Review: Free Editor lets you open and edit over 70 different file types for free
By Yaara Lancet
PCWorldFeb 18, 2013 2:04 pm PST
At a Glance
A completely free way to edit Microsoft Office files and other formats
Includes all basic editing capabilities and some advanced ones
Includes a spell checker
Failed to open PDF and PowerPoint files
Missing important keyboard shortcuts
Easy to lose work without saving
Free Editor is advised only if you really need a free editor, or an editor for multiple different formats.
In our everyday lives, we use a number of different programs to edit the various file types we work with. There’s Word for DOC files, Excel for XLS files, PowerPoint for presentations, image editors, video and music players, PDF viewers, Hex editors, ZIP expanders, and the list goes on. Most of us use a separate program for each one of these purposes and never stop to think about it. Free Editor claims to open for viewing and editing all the aforementioned file types, and more, all by itself.
Free Editor, as you can gather from the name, is completely free to use, and according to its support pages, can open and edit 75 different file types, including Microsoft Office files, other document files, image files, Windows files and coding files. I chose to start my tests with simple DOCX and XLSX files, and took Free Editor through its paces. I was immediately impressed by how lightweight and responsive it felt; there was no hanging and no waiting, and aside from a weird but harmless error message which appeared every time I opened a Word 2007 file, I could edit any file I chose to.
For Word documents, Free Editor supports all the basic editing functions such as formatting, images, links, tables, numbered or bullet lists, find and replace, and more. The table toolbar is especially easy to use, and surpasses even Word’s native table tools. The editor also includes a spellchecker, which is a nice touch. While Free Editor managed to show any DOC and DOCX file I fed to it, it failed to show figures and images that were already in the document.
With Excel files, things get a bit trickier, as Free Editor does not include Excel’s formula bar, which makes it next to impossible to use formulas. While you can insert any formula you wish, there are no helpful suggestions to help you along, and after entering a formula and getting a result, there’s no easy way to know which formula is written in the cell. Surprisingly, Free Editor does include more advanced editing options, such as conditional formatting—but with an oversight as big as the missing formula bar, it’s just not enough.
This is not the only major oversight, however. When it comes to editing documents, most people tend to use basic keyboard shortcuts; and what’s more basic than Ctrl+C for copy and Ctrl+V for paste? Both these shortcuts are notsupported in Free Editor, forcing you to either use the context menu or the provided toolbar buttons to copy and paste. Another sorely missing shortcut is Ctrl+I for italics, which was reassigned to show the document’s info. Ctrl+B for bold and Ctrl+U for underline work, which makes it even stranger. Other shortcuts such as Ctrl+F for find, Ctrl+H for find and replace, Ctrl+P for print, and Ctrl+S for save work like charm.
There are still over 70 formats Free Editor can open, though. Free Editor has very basic image editing capabilities, with rotate, resize and crop functionalities, brightness and contrast controls, and three basic filters. It also managed to open and edit ePub files, EXE files, TXT files, DLL files, BAT files, coding files such as CSS and JS (although some were missing syntax highlighting), and was even able to open and extract ZIP and RAR files. It completely failed, however, to open either PDF or PowerPoint files, despite its claim to support them, yet managed to open and play multiple music and video formats that get no mention in the supported formats list.
Remember how Free Editor felt so responsive and lightweight? It sure did, so imagine my surprise when I checked its RAM usage, and discovered it to be 10 times higher than Microsoft Word, and 5 times higher than Microsoft Excel, when editing the exact same documents. In addition, the program does not prompt you to save changes when you close it, so it’s very easy to lose all your work if you forget to save. You also lose your changes if you switch to the built-in Hex editor without saving—no prompt here either.
Free Editor’s strength is in its ability to edit many file formats, and on that it delivers almost perfectly. While the editing capabilities are sometimes rather basic, it can be extremely useful if you’re looking for a free way to edit documents, spreadsheets, code, etc. Its built-in Hex editor and resource editor are also helpful if you want and know how to bore into EXE and other system files.
When compared with paid options such as Quick View Plus, Free Editor gives a fair fight, especially due to its ability to open media files and its attractive price tag, but will not be as useful for businesses that need to frequently open PDFs, presentations, etc. For the average user, Free Editor doesn’t offer any real perks aside from being free, and in the end, you’re better off using a more specialized, less finicky program with better capabilities.
Note: The Download button on the Product Information page will download the software to your system.