built-in editorSyn Text Editor for driver development. Uses the built-in editor when using an IDE like for example BCB
Martijn Muldervim
wimpunkNotepad++, NetBeansNotepad++ on Windows, NetBeans on Linux and Windows.
JohanUltraedit, viUses vi on Unix systems, Ultraedit on Windows

As you can see, vi(m) is the clear winner. Back in December I was leaning more and more towards improving my vim skills based on those replies. Also, I had read that Emacs's key-sequences induce carpal tunnel syndrome, but I wonder if that's an issue in my case. When programming I rarely type very fast, and when I have to type a long comment, I doubt I need key-sequences often to invoke commands in Emacs.

Hans Wolters mentioned Nedit, and assumed that I was familiar with this editor. And indeed, while developing software on Silicon Graphics workstations I used Nedit a lot because it was more powerful than Jot - an editor tuned to run on Silicon Graphics machines, included with Irix. However, like Hans mentioned, it looks like development has stopped on that editor for some time now.

The 20th of December I posted a similar message in the Usenet group comp.lang.perl.misc, again asking which editor people were using and why. I mentioned that I had recently had a look at Komodo Edit but didn't like the start up time. Longer ago I also had looked into Eclipse, but didn't like it much. Maybe just because I am not an IDE person. Anyway, summary of the replies is shown in the table given below:

RedGrittyBrickvimLearned to use vi concurrent with learning Perl and it stuck. Vim is available on most operating systems. Uses Eclipse for Java
Josef MoellersvimStarted with ed, learned that vi was like ed but full screen.
gamoJEDJED is a wonderful editor, especially in EDT mode.
Pavel LepingvimDoes everything I need from a text editor, it does it well, it's lightweight, powerful, ubiquitous, and good for reducing repetitive strain injury due to it's non-reliance on chords, and most features being invokable without moving your hands away from the home row. Getting acquainted with vile (VI Like Emacs editor) is on my TODO-list.
Michele DondijedI stumbled upon it (searching for Emacs). It has Borland's IDE's like keybindings which I got used to many years ago.
Martijn LievaartEmacsI hated vi and I hated Emacs. But Emacs let me do what I wanted to do and vi didn't. Nowadays, there is not much between vim and Emacs, but in those days there was.
Lars EighnerJoeWhat's not to like? Color for just about any language you can think of, "modeless" so it doesn't have the steep (yeah, I know, really shallow) learning curve of vi, unlike emacs it is completely customizable so if you want to avoid cramps in your left hand you can, powerful and easy macros.
De Vliegende Hollandergvim/vimWith Perl syntax highlighting. Very powerful and it's available for many, many platforms, so that I can always use it.
Joost DiepenmaatEmacsSee note below.
Lawrence StattonEmacsEmacs w/ psvn, cperl, tramp and MMM (for mason/html). Mostly because I've used emacs for darn-near-everything since 1987.
Petr ViletaKomodoI'm using Komodo on Win and Linux because this is a more then and editor only. I use Komodo debugger for debug my Perl and PHP scripts and I'm happy ;-)
John M. Gamblevim and jeditStarted with an ed variant.
Jürgen ExnerEmacsWith CPerl mode.
Keith Kellervi/vim and neditI picked vi because, at the time, it was smaller and more likely to be available on a small and/or embedded system (like a rescue floppy (!)) than emacs.
Thrill5ActiveState Visual Perl for Visual Studio 2003It's a shame ActiveState choose to discontinue this product
l vPerl Builder by Solutionsoft
TonyVNotepad++ It's got a good featureset, its free, and handles lots of languages and file formats. I used to use PSPad for the same reasons, but I like Notepad++'s customization abilities a little better.
David FilmerKomodo, Nedit, JeditFor many years it was Nedit. Sometimes Jedit when I didn't have a proper X-server available. Lately it's Komodo.
Randal L. SchwartzEmacsOnce a month or so, I type "screen emacs" on my server, and ssh into it from day to day and do *all* of my work, even firing up mail and shell windows inside this single instance of emacs.

In this Usenet group it was almost a tie between vim (6) and Emacs (5).

Joost Diepenmaat posted a lot of additional useful information on minor modes to use with cperl-mode for Perl hacking, a link to the Perl Language entry of EmacsWiki, and a link to Sepia (Simple Emacs-Perl Interface). A recommend read if you decide, like me, to learn Emacs for Perl editing.

Anyway, I decided some time ago to learn Emacs and see if I like it. I already know my way around vi(m) for many years (but probably am still at the beginner level). If I don't like Emacs after having used it for quite some time, I'll get a good book on Vim and try to get beyond the beginner level I am currently at.


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