Notepad++ is an absolutely vital tool in the tool belt of the programmer. For computer scientist across the world, Notepad++ acts as an industry standard code editor for programmers across the world. However, Notepad++ is not available for Mac OS.
As with most Windows programs, there are a several Mac OS equivalents for Notepad++. Each of these alternatives has benefits and drawbacks, and truthfully, some do not meet the full functionality of Notepad++.
However, in this guide, we will attempt to outline the best Notepad++ Mac alternatives and clearly state capabilities of each.
What You Should Expect From a Notepad++ Mac Alternative
With Notepad++ being an industry-standard program, there is a predetermined set of expectations for the program to meet. To better understand how each Notepad++ Mac alternative stacks up, we have to look at the functionality of Notepad++ itself.
Notepad++ is at its root a text editor. However, it was developed for usage by computer programmers. Because of this, it has certain abilities that are only useful to individuals working within the field of computer science.
For example, Notepad++ supports tabbed editing. This means that multiple text files can be opened and accessed easily within a single window.
Notepad++ also supports syntax highlighting. This means that familiar syntactic elements of the most common programming languages are color coded automatically by the program. This is a common feature of many code editing programs and is generally understood to make programming easier. Notepad++ supports syntax highlighting for over 60 languages including the ever-popular: C, HTML, Java, JSON, MATLAB, PHP, Python, Ruby and Swift.
For those that need to code in an unsupported language, Notepad++ has the option for user-defined languages.
Another reason for the prominence of use of Notepad++ is its integration of code folding. Similar to the “accordion” feature that is common on so many web pages today, code folding is a feature that hides large sections of code to easier get a macro view of the code as a whole.
Some argue, however, that code folding could lead to a violation of the software development principle of separation of concerns if used just to hide a large amount of code that should be broken up into smaller pieces. Ethical considerations aside, code folding is a handy tool and, depending on the intended application for your code, can be completely harmless.
Lastly, Notepad++ has some limited auto-completion capabilities for certain languages.
Outside of the concern of software development, Notepad++ is actually a preferred general text editor for many because of its inclusion of
- Find and replace
- Guided indentation
- Line bookmarking
- Simultaneous editing
- Split screen editing
- Tabbed editing
But, how do Notepad++ Mac alternatives compare? Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst Notepad++ Mac alternatives.
Atom is one of the best alternatives to Notepad++ out there because their functionality aligns very closely.
Atom is an open-source code editor published by GitHub. Because of its affiliation with a large name in software development like GitHub, you can be assured that there will be advancement and support for the program for the foreseeable future. It is also licensed by MIT – further adding to the credibility of the software. The source is available free of charge.
Atom is feature rich. Furthermore, it allows for the installation of various open source feature packages that add even more advanced functionality. Natively, the code editor features split-pane editing, auto completion, and a built-in file browser.
Some examples of introduced functionality from some of the most popular add-on packages include: customization of syntax highlighting colors, automatic coding error detection, and more customizations than you could truly imagine. Atom also allows for the complete customization of UI color and theme.
Sublime Text is another popular Notepad++ Mac alternative.
One major difference between this text editor and some others on this list, as well at Notepad++ itself, is that Sublime is not offered as a free program. However, it is very powerful so it deserves recognition on this list as well. Sublime Text was developed by Jon Skinner, a former Google engineer.
The code editor has similar functionality to both Atom and Notepad++. At its core, Sublime is a fairly standard program. Its power lies in the installation of open source packages. For example, Sublime even requires the installation of a package to add the functionality to add other packages within the program.
Sublime is lauded for its speed throughout opening, closing and searching. Where other text editors occasionally get hung up with these processes, Sublime is efficient even across thousands of lines of code.
Vim is a program that requires a level of adaptation to use. Programmers are either staunchly in support of Vim usage, or very disillusioned by the thought of using it.
Matt Goldspink from Code Mentor had this to say.
“I feel like all developers should at some point go through a ‘rites of passage’ and use Vi or Vim for a project. Ability to edit or view a file on a remote server through a terminal is a hugely productive and important task. I've seen many developers jump through all sorts of hoops using SFTP, or curl, and re-uploading files. However, I also recognize that the sheer mention of Vim brings shivers to some, and even righteous indignation to others….In all honesty for those who have spent the time to master it, it is an incredibly productive environment!”
The license for Vim is completely free which is an attractive factor for many users.
Vim is a completely bare-bones text editor and is different from all the other programs we’ve mentioned thus far. While the other programs listed are applications that you manipulate using clicks and scrolls via a mouse, Vim is a 100 percent keyboard-based command line module.
The reason there are so many diehard Vim users out there is that Vim is only limited by your own capabilities. Some more feature-rich programs have limited operating speeds, but since Vim is so raw, it can work as fast as you can type code.
In addition to its speed, users of Vim love the customization opportunities. There are over 14,000 installable packages for Vim that offer nearly any software development functionality you could imagine. On top of that, there is no shortage of preconfigured Vim consoles that can be downloaded and are turnkey.
4. GNU Emacs
GNU Emacs is a text editor that was created by Richard Stallman. Stallman is a well-known advocate for the free distribution of software globally. For this reason, he created GNU Emacs.
GNU Emacs is quite powerful but does require a specific level of education. GNU Emacs has even been called the “most powerful text editor available today.” The basis for the strength of GNU Emacs is in its underlying code. In fact, GNU Emacs is able to simultaneously display most human languages – and has been capable of this since at least 1999.
GNU Emacs has capabilities for multiple programming modes as well as multi-frame code editing. The text editor includes shell mode and read-eval-print loop modes for various programming languages. For functionality not contained within the program, GNU Emacs supports external processes – such as ispell for spell checking and GCC for compiling.
The pride feature for GNU Emacs is a trait touted by the creator of the program – extensibility. The program has been extended multiple times since its initial release 33 years ago. Because the program is written largely in Emacs Lisp, a scripting language used for Emacs, with a minimal amount of code in C, it is extendable virtually without limit. The list of features, both major and minor, that have already been added is impressive so we are excited to see what software developers contribute from this point forward.
If You Need a Notepad++ Mac Alternative, You Are Not Out of Luck
Contrary to what some may believe, Notepad++ is not the end-all for code editing programs. Since Notepad++ is only available for users of Microsoft Windows, the search for a Notepad++ Mac alternative is quite reasonable.
Some Notepad++ Mac alternatives are quite powerful but have a serious learning curve. Others are more user friendly but are not capable of the same efficiency and speed as some of the more complex platforms. Regardless, it’s likely that there is a Notepad++ Mac alternative out there that will meet your needs.
We hope that this guide provided you with the right information to help you make an informed decision about a code editor for Mac OS. Notepad++ is an amazing tool – but its functionality can be replicated.