Looking to get some basic coding done on the road? And you totally bought into Windows 8 tablets, the Surface (Pro), or touchscreen ultrabooks? Despite the platform being launched just a few months ago, Microsoft’s Windows Store already features some great editors for HTML or general coding. We go hands-on and compare several editors available from Microsoft’s digital app market.
But before we dive in, you need to set your expectations back a bit. The typical code editor app can’t replace a full-blown development environment. It can, rather, serve as a quick replacement for when you’re working on a smaller project or you need to implement or review code on the road. Obviously, these editors are not capable of replacing your IDE anytime soon, especially due to (most) code editors’ lack of a compiler.
But to my surprise, I found eight code editors that – even being free or extremely inexpensive – provide a handful of features of their bigger brothers, such as syntax highlighting for popular programming languages.
Without further ado, let’s have a look at some of the best coding apps for Windows 8 and Windows RT (in no particular order, mind you!).
One of the most popular coding apps, Code Writer works with 20 languages and file types such as C++, C#, SQL, and XAML. It supports syntax highlighting, which also makes it perfect for quick debugging and code reviews.
In a typical Windows 8 “Metro” (Oh, I know we’re not supposed to call it that anymore) fashion, the editor takes over the entire screen; there’s no chrome visible, except for the little line and column bar.
Don’t let the name fool you: Notepad RT isn’t just meant for “Windows RT.” Its name probably is a nod to the Windows RunTime developer environment. Notepad RT makes use of the Windows 8 snap feature to preview documents (e.g. HTML and XML) and also supports syntax highlighting for the most common languages (HTML, Java, PHP, etc.). I found Code Writer to be a bit more difficult for selecting and editing code on tablets, but Notepad RT worked a lot better on touch-based devices. That’s especially useful if you’re sitting on a plane and don’t have much space for your mouse.
All right, all right… Hex Editor is not really a code editor, but since we’re talking about development, we might as well make a little excursion into hex editing land, right? Jujuba Software’s “Hex Editor Pro” allows you to view and edit files in hexadecimal format and recognizes headers of popular file types. Hint: By default, Hex Editor Pro only shows .bin and .dat files: You need to manually add the files types you want to open. Just go to “Extensions” (the app bar comes up with a swipe from the bottom or a right-click) and go to “Add.”
Trying to just built a quick HTML website, form, or doc? Then forget all the other coding apps and have a look at HTMLDirect. This pure HTML editor allows you to not just “code” HTML but also preview it live. Or you could use the “Navigate” feature to browse through the code of websites.
This is one of the few code editors that let you not just write or edit code, but also run it (in split screen mode). This Ruby-only editor has full support for the Ruby library and allows you to open Ruby files easily.
Syntax highlighting, smart closing, several themes, tags, and support for more than 40 (!) languages make Minify an all-around winner for programmers. One of the highlights, for me at least, is the ability to use the Snap view so I can code in the Windows 8 app and work with a browser or a desktop application at the same time.
These aren’t the only free-or-cheap text editors for Windows 8 tablets. I examined a dozen more before I chose these as the ones worth seeking out. Are there any great ones I missed? Share them in the comments, and we can make this list an even more valuable resource.