Why are there more than a thousand text editors out there?
Why is it that I, and so many others are so deeply dissatisfied with all existing text editors?
The most capable text editors like vi and emacs have a steep learning curve because their weirdly idiosyncratic interfaces were developed long before interface conventions eased the burden on users. Many of the most functional editors also tend to be enormous. I was shocked, on downloading emacs recently, to find that it is around 30MB! And that's without frivolous extras. (That's about a third the size of the entire Puppy Linux operating system including its text editors, wordprocessor, spreadsheet, video player, internet tools, and much more!) These high-level editors generally require learning specialised macro languages too (emacs, for instance uses lisp).
At the other extreme we have tiny, minimal text editors like leafpad, mp and others. Unfortunately, the smaller they are, the less useful. At the lowest end they have only the barest functionality, with no easy way to add more.
Many existing text editors, whether they are giant, complex ones, or small, simplified ones, are pretty inflexible. If they don't have some kind of macro language, then extending them means either spending a lot of time delving deep into the source code to work out how they were created, or waiting for the next upgrade. Also, no matter how big and complex the program is, there will always be some more features missing, resulting in code bloat and feature-creep.
What seems to be missing more than anything else is re-use. You can't re-use the interface methods that you learned for all other programs, and you can't re-use existing programs within a text editor, or re-use the text editor from within other commands. People have somehow become accustomed to the idea that a text editor neccessarily stands outside everything else. But why should it?
So here is how to build the perfect text editor. Apply the old Unix philosophy: build a complex thing out of many small parts, each of which does just one job, but does it very well.
I've been building a series of small RoxApps that work under Linux's Rox file manager. (If you use a different file manager they might not work.) They sit on my desktop as a lot of small icons to give me many useful text editing functions. The neat thing is they can be used with any text editor, and even in dialog boxes, online chats, wikis, and blogs. You can download them here. (Please note that this isn't complete. It might never be. In a way, that's kinda the point.)
When I pause the mouse over them a descriptive tooltip reminds me of what the icon does. Here is the tooltip for the "case" icon.
The tooltip for the "case" icon.
I've added menus to many of them so that they actually make more commands available. For example, here is the menu that displays when I right-click the "case" icon. Compare it with the tooltip above.
The menu for the "case" icon.
A RoxApp is actually a special kind of directory which acts as if it is a program. Clicking on its icon (often given by a hidden image file '.DirIcon' inside the directory) runs a shell script, named AppRun inside the directory (it doesn't have to be a shell script; it can be any kind of program). Many of my examples use the simple languages sed and awk that are available to all Linux distributions. (A number of my scripts require sed version 4.2.2, or more recent, because it introduces the -z option which views strings as terminated by a zero value byte, allowing newline characters to be seen and operated on as any other characters.) My examples usually get selected text into the script via the shell command xclip -o then put the result back into the clipboard using xclip -selection c, which allows it to be pasted back with xdotool key ctrl+v to replace the original selection. For example, here is the code for the menu item highlighted by the mouse pointer in the menu screengrab above:
"up1st") # upper first letter each word, else lower xclip -o | sed 's/[[:alpha:]]*/\L\u&/g' | xclip -selection c xdotool key ctrl+v ;;
That's in the AppRun script which lays out all the choices to be selected from that icon's menu. The actual menu is set by the AppInfo.xml file (it also sets the tooltip).
All this is extremely easy to program and can be changed dynamically. For instance if I edit the tooltip in the AppInfo.xml of one of the icons then the changes are displayed as soon as they're saved. (I've included an example RoxApp in the download which explains all this in greater detail. You can look inside a RoxApp by either holding the shift key down when you click it, or else by right-clicking it and choosing "App dir [name]" > "Look inside".)
As a group of icons on my desktop, I use eed with several different ordinary text editors. I also commonly use it in file-selection dialog boxes when saving a file, or when renaming files. Another place it comes in handy is when writing a comment or filling out a form on a website. Several of the commands are even useful in the terminal. The eed programs aren't restricted to being used any particular place; they form a general-purpose editing suite that can be used almost anywhere you type in text.
If many small commands are used in this way, then when an additional command is wanted, it is simple to add it. If some are not needed then they're not loaded. The flexibility gained is extraordinary. We can use the eed commands within other scripts and use other scripts inside eed commands. Such an editor could even be used as a filter for other programs, configuring it differently for each purpose.
Many of my eed functions require xdotool and xclip and sed version 4.2.2. or greater, so you must install them for most of the functions to work. Most Linux distributions have access to those programs and may already have them installed. If not, just use your distribution's program installer, or else search on the net for them and compile and install them yourself.
