Text Editors

New text editor test: Sublime vs. UltraEdit vs. Zeus

Back in October 2013 I evaluated several commercial and free text editors. I guess, my profession as a computational linguist brings some special requirements for a text editor which may differ from other users' needs, e.g. programmers. Additionally I spend a lot of time in text editors and prefer appealing ones (so please don't give me advice regarding vi or emacs ;-) ).

First of all I want to send apologies to Jussi Jumppanen, the author of Zeus. He send me a mail some months ago and asked, why I compared his years old free Zeus version with professional commercial up to date versions from Ultraedit, Sublime etc. As a matter of fact, that was not fair.

So today I am going to compare three of the best ediors on the market right now. How I decide which editors to test? Like this:

1. My last tests winner was UltraEdit and I am still using it since then. However, I was never really content with my election so maybe this test will reveal some other preferences.

2. A friend is using Sublime and I like to watch him using it as it is as well fancy as mighty.

3. After my mail contact with Jussi I was interested in the power of the "great" Zeus I missed in my last test.

Okay, let's start. What do I want, what do I expect, what do I require from a text editor?

I think I can break it down to the following points:

1. Can handle really big text files

2. Has a stable and fast and transparent regular expressions component

3. Can reliably recognize and convert text encodings

I evaluate the following text editors:

Sublime Text (2.0.2) by Sublime HQ - 70 $
UltraEdit (21.30) by IDM Computer Solutions - 79,95 $
Zeus IDE (3.97) by Xidicone - 49,95 $

1. How long does it take to open a 50 MByte / 100 MByte / 1.8 GByte text file?

(Ok, as I used real text files and not ones I made up the real files sizes are 53 MByte, 105 MByte and 1.84 GByte)

  Sublime UltraEdit Zeus
50 MB ~ 5 s. < 1 s. ~ 3 s.
100 MB ~ 10 s. < 1 s. ~ 5 s.
1.8 GB > 2 min. < 1 s. ~ 50 s.

As we can see, we are looking at three very different styles of text file handling. As UltraEdit does not load the whole file at once but the part you are looking at, it does not matter how big the entire file is - opening it and starting to work with it does never ever take longer than a second. A huge plus here. Zeus reads the entire file as Sublime does as well but Zeus is a lot faster and I was not sure if Sublime will not crash at the end of the procedure as it didn't react for some time but than was stable. And, in contrary to Zeus, it showed a status bar while loading so you knew it was working which is for loading time more than 10 seconds a real useful information.
Oh yeah, there is something you need to know in regard of UltraEdits file handling: If the file is bigger than 1 MByte you always get a dialog window before the file opens asking you to select: Open the file directly which makes changes permanent or in a temporary file which makes it longer to process. I always use the direct file opening.

2. How much RAM is used according to the task manager?

I admit, this is influenced by a lot of other factors and I guess repeating the experiment would end in varying results but at the end of the day, the tendencies are useful to know.

  Sublime UltraEdit Zeus
50 MB 47.000 k  28.000 k 80.000 k *
100 MB 85.000 k    28.000 k 140.000 k
1.8 GB 994.000.000 k  28.000 k 1.934.000.000 k

Interesting: While UltraEdit is as slim as it is fast (and I guess this goes for longer loading times when scrolling through files) Zeus seems to be the bit faster that it uses more memory.

*] It seems that I could win the crash challenge which is run in order to prove the stability of Zeus - unfortunatley it crashed several times after opening this file and just doing nothing. In general, Zeus appeared very stable to me.

3. How do I recognize additional file information ad the number of lines, number of words, number of chars?

Sublime: I was not able to see any of those informations in Sublime and I am not willing to read documentation for such basic features.

UltraEdit: UltraEdit shows in the bottom bar some information about the acutal file. This includes file size in a not specified number. The 50.6 MByte file e.g. is 53158512 big so I think this means something like Byte. The other informations I would be interested in are also not available or well hidden.

Zeus: Same as Sublime - no information at all.

4. How do I recognize the acutal text encoding?

Sublime: I have no idea and I am not willing to read documentation for such basic features.

