If you want to develop a website, you’ll need an HTML editor. You could, of course, use the Windows Notepad to build a website, but that would hardly be convenient, comfortable, or pretty, for that matter. Crucially, a good HTML editor must do two things very well: syntax highlighting (coloration of the code) and autocompletion. Naturally an extra feature or two is welcome: a selection of themes, for example, that would not only accommodate your taste, but also increase your productivity and mitigate fatigue in long bouts of coding. With that, let’s have an impartial look at the nine best free HTML editors for Windows.
Phase 5 is a widely known editor that has been steadily updated since 1998.
A few features of Phase5 are project management, tag completion, an integrated image viewer, a syntax debugger, support for special characters, indentation assistance, search and replace, and customizable menus and templates.
Phase 5 runs on Windows 7 and 8, Vista, XP, 2000, 98 32/64 bit, and server versions.
Programmer’s Notepad offers a modern interface that comes in two themes: one bright, the other dark, as pictured. Besides syntax highlighting, the editor boasts text clips (code snippets), code folding (selective hiding/displaying of code) and can be finely tailored to your personal needs through Python scripts and add-ons.
SynWrite is an editor with a wide variety of functionality. The idea behind SynWrite is to concentrate everything good about other editors into a single free product, and the feature list reads accordingly. The editor can be augmented with plugins written in Python. Aside from typical functionality such as code folding and autocompletion, SynWrite also allows for multi-caret editing (see animation):
This feature can save a load of time. What’s more, SynWrite supports Emmet (previously Zen Coding).
PlainEdit can open multiple files in tabs, can likewise be expanded with plugins and provides plenty of functions, including customizable templates. Users can quickly and easily insert snippets (templates, pieces of code, or other text) from a sidebar. Moreover, you can search and replace text with regular expressions, even in documents not presently open. It’s worth noting that PlainEdit can even be run from a USB stick.
Notepad++ is something of a classic. It emerged when the editor, which Windows shipped with, had gotten rather long in the tooth and failed to offer important functionality.
Notepad++ offers a tab interface, autocompletion, and great code highlighting. Macro recording automates frequently-used commands. The interface can be configured to your needs, and there are plenty of plugins at your disposal to broaden the feature set.
jEdit can open, edit, and accordingly highlight syntax in virtually any file. Opening multiple files makes life a lot easier. Any missing features can be filled in with plugins.
This is not to say that jEdit skimps on features. Out of the box, jEdit is packaged with key functionality such as code folding, marking of connected elements and tags, a file manager, and a good search and replace function. Furthermore, the ability to configure and expand the editor makes jEdit worthy competition among its peers.
The following options are available for several platforms, and each is convincing in its own right. Whether you use Linux, Mac OS or Windows, you can take your pick from three great editors.
Sublime Text 2 – The Swiss Army Knife
No other HTML editor is quite as triumphant as Sublime Text 2. It launched to immediate praise from swooning professional web developers. It is deeply customizable via extensions and JSON files. It’s tough to imagine any functionality outside of Sublime Text’s grasp.
With the aid of Package Control, downloading and installing extensions is a breeze. Because the editor has enjoyed such widespread adoption, there’s an extensive plugin library available, even in addition to those offered on the developer’s website.
Sublime Text 2 stands apart for its extensive documentation, both official and unofficial. Tutorials for Sublime Text 2 are everywhere and lower the learning curve.
Sublime Text 2 is not free. It can be downloaded and evaluated for free with no limits, but if you like it, the $70 license is a very fair investment.
A look at Sublime Text 2
Brackets is a modern, open-source editor with a few interesting features. It works with Adobe Creative Cloud Extract (Preview) to read design data such as colors, fonts, gradients, and more directly from a PSD file and convert it to CSS. It can also extract layers as images, use information from the PSD to define preprocessor variables, and easily get dimensions between objects. This is all possible without ever leaving the editor.
Note: Adobe Creative Cloud is a paid service. Extract (its free preview) can be directly installed alongside Brackets.
Extensions are another big plus for Brackets, which can be used to tailor the editor to the user’s needs. New extensions are released every three to four weeks. The robust support for preprocessors also merits mention.
Features such as Live Preview and Quick Edit can be used with LESS and SCSS files to streamline your work. Together with the right extensions and Adobe Creative Cloud Extract, Brackets can cover all the professional bases.
A look at Brackets:
Aptana Studio 3
The current iteration of Aptana Studio (version 3) is one of the best known and most comprehensive IDEs for Windows, Mac, and Linux. In version 3, the developers wanted to resolve one of Aptana Studio’s weakest points: spotty performance.
There is a wide range of HTML editors for Windows, but only a handful excel. For non-daily use, there’s Notepad++. For daily professional use, however, Notepad++ would not suffice. To that end, there are better options, such as Sublime Text 2, which can be customized to suit the user’s needs. Fans of turnkey editors might prefer Aptana, SynWrite, or Programmer’s Notepad. Which one will you choose?
Mac users, we have an article on HTML editors for you, too! Find it here.
- Phase 5 HTML Editor
- Programmer’s Notepad
- SynWrite Editor
- jEdit HTML Editor
- Sublime Text 2
- Sublime Text 2: unofficial documentation
- Package Control: packet manager for Sublime Text 2
- Adobe Brackets
- Aptana Studio 3