Programming, Regular Expressions, Software, Web Development

The Top 3 Free Regular Expression Editors of 2013

I’ve decided to have a look at what the open-source/shareware market has to offer these days when it comes to text editors that can handle regular expressions.

I have been using EditPad Lite to test and run my regular expressions, and in the past 10 or so years I have not been able to find any tool that even comes close to being as useful. This time around I tested two other options that have been given good reviews: Notepad++ and PSPad.

Here are my findings from looking into EditPad Lite, Notepad++, and  PSPad.

Also if you find this review interesting, I did a review back in 2011 of the top online regular expression testing tools at that time. Feel free to have a look, and let me know what you think!

EditPad Lite

EditPad Lite is the reigning champion in my mind when it comes to regular expression editors.

You can opt to work with the Multi-Line Search Panel, which is an incredible advantage when testing/debuggin regular expressions. So unlike other tools, you are not working with a small popup ‘find’ window.

Likewise, EditPad Lite features syntax highlighting for your regular expression as you write it, so you can immediately know if your expression works or it doesn’t.

Bottom line with this editor is that I have not yet thrown a regular expression at it that it could not handle, and regular expressions that I write here work in either JavaScript or ASP.NET.

PSPad

The PSPad installer came so bundled with AdWare/Junkware that I was almost afraid to run the actual program. When I did, I found its regular expression handling to be awkward and incompletely supported.

So my tests running  look-aheads and look-behinds using the standard fared poorly. For instance, I tested (?<=\d)$ in order to match but not consume a numeric character. All I got back was an error. A quick look into the helpfile showed some useful hints, but no answer to my question, leading me to believe that this tool does not support full regular expression syntax.

PSPad may be good for other purposes, but I quickly ended up quickly un-installing it.

NotePad++

NotePad++ is a nice free tool, and unlike PSPad, the installer doesn’t come loaded with AdWare to corrupt your PC.

However, even the current version (NotePad++ 6.5) comes only with rudimentary regular expression handling by default. The plus side is that you can easily download plugins that extend the functionality of NotePad++, including one called RegRexPlace.

After installing the plugin I found that my  look-aheads and look-behinds started working. However unlike EditPad Lite, NotePad++ does not come with a good multi-panel editing screen for your regular expressions, and does not feature syntax highlighting, both of which are features that I find very useful in EditPad Lite.

Conclusion

Overall, I would give NotePadd++ a good rating, but if you are looking for a text editor that supports regular expressions, then EditPad Lite is still king.

I would not even mention PSPad as a regular expression editor since its regular expression handling seems to only support basic expressions, and is missing important things such as the look-ahead and look-behind functions I used as tests. This was somewhat of a surprise to me since I had read good reviews about this tool.

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