Posted in tools at 3:54 pm by Toby

I’ve recently been enjoying the thrill of finding some really good bits of software.  I’ve been around for quite a while – prehistoric by some standards – my first real programming job was in my Summer holidays in my third year in university back in 1996.  I worked for a software company that wrote stock market analysis software from a small house in hove with a great little language that had just been released – Delphi.

Anyway over the years I’ve picked up a few tools that I have come to find indespensible.  One of the very first of these was Textpad.  A great text-editing tool that loaded super fast and opened any file that you wanted, even binary files.  This was about 2000 and Textpad 4.0 served the niche I needed it for very well.  I bought a licence and have been using it happily and installing it on every machine I’ve owned or worked at every since.

They recently released a version 5, but I never really liked it.  They changed the interface; It took a bit longer to load and worst of all they removed it from the top level of the context menu in windows explorer.  I think they put it on the sendto menu, but that might as well have been a million miles away.

The windows explorer context menu is one of the most important menus in the whole system.  As a developer I am constantly drilling about different directories, opening up files of all types and sometimes you dont want to start up you IDE to take a look at that function in the file, a quick right click and select textpad and you had it open.  I do it on other peoples machine and come to an abrupt halt when I find they don’t have it installed.  We all have a particular favorite;  mine was textpad.

So I kept using 4.5 which was still wonderful, but I began to want to do things and found it all becoming a bit cumbersome.  At one point I even started writing my own texteditor that had some of the features I was looking for like automatic saving of temp files, regular expression matching of selected text to allow

context sensitive actions such as open a folder when you selected text that was a path.  It seemed a bit much to try to reproduce the other stuff though.

I happily trundled on using textpad whenever I needed to, but recently started looking around again.  One of the things I’ve been wanting to do recently is get some kind of tool that will format xml inplace in an editor.  Sure there are xml editors like xmlnotepad, but I wanted something that was part of my text tool rather than a seperate product.  I work with log files that have XML embedded in them so I sometimes have to copy and paste them out to look at the data and it is generally is formatted plainly so being able to quickly and easily format is really useful.  I eventually found a way of doing this in Textpad via a plugin that someone had written but it wasnt ideal.

Eventually I downloaded editpadpro.  At first I was a bit unsure, but I’m a big fan of JG Software and think Regexbuddy is a fabulous piece of software so I stuck with it.  Then the WOW’s began to arrive.

WOW 1: While exploring add in tools I found that I could do exactly what I wanted with my XML formatting.  I wrote a quick app in Delphi to format an input XML string  and spit it out.  Editpadpro passes the current selection to the tool via standard input and replaces it inline. Brilliant.

WOW 2: It allows you to change the type of a file (for syntax hilighting) at any time and even if you havent saved the file, which means you can paste in a bit of text: XML, Code, HTML and set the filetype and get highlighing and code folding on the fragment.

WOW 3: When a file you are looking at is changed on disk, rather than just reloading (which most editors do) it gives you the option of do a quick compare.

WOW 4 (and there’ll be more): It has a seriously cool search feature – Fold by Searchterm.  You can search for words in a document and then click the fold  button.  This then does a code fold on each line that contains your search text.  Need to list all the Create Table statements in a sql metadata file – search and fold.

When paying my small licence fee to get a full version of editpadpro I suddenly realised that I need to look around a bit more at whats out there.  I’ve been using a tool that has pretty much remained unchanged since 2000 and it has served me well, but now its time to look around and find out what else is out there. I’m glad some software companies are looking at the way people really like to use software and catering to it.

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