Roger Firth's IF pages

Home

List of IF Editors

Email
Back up

You can, of course, use almost any file-editing program to create your IF games; at heart, little more than the ability to insert and delete text is of vital importance. However, there are certain operations which you'll find yourself performing repeatedly, and a program which provides specific assistance with those operations will quickly prove a great saver of time and temper.

We're talking here about two classes of program: the programmer's editor -- a regular text editor enhanced to display program-like text and handle programmer-like operations -- and the Integrated Development Environment (IDE), which collects within a single workspace: an editor, the compiler, the runtime interpreter and maybe a debugger. A programmer's editor is a general-purpose tool which can be taught the specifics -- what keywords to highlight, which character introduces a comment, how to run the compiler, and so on -- of almost any programming language. An IDE, on the other hand, is usually designed to deal with a single specific language; it comes complete with the necessary knowledge about that language, and will typically include aids to structured viewing and manipulation of the language's constructs (for example, showing all objects, all classes, all routines, etc).

This page collects information on a range of editors and IDEs appropriate for IF designers (there's also some information in the rec.arts.int-fiction FAQ). The list is selective -- especially on Windows it omits products which don't seem to offer any particular differentiation -- and includes only programs which are either free, or available as shareware within an arbitrary price limit of $50. In my opinion, these are the most important capabilities:

Files No limit on file size. Multiple open files. Split windows on same file.
Undo/Redo Unlimited Undo and Redo.
Blocks Indent and Unindent blocks of text. Comment and Uncomment blocks of text.
Case conversion Convert upper- to lower-case, and vice versa.
Whitespace Convert tabs to spaces, and vice versa. Strip leading and trailing spaces. Optionally make whitespace visible. Handle EOL characters for PC, Mac and Unix. Maintain current indentation after typing EOL.
Wordwrap Optionally wrap long lines at right margin, maintaining current indentation.
Search and Replace Match whole words. Match case. Support regular expressions (sophisticated wildcards).
Syntax colouring Colour-code reserved words in IF language (requires syntax definition file, downloadable from product's website or from IF Archive). Various examples are available for ALAN (ALAN syntax colouring), Hugo (Hugo syntax colouring), Inform (Inform syntax colouring) and TADS (TADS syntax colouring).
Compile and Run Within editor, compile current file with single keystroke and display errors. Similarly, run compiled version of current file in interpreter.
Spell-checker Verify national language spellings.

The editors listed below seem to support most of these requirements. The IDEs are usually less powerful in their editing capabilities, but may compensate for this with highly-focussed support for the language concerned.