UltraEdit: Bottom bar says "utf-16"

Zeus: I have no idea and I am not willing to read documentation for such basic features.

5. How do I convert the actual text encoding?

Sublime: File/Save with Encoding - good list but I don't get why I have to select "save" when I want to convert.

UltraEdit: Under File/Convert you may find a depressingly incomprehensible list of possible and impossible conversions. E.g. I guess "Unicode" means "UTF-16 Little Endian" as there also exists "Unicode Big Endian" but these are things I don't really understand. Encodings are such a pain in the neck, why the heck should an editor make this even more complicated?

Zeus: I have no idea and I am not willing to read documentation for such basic features. Some basic encodings are accessible via "save as..."

6. How do I recognize the line ending style?

Sublime: I have no idea and I am not willing to read documentation for such basic features.

UltraEdit: Bottom bar says DOS or UNIX or MAC. It can be converted as well via File/Convert.

Zeus: I have no idea and I am not willing to read documentation for such basic features.

7. Can I somehow see this invisible character? ""

The Unicode for this character called "Reverse Line feed" is U+008D and I hate it because it sometimes shows up in my corpora and it is really hard to spot. In my first test, UltraEdit earned a big plus as it was the only editor able to show a box here. Unfortunatly, this was a bug and was fixed afterwards, so now there is no editor able to show this character...

Sublime: No visible character, but a countable one, a line with this character inside has one character more and it is spotable with the text cursor as it stops there.

UltraEdit: No visible character, and also not countable one, the count just jumps from 1 to 3.

Zeus: No visible character, but a countable one. And Zeus is the only editor where you can mark the character (either with the mouse cursor or with the text cursor) as there appears a space if you try to.

8. Can I search through all open files or all files in a folder?

Sublime: Yes, but not in the regular search field. You've got to open "Find/Search in files..." and there you can select files and folders. It shows the results in another window, which seems not to be so practical to me.

UltraEdit: Yes, all open files, just set a mark on "All open files" when searching.

Zeus: Just click "All open documents" in the search window.

9. What about the Regex implementation?

Sublime: The regex engine seems to be good implemented and it is fast even for big files.

UltraEdit: This was the best part of UltraEdit as regex are really fast and you can chose only in Ultraedit between Perl, Unix and UltraEdit flavor. But as a matter of fact I have had a lot of problems since my last test and had a lot of conversation with the UltraEdit support regarding problems and bugs in the regex implementation. They are really nice and supportive people, but e.g. my last bug report from November regarding regex was not fixed and I neither got an answer as well.

Zeus: The documentation states, that the regex flavor is "Unix/Perl". In general it seems to work good but I would have to learn some things that are different from my usual working style. I thought it would be Perl-Style to use $1 in order to refer to a variable but here it is \1. Additionally, there is still no way to come from search to replace (you've got to close the search pop up and open the replace pop up).

11. Do I like the look and feel of the editor?

Sublime: It is very slim, beautiful and has style. I really like the minimap although I do not use it very often. The clean interface is sometimes to clean as I miss a lot of information. There seems to be no way to reuse old search strings. You can use standard keyboard shortcuts as CTRL-W to close a window.

UltraEdit: In the contrary, UltraEdit is full of icons and functions I have never used and so it seems to be really complex. It could use a bit of a cleaning up. I hate UltraEdits Search windows. After a lot of investigation and personal support (!) I found out it is possible to fix the find and replace bar at the right side so you can debug a regex without restarting all the time from scratch. I would love to prevent opening a new floating bar everytime when search starts as this always is on top of something I would rather like to see and/or edit. Additionally I hate the keyboard shortcuts, e.g. Shift-F5 to close a tab while system wide CTRL-W changes from line break from hard to soft.

Zeus: I am not a fan of the oldfashioned style of Zeus. But, well, it has pretty serious and stable appearance as well. But still, I would prefer something modern and slim. And it seems to be impossible to dock the search windows anywhere. You can use standard keyboard shortcuts as CTRL-W to close a window.

Results:

As a matter of fact, there does not seem to be THE editor for me. All of them had strong features I would love to use on a regular basis and all of them have real bad shortcomings.

