The Best Free Syntax Highlighting Editor is ….?

Anybody have a preference for a text editor (for Windows)? Although free is preferred, I’ll take suggestions for non-free options.

My requirements:

  • It needs to be FAST
  • Syntax highlighting for common languages (C#/JavaScript/XML/HTML).
  • Maintained / supported
  • Work on Vista/Server 2003+
  • Multiple documents very important (tabbed)


I’d appreciate it if you took 30 seconds to plug what you use.


If Visual Studio is running, I use that normally — but if it isn’t, I don’t like the long load time.

Potential freeware candidates… (but I’m sure there are others):




Crimson Editor (no longer maintained)


Programmer’s Notepad

metapad (no longer maintained)

Notetab Light


  1. Definately VIM. It will take a time investment to become truly comfortable in it (first thing to do is turn off behave mswin), but once you do you will become more productive in your text editor than you can possibly imagine. Text completion (ctrl-p, ctrl-n are your friends), incredibly powerful macros, and tons of other features (if you can get tags working, plus some of the auto commands you can run depending upon the filtype you will be amazed). It is not quite as powerful under windows as it is in a Unix environment (grep, and tags support need some fiddling to get them working). Find a good tutorial and start pluging away, you will be glad you did!

  2. My vote is for Notepad++. I use it almost exclusively for the ASP programming we do at work. I just love how it can handle separate color schemes and syntax highlight schemes for HTML, VBScript and Javascript all within the same document.

  3. I always use Ultraedit. Although it’s not free, it has a lot of languages and it’s very fast. Massive replaces and search in files have saved my life a lot of times :P

  4. I’ve used Notepadd++ for the last 3 years or so. It meets all your requirements, is fast and easy to learn.

    It’s what I use when not edting in Visual Studio.

  5. I use Scite []. It meets all the criteria you’ve listed. Also, you have great control over syntax highlighting as well as line highlighting. Great control over XML as well.

  6. Used Crimson for the longest time, but have been happily using EmEditor (free version) [] for the last few months.

    There’s an updated paid version which has more features, but the free version suits my needs just fine.

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