If sed version 4.2.2 or later isn't available directly though your updating tool you can find the latest version of it at http://ftp.gnu.org/gnu/sed/.
The xclip tool is most likely already installed or easy to install, otherwise you can get it from https://sourceforge.net/projects/xclip/.
Control of the GUI from within scripts is made possible by xdotool which, if it isn't available through your software installer, can be downloaded from https://github.com/jordansissel/xdotool.
Unix and Linux have, by my count, around 55 text editing commands already. Instead of duplicating their functions, why not use them and simply add more?
|basic text commands|
|grep||search a file for a pattern|
|sort||sort lines of text files|
|uniq||report or omit repeated lines|
|head||output the first part of files|
|tail||output the last part of files|
|tailf||dynamically follow the growth of a log file|
|line||read one line (always prints a newline at the end)|
|rev||reverse the character order in every line of a file|
|ul||do underlining on a terminal|
|cut||remove sections (columns) from each line of files|
|join||output for each pair of input lines with identical join fields|
|paste||merge lines of files (line1_file1\t line1_file2\n line2_file1\t line2_file2...)|
|split||split a file into pieces|
|csplit||split a file into sections determined by context lines|
|nl||number lines of files|
|ptx||produce a permuted index of file contents|
|hexdump||ascii, decimal, hexadecimal, octal dump|
|od||dump files in octal and other formats|
|wc||print newline, word, and byte counts for each file|
|aspell||interactive spell checker (replacement for ispell)|
|ispell||interactive spell checker|
|style||analyses readability (length of words, sentences and paragraphs)|
|diction||find doubled words and wordy or commonly misused phrases in sentences|
|primitive format and display for screen or paper|
|fold||wrap each input line to fit in specified width|
|pr||convert text files for printing (paginate or columnate)|
|fmt||simple optimal text formatter|
|cat||concatenate files and print on the standard output|
|tac||concatenate and print files in reverse (last line first)|
|less||display and navigate a text file (also search and bookmark lines)|
|lesskey||lets you set the key commands that less uses|
|lessfile||preprocess input for less (open tar, gz, doc, bz, deb, rpm, pdf, etc) to /tmp|
|lesspipe||like lessfile but sends to standard output|
|more||browse a file a screenful at a time (primitive version of less)|
|pg||browse pagewise through text files|
|col||filter reverse line feeds from input|
|colcrt||filter nroff output for CRT previewing|
|verify saved files|
|cksum||write file cyclic redundancy checksums (CRC) and sizes|
|sum||checksum and count the blocks in a file|
|md5sum||compute and check MD5 message digest|
|sha1sum||compute and check SHA1 message digest|
|tr||Translate, squeeze, and/or delete characters|
|recode||converts files between character sets|
|unrtf||converts RTF documents to html (default), plain text, ANSI, LaTeX, rtf|
|expand||convert tabs to spaces|
|unexpand||convert spaces to tabs|
|tidy||validate, correct, and pretty-print HTML files|
|cmp||compare two files|
|diff||find differences between two files|
|comm||compare two sorted files line by line|
|xclip||X-based commandline clipboard utility|
|autocutsel||synchronise all clipboards|
|glipper||GUI clipboard history manager|
|anamnesis||simple python- and sqlite-based commandline clipboard history|
As well as the above discrete commands Linux usually comes with 2 text-oriented scripting languages (awk and sed) and often with python and perl, which are full-blown programming languages. Scripts written in these four languages make it relatively easy to add commands to eed.
|text-oriented scripting languages:|
|awk||pattern scanning and processing language|
|sed||stream editor (stream-oriented text editor)|
The nosql project did a similar thing for databases. Instead of requiring a large, monolithic database program, nosql uses existing commands in Linux, plus a number of special-purpose ones written in C, awk, shell-script, or perl. Some of these would be useful for eed. They illustrate the simplicity of extending such a concept.
