capsule review

Komodo Edit: Feature-Packed Free Programmers' Editor

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Komodo Edit

A programmer's editor has to strike a fine balance between being powerful enough for daily use and staying out of the way so you can just look at your code and think. The search for the perfect editor can take years. If you're not perfectly content with the editor you're currently using, you might want to consider Komodo Edit (free). Komodo offers some compelling features at a price that can't be beat.

Komodo Edit features syntax highlighting for many Web-related scripting and markup languages, but installing new color schemes isn't as easy as it could be.
Komodo Edit is a free, cut-down version of Komodo IDE, a complete development environment for Web and cloud-based projects, comparable to JetBrains PhpStorm. This is one thing that makes it different from other free code editors such as jEdit and Notepad++: Komodo offers a subset of what can be done with Komodo IDE.

Another important difference between Komodo Edit and other editors is that Komodo 7 is built on the same code base as Firefox 4 (Mozilla-2.0). This means it is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, without being Java-based. It also has a "Firefox-style" extension system for finding and installing add-ons.

Like most other modern code editors, Komodo supports customizable color schemes. There is even a website dedicated to Komodo color schemes called Kolormodo. It didn't have my favorite scheme, scientifically proven Solarized, but I was able to track it down with a quick Google search.

Once I had the scheme file on disk, installing it proved trickier. The scheme selection dialog didn't provide any hints, nor did the online help system. I ended up locating an obscure folder containing all other schemes and putting the file there to make Komodo Edit recognize it. I later discovered I could have simply dragged the file and dropped it over the Komodo icon. Too bad this wasn't mentioned in the application or documentation, though it is in the marketing materials.

On a day-to-day basis, working with Komodo Edit is a pleasant experience. Its built-in FTP client lets you access remotely hosted files without having to create a project or download an entire directory tree. If Firefox is your browser of choice, you would feel right at home with Komodo. For example, the Find feature works just like the one found in recent Firefox versions, with live search and a bar along the bottom of the window.

Komodo's auto-completion feature is excellent, similar to the one found in Microsoft Visual Studio: You get a scrollable menu with completion options, rather than having to blindly tab between options. I compared it with jEdit, editing a simple snippet of CSS, and it fared significantly better; jEdit's auto-completion stopped working after a few attempts. Komodo Edit also features other amenities, such as code folding and simple text zooming using the mouse wheel.

If you already know you need a full-fledged IDE, choosing between Komodo IDE and competitor JetBrains PhpStorm is a tough call. But if you're not sure whether you need an IDE or just a powerful editor, you can start out with free Komodo Edit and maybe graduate up to IDE if you find you need advanced features such as debugging or source code control integration.

--Erez Zukerman

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At a Glance
  • This free and powerful programmer's text editor is built on the same foundation as Mozilla Firefox.


    • Lots of add-ons
    • Flexible


    • No obvious way to install color schemes
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