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What is a Plain Editor Program?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

A plain editor program is a type of computer software that allows a user to simply and easily edit files that consist of text or plain text. These programs typically include a basic graphical user interface (GUI) that allows the user to easily navigate the content, and may include some basic editing functions as well. Such functions will often include basic features like copy, cut, paste, and undo, while more complicated features regarding formatting, the inclusion of graphics and charts, and other visual elements are often not included. A plain editor program is often used by someone typing content that will not require heavy formatting, like text that is going to be inserted onto a website, or for computer programming.

Sometimes also called a plain text editor, a plain editor program is often included as a basic secondary program installed with many operating systems (OS) on a computer. These programs will often have a very simple and rather basic visual style to them, making them preferable for people who want simple text creation and editing, without the potentially complicated visuals of more elaborate word processing programs. The program referred to as “Notepad” that comes with most installations of Microsoft® Windows® and “TextEdit” that is included with Apple®’s Mac OS X® are examples of common plain editor programs.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

A plain editor program can be used for a number of different purposes, though for all of them simple text is typically the desired result. More complicated text editing programs can often include formatting, pictures, and other features as part of the saved information of the created file. While this can be quite helpful for lengthy academic or professional documents where formatting may be vital, other uses of text documents may rely more on accurate text and programming syntax.

The layout of many Internet websites such as forums, bulletin boards, and newsgroups are often better suited for pasting information into them from a plain editor program than more complicated document creation software. This is because formatting and other features may be lost in the transition from the program to the webpage, but the simpler format of the plain editor program will often be preserved. By creating content within a plain editor, a user can more easily copy from that program and paste onto a website and have the text and format remain the same.

Many computer programmers also use a plain editor program for writing computer code. This is because the syntax required by most programming languages is typically more reliant on proper text and symbols than font styles and formatting. While complex computer programming may be done in more elaborate programs, simple programming and reading other people’s code is often done through a plain editor.

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Discussion Comments


@Soulfox -- Good point, but I think simple text editors have always been incorporated into packages made for programmers wanting to write code in one editor or another.

Take the really, really old days when BASIC was the standard programming language. The text editor built into a computer back then was usually dedicated to writing code in BASIC and nothing else.

Times have changed so that the text editors we use now can be used for both programming and even as stripped down word processors (to an extent). The text editors haven't changed that much, but their nature has.


I do believe that programmers make up the largest audience for simple text editors. Those familiar with the early days of programming might remember when code was entered into a specialized editor built for one language and one language only.

That has all changed, You don't have those standalone, specialty editors so much because a good text editor is more flexible and, sometimes, more useful than a dedicated editor.

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