ConTEXT is a truly excellent freeware text editor developed by Eden Kirin. The software was developed simply because "After years and years gumbling with all kind of Windows text editors, I haven't found any of them to complete satisfy my needs, so I wrote my own.."1 It is currently only available for Windows platforms.
While pretty much anyone who ever uses Notepad for anything will no doubt find ConTEXT useful, it has been designed with software developers in mind. Features which are only really useful for programming such as auto indenting are included, and there is a very flashy highlighting function, which can be configured by the user to, for example, make comments go grey, make keywords go bold, and make text inside quotes go red, which allows you to easily tell if you have failed to close any quotes or brackets. This highlighting features is customisable to the extreme, and although the basic download comes with a large number of highlighter profiles (for Java, C++, HTML, Perl, Python, Fortran, ObjectPascal and more) it is possible to make and distribute your own (for example, I discovered the program on a Sega Master System programming site, and the link was accompanied by a Z80 Assembler highlighter file). A number of highlighter files are available on the ConTEXT site.
There is no limit to the number of files which can be open at once (which are thankfully all kept under one main button in the taskbar, and selectable from within the program) or the size of those files, and a single line can be up to 4 Kilobytes in length. The software is pretty fast, and while it's not quite as speedy as Notepad, I think considering all the extra features it provides, it's very efficient. All the usual find, search and replace etc. features are present, along with converting between DOS, Mac and Unix text formats, and Unicode as well. I have no doubt that I could spend years doing things on ConTEXT and never fully use all the features.
Probably the feature which impressed me most (although I have been writing my Java in Notepad so far, so pretty much anything would impress me) was the pre recording of functions which could be done. As well as Macros, there is huge scope for setting up, for example, auto compile options. In the SMS programming tutorial I read, the author had set up ConTEXT so that f9 automatically compiled whatever was being worked on, and other keys ran debuggers on the output. The function keys from 9 to 12 can be programmed pretty easily (I managed to get it to auto compile my Java, so it can't be that hard) and then any console output that appears is captured and appears as part of the ConTEXT window.
Naturally, the installer file manages not only to replace Notepad as the default text editor, it even replaces the Notepad file2 with a fake file which launches ConTEXT, for the few cases of programmes which have hardcoded calls to Notepad. This guy really does think of everything.
I only bothered to get this program because after installing a scanner, Notepad refused to print (giving some strange "Not enough Memory to print" message, even when it was the only thing running) but I'm actually glad that happened now, because I can see ConTEXT making my life a whole lot easier. If any of you are coders (and hey, this is E2, I'm sure a heck of a lot of you are) then I would highly recommend picking it up. It's free, it's fast, and it's writeen by a programmer for programmers. The program hasn't been going for too long, and there is definitely still room for improvement (according to the author, anyway; he has a huge list of things to add for version 1.00, including hex editor capability). I would use this for everything, but until someone can make it preview my nodes by pressing f9, I'm still keepin dann's Offline Scratchpad handy..
1 - from the readme.txt
2 - The original file is renamed to Notepad.exe.bak - just in case...