Writing about text editors on a Linux blog is a bit like putting your fingers in a river of blazing lava. Everyone has their favourite and they are ready to go to the end of the world defending it. Sure, we’ve had a fair share of “discussions” over programs like emacs and vi in our team room, and probably will continue having them for days to come. However, I feel like I have some thoughts about editors that I must share here.
Recently I bumped into a web site of an editor called Scratchpad. Since I have always been interested in software usability and this one promised to be very different in that field, I decided to fetch the sources and compile the thingie. And yes, different it is.
First and foremost, it does have a File menu entry, but the contents of that entry made me smile. There is no Save or Open command at all! Having to deal with saving files is a classic caveat in software usability. After all, why would I be interested in saving a file? I just need to edit the contents. I can undo the changes if I make a mistake. One is so used to having that Save option that it even feels quite strange not to have it. At first, that is. After using the editor for a while you get a funny feeling that you’ve forgotten something and when you actually realize what it is, it makes you smile even more :)
Another problematic user interface has been the Open file dialog box that almost every piece of software seems to have. You have to use some buttons and tree views that never seem to quite fit into that small dialog box. Not with Scratchpad. There is an Open folder command in the File menu which just opens a file browser window and you can then double click on a file you want to edit. The good thing about this is that the file browser is already well suited for finding a file you need and contains all of your bookmarks etc.
Scratchpad also has very nifty search and replace functionality which allows you to tag parts of text based on search results or selections, and then apply a replace string for all of the tagged parts.
All in all, I would say that Scratchpad does it’s job in a very clean and usable way. I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone who is ready to change their age old habit of having to press some magical key combination every now and then. No more (Ctrl-S / Ctrl-X, Ctrl-S / Esc-ZZ / whatever) for me, thank you!
(Edit: After writing this text happily with Scratchpad I copied it over to our blog software and now have two Save buttons in front of me. They sure look daunting.)