Sublime:
I love the slim and fast interface although I often struggle to find the information I want. Sublime needs a lot of time to open large files but is stable and fast even if they are really big.

UltraEdit:
I love the fact, that UltraEdit is so unbelievable fast in regards of big files. The possibility to change the regex flavor seems nice but I never changed the style - I think I was just happy to exaclty know which style I was working with. I do not like the interface, especially the keyboard shortcut implementation. The bugs in the regex engine are a no go.

Zeus:
Zeus is the only editor which allows marking of the invisible character in test number 7. It is faster and more RAM greedy than Sublime which I think is a good deal, after all when it still is able to work with those big files. Unfortunatley I really dislike the interface although it is a reasonable mix between the over filled UltraEdit and the too cleaned up Sublime.

My personal decision? Hard to say. Really hard to say. In the end, it comes down to one question: What is worse? That Sublime is so sedate when it comes to big files or that UltraEdits regex are buggy and I dislike the interface? Although Zeus has some quite interesting features and is in some manners the middle way between the other candidates but I really really don't want to work with it .

I guess I will stay with UltraEdit for the moment but ask my Sublime using friend if he can answer some of my questions above. I will inform you.

Even More Notes on UltraEdit

With the new version of UltraEdit it is finally possible to edit the Regex while search/replacing (as known as standard from other editors). After some conversation with the support I found out, how: Just double-click on the new "Find and Replace" title bar so that the dialog is docked to the right of the edit window. Now the dialog will remain open while testing regular expression replace operations. Phew!! Again: UltraEdit has a very kind, compenent and fast support, thanks, guys!

Notes on Ultra Edit

In October 2013 I tested 12 text editors in order to find out if one of them fits my needs. Those needs turned out to be quite extravagant as only one of the editors was able to fulfill most of them: the commercial and not really cheap Ultra Edit. Unfortunatley I had to find out, that even this result was wrong. Back to the requierements I postulated in my review:

The editor of my choice should be able to
- deal with very large files (>50MByte)
- search for regular expressions (perl flavor)
- show special characters (for example the one between the quotation marks: "" The Unicode Code is U+008D : (REVERSE LINE FEED) (see here)

1. Ultra Edit can deal very good with very large files.
2. Ultra Edit is still the editor with the best RegEx support as you can e.g. choose the flavour of Regex you want to use (I prefer Perl). But unfortunatley it turns out to have a quite user unfriendly work flow: It is not possible to enter a Regex, make a test search and edit the Regex afterwards as the regex search window changes to a search bar. Here you may neither see nor edit the Regex. You need to close the bar and open the window again to get it. And again. And again. Also, it is not possible to switch from the search to the replace dialoge without closing the one window and open the other one. And reenter the search phrase, of curse. This feels so weird, I can't believe that there are users out there who prefer this kind of behavior. So, in many cases I need to use another editor (notepad++) to get my regex straight.
3. Kind of ironic: The feature that convinced me the most of Ultra Edit, the possibility to see invisible special characters, turned out to be a bug that was removed yet in the version I have bought.

Regarding point 2 and 3 I was in contact with the very kind and competent support of Ultra Edit but unfortunatley they do not seem to plan changes regarding those two issues in the near future.

Don't get me wrong: Ultra Edit is still a great editor and may be worth the money for many kinds of users. But I thought I should share theese experiences with you.

Read the whole test here.

Test: 12 Text Editors

Edit 2: A short remark: Next to 11 other text editors I reviewed Zeus IDE Lite in the article below. As a matter of fact, this test is not really fair, as Zeus Lite dates back to 2004 and the other editors have been kind of up to date. I will present a test for the actual version next to some actualized tests for other and new text-editors soon and insert a link here aswell. -Daniel (11/25/2014)

Edit: Read here some notes on the winner

The last days I fought with several text editors. Today I decided to spend some time and find out the one that indeed fits my needs. To be frankly, I wasn't thinking that my demands are very special, so I was very surprised by the problems I encountered.

