UltraEdit 16: Still One of the Best Text Editors for Programmers

Nothing is perfect, so I try to avoid giving any software a perfect score. However, not giving full marks to UltraEdit ($60, 30-day free trial) would mean basically making up flaws. Even the easy one, "May be too overwhelming for some users," is mitigated by the built-in environments that trim the toolbars, menus, and options down to a narrow subset for some or explode them into full complexity for others, and switching between these configurations takes a mouseclick or two.

The ability to edit XML from the tree is just one of UltraEdit 16's many new features.
UltraEdit is a text editor primarily aimed at programmers, but with a rich feature set that makes it of interest to anyone who works primarily with unformatted (no font/bold/alignment/etc) text. This includes anyone who does shell scripting, edits hex files, works with PHP or XML, or marks up documentation for TeX, among a thousand other possible tasks. Since a number of freeware text editors (such as Notepad++) are becoming extremely feature-rich, UltraEdit has to really work to be worth paying for.

Some of the ways UltraEdit earns its price tag: in-tree editing of XML files (you can navigate the structure and change values), "Function Aware" editing of code (not just syntax highlighting, but a list of functions in a separate window for quick navigation), a powerful interface that combines tabs and MDI (multiple document interface) to let you arrange windows as you want, full scriptability via JavaScript, line hide/reveal to help you filter through log files. That's just a sampling; UltraEdit has far more features than this review could list.

The syntax highlighting/code aware feature deserves a special mention. While many programs now perform basic syntax highlighting, UltraEdit is supported by a community which has produced format/structure files for over 600 different languages or formats, from the obvious to the obscure. Even if some of these are out of date or don't support the newest features of UE, it's an amazing resource. (For a real-world example, I've been given some code from powerful statistics package SAS. It took me under a minute to configure UltraEdit to become SAS-aware.) Further, UltraEdit does a lot with this information, including bracket matching, code folding, and plucking variables and parameters from function definitions.

If I'm obligated to say at least one negative thing, I'll note the "Compare" feature will pop up a dialog box to shill for UltraCompare, the full-featured diff tool made by IDM, and the help file includes references to features only found in UltraStudio, which expands the text editor into a full-featured development environment. Unlike some other programs I've worked with, however, you do not find yourself clicking on a function or option only to be told it's not included or active. If you see a button or menu item in UltraEdit, it will work.

UltraEdit has a 30-day trial with full functionality. This should be more than enough to decide if it's worth the price. It may not be cost-effective, compared to powerful free tools like NotePad++ or ConText, for those who work with text files only occasionally. The speed, flexibility, and power of UltraEdit make it a clear winner for anyone who works with text files full-time or even reasonably often.

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