Notepadqq - A powerful text editor, somewhat forgotten

Updated: June 24, 2022

Native applications. Among the various emails I received as a response to my Moving away from Windows software checklist article, the insistence on native programs was the biggest one. In other words, people wondered why I'd use anything via WINE when there are (acceptable) native options available. By and large, this is indeed a valid claim, but it assumes one thing. Functional parity.

Not one to dismiss feedback lightly, I decided to actually test pretty much every program mentioned in these email responses, to see whether they can actually do the job - and you shall be seeing those reviews in the coming months. So we want to check the following. One, if they offer functional parity, because without it, the other arguments are irrelevant. Two, are they useful in their own right, if not as a primary tool then as a secondary or backup option. Three, to explore new ideas and tools and whatnot, which can lead to some pretty fun discoveries. My topic of interest today is Notepadqq, a text editor designed to be like Windows-only Notepad++. So let us proceed.

Teaser

Beforehand, one minute on my reasoning and such

If you're tuning late into the Dedoimedo show, here's a TL;DR on what's happening. I'd like to be able to move away from Windows as my primary computing platform for home use. This is easier said than done, because of a long software dependency exclusive to Windows, office and gaming being the prime culprits. My journey is starting now, but could take a good few years to complete. Along the way, I'm migrating my software workloads to Linux. Some programs are native, some aren't. One possible solution: WINE.

WINE, the main reason why we're here. I've already shown you how to run Notepad++ this way. It' an amazing, flexible program, with superb capabilities, and in my opinion, unrivaled by any other program of this nature. The question is then, is it possible to get Notepad++ look & feel in Linux, natively?

Today, I'd like to figure that out. I'm not stranger to text editors, it's just that my experience shows that whatever is out there, the other options aren't as good or friendly as Notepad++. However, I'm always testing and trying new things. I do quite frequently use KWrite, Kate, Geany, and to some extent, Notepadqq. Indeed, it is time to tell you a bit more about the latter.

Notepadqq in a nutshell ...

Here we have a spiritually compatible Notepad++ text editor, with a native Linux build. The first step is to install it. I found the process a bit less than optional. I couldn't find Notepadqq in every Linux distro repo. Older releases of Kubuntu don't have it, the newer ones do. If you go to the project's GitHub page, the last visible public release is a beta from 2018. That can give an impression of a less-than-well-maintained project. Is that critical in a text editor? Not so much. But is it indicative? Kinda, especially since Notepad++ is actively developed .Anyway, I set up Notepadqq in Kubuntu 21.10 and commenced to test!

What's next? Text!

Notepadqq looks the part. It has a simple, clean, tabbed interface. The one feature that instantly drew me in, the auto-save of unsaved text buffers. In other words, open a new text file (new 4 or whatever), and start typing stuff. Don't save it. Close Notepadqq. When you restart it, the unsaved buffers will be there. This is an awesome capability, as it allows you to instantly save your work session without worrying or thinking too much. It also lets you keep temporary notes without cluttering the system. Notepad++ does this, and so does its would-be Linux clone. Very few other text editors have this function, and if they do, it's far less elegant and transparent than what you get here.

Working with Notepadqq

Notepadqq has lots of goodies. It can auto-detect a huge list of programming languages and file format syntaxes, with good highlighting and auto-completion. The search & replace capability is similar to Notepad++. Lots of options, regex, as well as a drop-down list of your recent search & replacement strings. It will also tell you if any of your documents have spaces-tab discrepancy.

Search

Spaces, tabs warning

Encoding

Language support

The list of languages is long and impressive; notice the right margin/border buglet.

Notepadqq was also quite fast and responsive, which is important if you work with tons of text files. That's another thing. For some reason, most native Linux text editors are a bit tardy. You do something, and you can feel a few ms of delay here and there. Not so with Notepadqq, and I'm quite pleased with the result.

Where be the gaps? Extensions, plugins

The divergence in the experience starts with enhanced capability, which is not provided by the core program. In this regard, Notepad++ does a splendid job with its Plugin Manager. Very easy to use, and it lets you update your plugins. Here, I only found an option to manually install extensions, but this requires Node.js and NPM, and the whole thing is clearly labeled as experimental. Not sure what gives here, but you don't get some of the cool extra stuff like the Windows counterpart.

Extensions

And then, there's the software version information. Seemingly, this is still a beta tool, and the copyright notice reads 2019. Like I said, there's nothing inherently wrong with that, I happily use a whole bunch of software that was last released 15 years back or more. But then, does that mean it won't be continued, and at some point, we might hit an issue with how easily it can be found and installed in future versions of various Linux distros? If anything, if I were to commit to a native program as an alternative to Notepad++, it wouldn't really make sense to adopt something that hasn't been updated in three years.

About

Conclusion

Notepadqq is a decent text editor, in its own right. Fast, pretty elegant. It's got tabs, it's got a session auto-save, even for unsaved text buffers. Great. The search is solid, and you can use it with a good measure of efficiency and productivity. By and large, it's definitely one of the better text editors out there.

That said, I don't think it's as good as Notepad++, and the major problem lies in the lack of plugins. Also, the tool hasn't been updated in a while. While the program does 99% things right, the outstanding issues are sort of a dealbreaker for me. I'd like to be able to use it, but I am not sure it gives me what I need, and I don't know whether it has a future. All in all, there's a great deal of potential in Notepadqq, and it could easily become a superb text editor. But right now, it's merely just very good. And hopefully, it will stay around.

Cheers.

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