PSPad: a small, powerful, and versatile freeware text editor

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PSPad is a text editor with syntax highlighting that supports many languages and file types. It is feature rich, allows you to define your own syntax highlighting for unsupported languages, is

highly configurable, and nearly all options are close to hand.

[Editor’s note: this review was written by Freewaregenius contributor Carbonize. Check out his tech blog here].

As a web developer, having a powerful and versatile text editor that makes my work easier is extremely important to me. Fortunately, there are a handful of powerful freeware text editors to choose from, and PSPad is my text editor of choice.

One of the most notable features is PSPad’s syntax highlighting, which makes it easy to see if I’ve not closed a string or a loop. Moreover the built in FTP client means I can work on files on the server without having to download them using another program before editing them. And the function auto complete with attributes means I don’t have to go looking up a function online.

Freewaregenius 5-Star Pick

Features: the following is just a selection of the features and tools PSPad offers.

  • Tabbed Interface: So you can work on multiple documents at the same time
  • Auto Completion: Press CTRL+J to pull up a list of possible functions/tags based on what you have typed and have PSPad finish typing them for you.
  • File Compare: So you can easily see what’s different between two files
  • FTP Client: So you can edit files without having to download them to your computer
  • HTML Preview: You can see what your web pages will look like using the inbuilt browser. You can also point it at a local web server to test your scripts.
  • HTML Multihighlighter: Using this you can have PSPad syntax highlight HTML, Javascript, CSS and a chosen language (PHP, VBscript etc) when viewing a file.
  • Regex Search/Replace: You can use regular expressions when searching and replacing text for more power.
  • Spell-checking: twenty languages are supported (as of this writing) – download the appropriate language dictionary from the program page. Also allows you to set up a custom user dictionary.
  • Portable: Can be told to save it’s settings in the program folder so you can carry it on your USB stick.
  • Matching Brace/Tag Highlighting: So you can easily see where a function, loop or HTML tag starts and ends.
  • Macro Recorder: Record keystrokes to cut down on repetitive tasks
  • TiDy Library: So you can have your HTML/XHTML/CSS checked and cleaned up
  • ASCII table: Quickly get the hex or ascii value of any character along with it’s HTML entity if it has one. You can even double click on the current character in the status bar to have the table opene up with that character selected.
  • Code Explorer: Lists the functions, methods, tags in a file so you can quickly jump to them
  • Color Translator: quickly convert a color from it’s name, hex code or RGB values into another format and have PSPad insert it where the cursor is.
  • Eye Dropper: A very useful tool. Minimises the PSPad window and when you click the mouse it will insert the colour that is beneath the cursor.
  • Lorem Ipsum Generator: Inserts Lorem Ipsum text. You can specify number of words, if you want it between paragraph tags and how many words per paragraph.
  • Hex editor: Hard to explain what a hex editor is but comes in useful.
  • Case Change: Quickly change the case of the selected text to uppercase, lowercase or just capitalise the first character of every word.
  • Different Line Endings: Can read and write files using DOS, Mac or Unix style line endings.
  • Compress HTML: Removes spaces and line endings from HTML files to make them smaller.
  • Convertors: A huge range of convertors to so such things as convert text to morse code, characters to named HTML entities and many more.

I’d just like to talk a bit more about PSPad’s Auto Completion. PSPad actually has two different methods of auto complete. The standard one is Ctrl+J which just completes the function name or the HTML tag. But PSPad also has Ctrl+Space which will not only complete the function name but will also put in what attributes the function takes. With HTML tags Ctrl+Space will often open up a window where that shows all possible attributes so you can fill them in in the window.

CONS: here’s an overview on some of the issues that can be improved.

  • PSPad’s syntax highlighter is not always perfect. I’ve never seen any errors in normal HTML files but occasionally it will mess up with PHP, specially when used as part of the HTML Multihighlighter
  • No code folding. A lot of people on the PSPad forums keep asking for this but I see little purpose in it myself.
  • Doesn’t highlight all PHP functions as functions but weirdly it does support them all in code completion. Although I recently sent the maker a complete list of PHP functions so hopefully that may change.
  • Sometimes when saving a file via FTP PSPad will lock up and you have no choice but to wait for it to finish doing what it’s doing otherwise you may lose the file if you terminate PSPad.

The verdict: at the end of the day I have been using PSPad for years and finding myself returning to it despite testing other text editors (Notepad++, RJ TextEd etc). I have found that it has all the functions I need and more. All the tools you need are simple to find and a few I have not seen in other editors such as the eye dropper and color converter. PSPad just makes work a lot easier in a lot of ways and the author of the program is active in his forums to answer questions.

Version Tested: 4.5.3 (2298)

Compatibility: Windows All.

Go to the program page to download the latest version (approx 3.43 megs).