|addcolumn||(awk) Create new empty columns of a table at right|
|addrow||(awk) Append a new empty record to a table|
|awktable||(c) Wrapper for 'awk' program to process a table|
|bsearch||(c) Search a table for lines matching a specified key|
|compute||(c) Compute an arbitrary expression using column names|
|constraint||(awk) database schema and referential-integrity processor|
|csvtotable||(c) Convert a CSV file into a table|
|ctime||(sh) Turn column containing seconds since epoch into local time|
|deptable||(sh) Test for functional dependency betwen two columns|
|edittable||(sh) Use an editor to edit or modify a table|
|envtotable||(awk) Convert ENVIRONMENT into a one row table|
|filemode||(c) Output octal file permissions of files named|
|filtertable||(c) Run standard utilities against a table|
|formtable||(perl) Print an arbitrary style report of a NoSQL table|
|frametable||(sh) Beautifier for easier table editing|
|getcolumn||(c) Pick columns by name, output columns in listed order|
|getrow||(c) Select rows based on arbitrary AWK expressions|
|gregorian||(awk) Translate selected date columns from Julian to calendar|
|indextable||(perl) Generate table index files to be used by 'search'|
|islist||(awk) Check whether an input file has a valid 'list' format|
|istable||(awk) Check whether an input file has a valid table format.|
|itable||(perl) Interactive front-end to NoSQL|
|jointable||(c) Join of two tables on a common field|
|julian||(awk) Translate selected date columns from calendar to Julian format|
|keysearch||(c) Fast search for rows that begin with a given string|
|ldaptolist||(sh) Queries an OpenLDAP server and formats a NoSQL list|
|listtotable||(awk) Take a file in 'list' format and makes it into a table|
|makeschema||(sh) Build a database schema from a list of tables|
|maketable||(awk) Build a valid table header from an xref file|
|muxtosql||(awk) Unordered sequence of name/value pairs to SQL statements|
|muxtotable||(awk) Unordered sequence of name/value pairs to NoSQL table|
|mysqltotable||(sh) MySQL server query to NoSQL table|
|nblparser||(awk) Experimental NoSQL Brokering Language (NBL) interpreter|
|nltable||(awk) Inserts a unique record identifier into a table|
|nosql||(sh) Main wrapper for all NoSQL commands|
|notcolumn||---> getcolumn to remove one or more columns|
|prtable||(sh) Table formatter for character displays|
|psqltotable||(sh) PostgreSQL server query to NoSQL table|
|rdbtotable||(awk) Convert an /rdb or RDB table into NoSQL format|
|renamecol||(awk) Rename a column|
|repairtable||(awk) Append empty data fields to rows to match table header|
|rmcolumn||---> getcolumn to remove one or more columns|
|rndtable||(awk) Pick one or more table records at random|
|searchtable||(perl) Select rows on a multi-column key of a sorted/indexed table|
|seektable||(c) Extract rows at selected offsets of indexed NoSQL table|
|setenv||(sh) Set up the proper shell envoronment for NoSQL (if eval'd)|
|setnames||(awk) Set new column names on the input table|
|slapd-bind||(sh) Experimental OpenLDAP 'back_shell' BIND processor|
|slapd-search||(sh) Experimental OpenLDAP 'back_shell' SEARCH processor|
|slapdtonbl||(awk) Experimental OpenLDAP 'SEARCH' to NBL converter|
|sorttable||(c) Sort a table by one or more columns|
|soundex||(awk) Compute Knuth's soundex codes for selected columns|
|sqlitetotable||(sh) Build a valid NoSQL table from a SQLite database table|
|subtotal||(perl) Output subtotals of a table|
|summtable||(perl) Show statistics about a NoSQL table|
|tablecat||(awk) Concatenate multiple compatible tables|
|tabletocsv||(awk) Convert a table into CSV format|
|tabletolist||(awk) Convert a table into the corresponding 'list' format|
|tabletordb||(awk) Convert a table into /rdb format|
|tmptable||(sh) NoSQL temporary table creator for pipelines|
|totaltable||(awk) Compute table totals|
|uniontable||(sh) Build the "Universal Table" of one or more tables|
|unique||(awk) Make a table unique on the primary key field|
|unsorttable||(c) Shuffle rows in a NoSQL table|
|updtable||(awk) Insert/update/delete table rows using an edit table|
|userproc||(sh) Applies local processing to query results|
|usleep||(c) Command-line interface to usleep(3)|
|viewtable||(perl) Visualize a table in a nice list-like format|
|widest||(awk) print the max. width of each column in a table.|
|xreftable||(awk) Build a table template file for the input table|
Here are some additional programs and scripts of use.
|unwrap||remove newlines from inside paragraphs|
|gtkdialog3||file open/close dialogs, GUIs for many low-level commands|
|cal||outputs a calendar|
|html-tag-lowercase||makes all html tags lowercase|
|gres||(Global Regular Expression Substitute) grep-like find and replace|
|searchreplace||search-replace with GUI and regex.|
I don't have these yet. The most important is the first one: the main interactive window.
|scr||Interactive screen display.|
Should be able to add menus dynamically from a simple text config file.
Tabbed display would be useful.
Inbuilt toggling soft-wrap would simplify matters too.
Nice if it could display styles (fonts, style, color, size, align), making it wysiwyg html-capable.
|find||interactive find with GUI and regex.|