Programmer's Editors  
Alpha $30 available on MacOS Inform syntax colouring Not studied in depth (but looks powerful).
AnyEdit FREE available on Windows Pro: Includes auto-complete. Con: No word-wrap. No block Comment/Uncomment. No cross-platform EOL support.
BackEdit FREE available on Windows Not studied in depth.
BBEdit Lite FREE available on MacOS Not supportedNot supportedNot supportedNot supported Con: No syntax colouring or spell-checker -- included with full BBEdit ($179).
Code Genie FREE available on Windows Pro: Includes auto-complete. Con: Word-wrap doesn't indent. No split windows. No block Comment/Uncomment. No cross-platform EOL support.
ConTEXT FREE available on Windows Inform syntax colouring Con: No split windows.
Cooledit FREE available on Unix Con: Syntax colouring may not be extensible.
Crimson Editor FREE available on Windows Pro: Includes spell-checker. Con: No split windows.
EditPad Pro $40 available on Windows TADS syntax colouring Pro: Includes spell-checker. Con: No split windows. No visible whitespace. No auto-indent.
EditPlus $30 available on Windows Hugo syntax colouringInform syntax colouringTADS syntax colouring Pro: Includes spell-checker. No obvious disadvantages.
Emacs (+clones) FREE available on Windowsavailable on MacOSavailable on Unixavailable on other OS Hugo syntax colouringInform syntax colouringTADS syntax colouring Pro: Power tool for experts. Con: Some versions have only command-line interface.
FED FREE available on Windowsavailable on Unix ALAN syntax colouringTADS syntax colouring Pro: Supports folding. Con: Clunky Windows interface. Weak on features.
FTE FREE available on Windowsavailable on Unix TADS syntax colouring Pro: Supports folding. Probably quite powerful. Con: Clunky Windows interface.
GWD Editor $29 available on Windows Pro: Includes spell-checker. Con: No split windows. No block Comment/Uncomment. Word-wrap doesn't indent.
IF Builder FREE available on Windows Hugo syntax colouringInform syntax colouringTADS syntax colouring Under development, but usable.
JEdit FREE available on Windowsavailable on MacOSavailable on Unixavailable on other OS Inform syntax colouring Not studied in depth (but looks powerful). Dunno about compile-and-run support.
KWrite FREE available on Unix Inform syntax colouring Pro: Includes spell-checker. Con: No compile-and-run.
MED $30 available on Windows Con: No split windows. No block Comment/Uncomment. Word-wrap doesn't indent.
mi FREE available on MacOS No additional information available.
NEdit FREE available on Unix Not studied in depth (but looks powerful).
Pepper $25 available on Windows 2000available on MacOSavailable on Unix Not studied in depth (but looks powerful). Windows 2000/XP only.
PSPad FREE available on Windows Not studied in depth (but looks powerful).
SETedit FREE available on Windowsavailable on Unix Not studied in depth. Looks clunky, but may appeal to Borland Turbo Pascal/C/C++ programmers.
SourceEdit FREE available on Windows Inform syntax colouring Pro: Includes auto-complete. Con: No word-wrap.
SubEthaEdit FREE available on MacOS Inform syntax colouring Pro: Includes spell-checker. Con: No compile-and-run. No case conversion. No tab-space conversion. No visible whitespace. No regular expressions.
syn FREE available on Windows Con: No word-wrap. No split windows.
Synth FREE available on Windows Not studied in depth.
TextMate $39 available on MacOS Inform syntax colouring Not studied in depth (but looks powerful).
TextPad $29 available on Windows ALAN syntax colouringInform syntax colouringTADS syntax colouring Pro: Includes spell-checker. Con: No block Comment/Uncomment.
TextWrangler FREE available on MacOS Not studied in depth (but looks powerful).
UltraEdit $35 available on Windows Hugo syntax colouringInform syntax colouringTADS syntax colouring Pro: Includes spell-checker. Includes auto-complete. Con: Word-wrap doesn't indent.
vi (+clones) FREE available on Windowsavailable on MacOSavailable on Unixavailable on other OS Inform syntax colouringTADS syntax colouring Pro: Power tool for experts. Con: Some versions have only command-line interface.
Zap FREE available on Acorn RISC OS Inform syntax colouring For Acorn's RISC OS. No information available.
Zeus $40 available on Windows Not studied in depth (but looks powerful).
General IF IDEs  
Imaginate FREE available on Windows ALAN syntax colouringInform syntax colouringTADS syntax colouring Under development, but usable.
Implementor FREE available on Windows ALAN syntax colouringHugo syntax colouringInform syntax colouringTADS syntax colouring Pro: Small and fast. Includes spell-checker. Con: No word-wrap.
ALAN IDEs  
ADE/W FREE available on Windows Requires an external editor.
Inform IDEs  
IF-IDE FREE available on Windows Inform syntax colouring No longer being developed or supported -- use at your own risk.
Inform Explorer FREE available on Windows Inform syntax colouring No longer being developed or supported -- use at your own risk.
Informer FREE available on Windows Inform syntax colouring No longer being developed or supported -- use at your own risk.
Jif FREE available on Windowsavailable on MacOS Xavailable on Unix Inform syntax colouring In Java. Under development, but usable.
Visual Inform FREE available on Windows Inform syntax colouring No longer being developed or supported -- use at your own risk.
Yonk FREE available on MacOS Inform syntax colouring Under development, but usable.
TADS IDEs  
Plugh FREE available on Windows No longer being developed or supported -- use at your own risk.
TADS Workbench FREE available on Windows Part of TADS. Supports various compilation and run modes. Includes powerful debugger. Requires an external editor.
TFE FREE available on Windows TADS syntax colouring No longer being developed or supported -- use at your own risk.
   

My personal recommendations (for Windows): Of the Freeware editors, SourceEdit is definitely worth looking at, also Implementor. You'll find that a good Shareware editor is worth the money: I've used TextPad very happily for a number of years, but I think that it's probably bettered by EditPlus; both of these editors have a sensible try-before-you-buy policy.

Please send corrections and comments to roger@firthworks.com.