The 4 Best Free Text Editors

A list of freeware text editors for Windows, Mac, and Linux

Computers come pre-installed with a program that can open and edit text files. It's called TextEdit on Macs and Notepad on Windows, but neither are quite as advanced as some of the third-party applications available today.

Below is a list of the best free text editors. Use them to edit everything from TXT files to HTML, CSS, JAVA, VBS, PHP, BAT files, and more. They can also be used to convert between those formats.

If you just need a super quick way to strip the formatting from some text or to make a .TXT file without downloading a program, try Edit Pad. For conversions, a document converter is usually preferred.

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What We Like
  • Tabbed interface

  • Automatically restores recently opened, unsaved files

  • Auto-completes as you write

  • Includes tons of really helpful features like macros, syntax highlighting, and plugins

  • Opens basically any file as a text document

  • There's a portable version available

What We Don't Like
  • Runs on Windows only

Notepad++ is an excellent alternative notepad application for Windows computers. It’s really easy to use for beginners who just need a text file opener or editor but also includes some really advanced features.

This program uses tabbed browsing, which means several documents remain open at a time and they'll display at the top as tabs. While each tab represents its own file, the program can interact with all of them at once to do things like compare files for differences and search for or replace text.

Probably the easiest way to edit files with this tool is to right-click the file and choose Edit with Notepad++ from the context menu.

This program can open nearly any file as a text document and supports lots of helpful plugins. It also includes a really handy text search-and-replace function, automatic syntax highlighting, word auto-completion, offline text-file conversion.

The Find option searches for words with criteria like backward direction, match whole word only, match case, and wrap around.

Also supported: bookmarking, macros, auto-backup, multi-page searching, resumed sessions, read-only mode, encoding conversions, searching for words on Wikipedia, and opening the document in your web browser.

Notepad++ accepts plugins to do things like auto-save open documents, merge all the text from open documents into one main file, align programming code, monitor open documents to refresh them as they change, copy and paste more than one item from the clipboard at once, and lots more.

It saves text documents to a huge variety of formats like TXT, CSS, ASM, AU3, BASH, BAT, HPP, CC, DIFF, HTML, REG, HEX, JAVA, SQL, and VBS.

Windows is the only supported OS, both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. You can also grab a portable version from the download page; one is in the ZIP format and the other is a 7Z file.

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Visual Studio Code

Visual Studio Code text editor program screenshot
What We Like
  • Whole folders can be opened at once to open all of the text files

  • A minimal interface is just one click away

  • Supports tabs for easy file tracking

  • Includes a debugger; perfect for source code editing

  • Frequently updated with improvements.

What We Don't Like
  • Centered primarily around editing and debugging code, so it could be too much for the average user

  • Settings are difficult to change

Visual Studio Code is used primarily as a source code editor. It's extremely minimal and even has a "Zen Mode" option that immediately hides all the menus and windows, and maximizes the program to fill the whole screen.

The tabbed browsing interface seen with other text editors is supported here as well, which makes it really easy to work with multiple documents at once.

You can also open entire folders of files at once if you're working on a project, and even save the project for easy retrieval later.

However, this text editor probably isn't ideal unless you plan to use it for programming purposes. There are entire sections dedicated to debugging code, viewing command outputs, managing source control providers, and even using a built-in Command Prompt.

Here are some features you might find useful in this program: open whole folders at once from the right-click context menu, "Change All Occurrences" option makes it easy to select and edit text you want to change throughout the entire document in one sweep, "Rename Refactoring" changes the name of a symbol in every instance of it across all the documents in your project, opening recently closed documents is easy since they're listed in the same place, "IntelliSense" helps to automatically fill in code based on surrounding text and the location of the cursor in the document, files can be auto-saved if you turn the option on, and documents can quickly be reverted to the state they were in when you last saved them.

Visual Studio Code runs on Windows 11, 10, and 8; macOS 10.11 and newer; and Linux computers.

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Brackets free text editor screenshot in Windows 8
What We Like
  • Perfect for an uncluttered, minimal working space

  • Supports split-screen editing

  • Includes code-specific syntax highlighting

  • Can view updates for some files live in your web browser

  • Lets you use keyboard shortcuts

  • Plugins are supported to add extra features

What We Don't Like
  • Built mainly for people with code development in mind, so most of the features are centered around project files, displaying code, etc.

Brackets is primarily meant for web designers, but can of course be used by anyone to view or edit a text document.

The interface is clean and modern and feels really easy to use despite all of its advanced settings. In fact, nearly all the options are hidden away from plain site so that it's easy for anyone to use, which also provides an extremely open UI for editing.

Code writers might like that Brackets highlights syntax, can split the screen to edit more than one document simultaneously, lets you click one button for a really simple distraction-free interface, and supports lots of keyboard shortcuts so that you can quickly indent, duplicate, move between lines, toggle line and block comments, show or hide code hints, and more.

You can quickly change the file type you're working with to instantly change syntax highlighting rules, as well as change the encoding of the file if you need to.

If you're editing a CSS or HTML file, you can enable the Live Preview option to watch the page update in real time in your web browser as you make changes to the file.

The Working Files area is where you can open all the files that belong to a single project, and quickly move between them without leaving the program.

Some examples of plugins you can use include one to support W3C validation, Ungit to make it easier to use Git, an HTML tag menu, and Python tools.

The program comes installed with both a dark and a light theme that you can change at any time, but there are dozens of others that you can install through the Extensions Manager.

It's available for Windows and macOS.

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Komodo Edit

Komodo Edit free text editor screenshot
What We Like
  • Very attractive and modern interface

  • You can make virtual projects to bring together files from various locations

  • Supports unique features not found in similar text editors

  • Changing the interface setup is easy with one click

  • The tabbed interface is easy to work with

  • Runs on Linux, macOS, and Windows

What We Don't Like
  • It's a bit complex—even with its minimal UI—for people who want just a simple text editor

Komodo Edit has a clear and minimal design that still manages to pack some awesome features.

Various view modes are included so that you can quickly open or close specific windows. One is a focus mode to hide all the open windows and just display the editor, and the others show or hide things like folders, the syntax checker results, and notifications.

This program simplifies the management of all open text documents. At the very top of the program is the path to the currently opened file, and you can select the arrow next to any folder to get a list of files, any of which will open as a new tab in Komodo Edit if you select it.

The folder views off to the side are also really useful since they let you browse through the file system as well as create virtual projects that link folders and files together to better organize what you need to work on.

A unique feature is the area at the upper-left side of the program that lets you not only undo and redo like most programs, but also go back to the previous cursor location, as well as go forward to return to where you just were.

Here are some other features worth noting: you can connect to a remote FTP server to open or save files, supports bookmarking specific areas of the document, lets you switch to a huge number of file types to highlight syntax differently and to save under that format, the "Go to Anything" search box lets you search for files to open, install add-ons, run scripts and commands, open menus, install other languages, change the color scheme, etc., recently closed tabs and files are easy to re-open, preview files in a web browser, build templates from existing files, the "Watch File" option can open a document in a new window for reference without being added to the tabbed list of files you're editing, and it records macros that can be played back to repeat things.

This text editor is said to work with Windows, macOS, and Linux.

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