CyberNotes
Time Saving Tuesday




We have talked about text editors a lot on CyberNet before because they can help you be a lot more productive. Up until a few weeks ago I was using Notepad++ on a regular basis, but then I came across PSPad that seemed a little nicer. I do quite a bit of website programming, and that got me thinking whether there was anything better than PSPad out there.

I scrounged up a slightly older article from DonationCoder.com, a site that I have a lot of respect for, which threw down the gauntlet on the various text editors available (both free and paid). The one that came out on top was a program called UltraEdit that has been around since 1994.

UltraEdit Overview
Click to Enlarge

It’s not a free program like some of the others you might be accustomed to, but it is packed with a crazy amount of features that makes it a programmer’s dream come true. We have three licenses to give away to our readers, and you’ll find instructions for the giveaway located at the end of this article.

So lets go ahead and jump right in on the features UltraEdit has to offer.

–File Explorer–

One of the first things that you’ll notice when running UltraEdit is the sidebar. It is an important part of the text editor that lets you manage several different aspects of the program, including:

  • Projects – lets you group files together for fast access
  • Opened files – shows a list of all the files you currently have open
  • Explorer – browse and open files from your computer or from an FTP server
  • Favorites List – create a list of your favorite files (like a to-do list)

Here’s a side-by-side view of the different tabs in UltraEdit:

UltraEdit Sidebar
Click to Enlarge

–Direct FTP/SFTP Access–

One of the things that is nice to have in a text editor is some sort of FTP Explorer. That way you can remotely connect to a site, edit a file, and save it without ever needing to use an additional application.

PSPad and UltraEdit are among the elite few who have these capabilities out-of-the-box. The one in UltraEdit is a bit more polished though, and one of the reasons I like it better is that you can actually have multiple FTP’s open at the same time. With PSPad you have to disconnect from one FTP before you can connect to another.

The “Save All” command also works with all the files that you have open from an FTP, and I know some other text editors have problems with the Save All command when the files are located on an FTP. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that you can change a file’s permissions from within UltraEdit. :)

I took two screenshots of the FTP access in UltraEdit. The one on the left is from the Account Manager, and the one on the right is what it looks like when you’re browsing the FTP for files.

UltraEdit FTP Manager UltraEdit FTP Explorer

–Function List–

Anyone that has programmed something with thousands of lines of code and dozens of functions knows the heartache that can be caused by trying to scroll around looking for a specific function. In UltraEdit you just have to hit the F8 key and a sidebar will magically appear with a listing of all the functions in the file that you’re viewing:

UltraEdit Functions
Click to Enlarge

You can also setup the Function List to show all of the functions from the current project, which means you can list out functions from several different files at the same time.

–Advanced Syntax Highlighting–

UltraEdit is heavily designed with programmers in mind, and one of the most notorious features that text editors like this have is syntax highlighting. Notepad++ does a really good job of this, but I have found PSPad to have some problems in this area.

UltraEdit’s syntax highlighting has been perfect all throughout my tests. One of the features that I really like is it being able to have it intelligently recognize when a switch in syntax is needed. I do a lot of web programming as you can imagine, and I therefore intermingle multiple languages such as HTML, PHP, and JavaScript all in a single file. This screenshot shows that UltraEdit correctly highlights the syntax of two different languages despite being in the same file:

UltraEdit Mult-Syntax

Don’t worry if you don’t like what colors it assigns to the syntax because you can customize it all. For instance, one thing that I changed was that it makes comments green, but I prefer to have comments be a light-gray. In just a few clicks of the settings I was able to change the color.

–Code Folding–

Code folding is essentially a fancy term for being able to expand and collapse functions. Notepad++ and UltraEdit are almost the only text editors that support a feature like this, and it’s one of those things that you grow accustomed to as a programmer. When I program, I collapse functions after I believe I’m done with, and it makes it easier for me to see what I still need to work on.