Here is, what I looking for. The editor of my choice should be able to
- deal with very large files (>50MByte)
- search for regular expressions (perl flavor)
- show special characters (for example the one between the quotation marks: "" The Unicode Code is U+008D : (REVERSE LINE FEED) (see here)

Additionally I would be glad if it looks good.
Oh, and it should be free.

I tested the following text editors:

Crimson Editor
EditPad Lite
InType
Komodo Edit
Notepad++
Notepad 2
Programmers Notepad
PSPad
Sublime Text
TextPad
UltraEdit
Zeus (Lite)

Now the results:

1. Big files:

EditPad Lite, Notepad 2, Programmers Notepad, TextPad work very good with big files +++
InType, PSPad, Ultra Edit, and Zeus work good with big files but seems to be a bit slower ++
Notepad++ gets slower and may also chrash when working with big files --
Crimson Editor, Komodo Edit, Sublime Text are extremly slow ---

2. Regular Expressions:
All support RegEx but:
Only UltraEdit allows to switch between three RegEx flavors (Perl, Unix, UltraEdit) and offers mouse selection of the most important filters +++
Sublime Text marks all matches with a box ++
Notepad++ and Notepad2 work with Scintilla which seems to be slow and instable when working with big texts (and not complete, i.e. incapable of searching for more than one line) but nevertheless very useful -
InType, Komodo Edit, TextPad, and Zeus have no way to come from search to replace (you've got to close the search pop up and open the replace one) --
Crimson Editor, EditPad Lite, Programmers Notepad, and PSPad: I observed some strange behavior or I didn't understand what to do but I don't like it ---

3. Invisible characters:
Ultra Edit is the only editor that shows a box for invisible characters. +++
Crimson Editor shows at least a blank. ++
Zeus and PSPad show a blank when the character or a adjacent one is marked (but depending on mouse position PSPad also shows e.g. a third quotation mark when marking which is a bug)+
EditPad Lite, InType, Komodo Edit, Notepad++, Notepad 2, Programmers Notepad, Sublime Text, TextPad show nothing. ---

4. Beauty contest:
EditPad Lite, InType, Komodo Edit, Sublime Text, and UltraEdit look like "Welcome to 2015" +++
Notepad++, Notepad 2, and Programmers Notepad look like "Welcome to 2009" +
Crimson Editor, PSPad, TextPad, and Zeus look like "Welcome to 1995" ---

5. Money:
Crimson Editor, Komodo Edit, Notepad++, Notepad 2, Programmers Notepad, and PSPad are free +++
EditPad (which is just a) a Lite Version and b) free for private use) +
Zeus (Lite Version) +
TextPad (Nag ware, 27$) +-
InType (42 $) -
Sublime Text (70 $) --
UltraEdit (79 $) ---

The results:
Crimson Editor: -9 +5 = Shows a blank, but is extremly slow on large files, problems with RegEx, ugly
EditPad Lite: -6 +7 = Fast and beautiful, but problems with RegEx and invisible characters
InType: -6 +5 = Fast and beautiful, but cost a lot and doesn't show invisible characters
Komodo Edit: -8 +6 = Beautiful and free, but extremly slow on large files and problems with RegEx and invisible characters
Notepad++: -6 +3 = Free and Scintilla is better than nothing, no invisibles
Notepad 2: -4 +4 = Fast and free, Scintilla is better than nothing, no invisibles
Programmers Notepad: -6 +7 = Fast and free, no invisibles
PSPad: -6 +4 = Slow, bug with invisibles
Sublime Text: -8 +5 = Expensive and slow, but is beautiful and shows a little box when using RegEx
TextPad: -9 +4 = Fast for big files, but the rest is ugly nagware
UltraEdit: -3 +11 = Extremly expensive but also extremly beautiful, fast and capable regarding RegEx (several flavors) and invisibles (showing a box)
Zeus (Lite): -5 +4 = Fast with large files and shows a blank for invisibles

Here is the ranking:

Top Plus
Ultra Edit +11
EditPad Lite + 7
Programmers Notepad +7

Top Minus
TextPad -9
CrimsomEditor -9
Sublime Text -8

Seems like I've got to buy an UltraEdit license...

Edit: Read here some notes on the winner UltraEdit after some months of experience