Throughout my career, I have run many developers who are die-hard fans of one application or another.

When I first started, I became an emacs fanatic!  I mean, as my power user skills increased, there were so many amazing tricks I could make the software do!  So, as I learned it better, it became a better tool…a more powerful tool.

Although I have since moved on from emacs (though I have yet to find anything that closely resembles it’s macro-recording capability), I have found a tool that I could not live without.  Notepad++.

Seriously!?  A text editor?

Hmm…your probably thinking one of three things:

  1. Oh yeah, totally.
  2. What is the world is that!?
  3. Of all the things you could have chosen, you chose a text editor!?

For all you number one’s out there, rock on!

For you number twos, Notepad++ is a text editor.  You use it to edit “text” (non-binary) files.  It does all sorts of color coding on the words when you are writing software.  This helps you identify reserved words and makes writing code just a little easier.  It allows you to have multiple files open and to view files side-by-side.  It’s like Notepad that comes with Windows, but so so much more!

And for the #3’s, have you used this software?

If you are dubious (and I would certainly understand if you were), please allow me to share the catalyst for this article.

I was writing a code-generator for one of my customers and they kept reporting back to me that the output files were invalid.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have any tools to perform an appropriate validation.  I had one tool that seemed like it would work, but clearly the validation piece had a few bugs.  Every single file I gave it was invalid!

While looking for other commercial solutions, I ran across a plugin for Notepad++.  A free plugin!

A few minutes later, I could load my data files into Notepad++ and test them.

You know what?  It helped me find and debug the problem.  And now I have a happy customer.

There are a lot of really fancy tools out there that do a lots of great work for us, but sometimes we need to find good tools that help us do some of the fundamentals well.  Notepad++ certainly fills that niche for me.