Here’s a screenshot that shows the first two functions being “folded”, and the last one left untouched:

UltraEdit Code Folding

–SSH/Telnet Console–

The built-in SSH/Telnet client is one of UltraEdit’s most unique and best features. It’s essentially a complete replacement to having to use Putty, and it seems like every time that I need to SSH into a computer, I also have the text editor open. So it almost seems like a natural combination to have an SSH console built-in to UltraEdit.

Below are two screenshots of the SSH/Telnet feature in UltraEdit. The one on the left shows the Account Manager, and the one on the right is what the console actually looks like. The console can be arranged so that it occupies an area within the UltraEdit program, such as a sidebar.

UltraEdit SSH Manager UltraEdit SSH Connection
Click to Enlarge

–HTML Features–

UltraEdit has a strong focus on web programming, in particular HTML editing. Here are some of the things web designers will be able to enjoy when using UltraEdit:

  • You can preview what an HTML file would look like in your browser. It renders the HTML, but you can’t edit it so it’s not a WYSIWYG editor.
  • HTML Tidy can be used for validating HTML documents
  • Color selector for figuring out what a specific color is on the screen
    UltraEdit Color Selector
  • There are buttons on the bottom toolbar for inserting common HTML code (for things like forms, images, and lists)
  • Convert text to HTML elements
  • Encode/decode for converting text to/from HEX
  • The CSS style builder is nice for people who don’t know how to code CSS
    UltraEdit Style Builder 

–Settings–

If there is something that you don’t like about the program you should head on over the settings. There are literally hundreds of different things that you can configure, and the first thing I did when downloading UltraEdit was spend about 15 minutes going through them all. It almost felt like a new application by the time I got everything configured to my liking. :)

UltraEdit Settings
Click to Enlarge

–And More–

  • Inline spell checking – It can check the spelling of text as you type and underline any mistakes.
  • Column mode – An alternative way to select text:
    UltraEdit Column Mode
  • Clipboard history – There is a nice sidebar option located under View -> Views/Lists -> Clipboard History that will show you a list of past items that have been copied to the clipboard.
  • Macros – You can create all of the macros that you want, and even assign hotkeys to them! There is a nice utility included with UltraEdit for recording the macros.
  • Context menu – After installation UltraEdit will always have a link in the operating system’s right-click context menu for files, and clicking on it will open the specified file in the text editor. This is a pretty standard feature for text editors, but it is something that I would hate not to have.

–Improving UltraEdit–

UltraEdit can do a lot of stuff, but there are still some things that I would like to see implemented before I can deem it perfect:

  • There’s no need for a popup window every time you save or open a file on the FTP. Why not replace that with something more condensed like a progress bar in the Status Bar.
  • I would like to see the FTP navigation act more like navigating on your PC, where it continues to show the tree structure as you move into folders. With UltraEdit it only shows the contents of the folder you’re currently in. UPDATE: Looks like there was a “hidden” feature I missed. Just right-click on the FTP site in the sidebar and uncheck the option “Show Current Directory Only”.
  • A portable version would be nice to have for those of us who hop around from computer to computer each day. There’s a U3 Smart Drive version available, but I don’t own one of those drives.

–The Giveaway–

Does UltraEdit sound like a program for you? If so we’ve got three UltraEdit licenses that we are going to be giving away, each of which is valued at almost $50! We’re not going to make you jump through hoops to enter in the contest, but we do want to hear about why this program will be useful to you. These are just some ideas as to what you could include in your comment:

  • What languages do you program in?
  • Do you have a lot of projects you’ll be using it for?
  • Do you use Notepad (or some other text editor) often?
  • What’s your favorite feature that UltraEdit has?

The contest ends Thursday, October 18th, 2007 at 12:00PM Central Time.

Besides that, you just need to make sure you enter in a valid email address and name. We’ll send both the name and email address off to UltraEdit when the contest ends so that they can give out the licenses to the randomly drawn winners.

UltraEdit Homepage