4 open source editors I use for my writing

In celebration of the National Council of Teachers of English NCTE National Day on Writing 2022, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite open source writing tools.
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Typewriter keys

Original photo by mshipp. Modified by Rikki Endsley. CC BY-SA 2.0.

I've done a lot of writing throughout my career, mostly as an IT consultant creating product documentation as client deliverables. These documents generally provide instructions on installing various operating systems and software products.

Since 2018, I've contributed to opensource.com with articles about open source software. Of course, I use open source editors to write my pieces. Here are the four open source editors that I have used.

1. Vi

Vi, also referred to as Vim, is the first open source editor that I learned. This was the editor taught by my computer science classes and that I used for all of my C programming. I have used it as my de facto command line editor since the mid-1990s. There are so many iterations of this tool that I could write a whole series on them. Suffice it to say that I stick to its basic command line form with minimal customization for my daily use.

2. LibreOffice Writer

Writer is part of the open source LibreOffice office suite. It is a full-featured word processor maintained by The Document Foundation. It supports industry-standard formats such as the Open Document Format (ODF), Open XML, and MS Office DOC, DOCX. Learn more about Writer on its official site.

3. Ghostwriter

Ghostwriter is a text editor for Markdown. It has a nice real-time viewer and syntax guide or cheat sheet feature. Visit the official website to discover more.

4. Gedit

Gedit is the basic graphical editor found in many Linux distributions and is described as "a small and lightweight text editor for the GNOME desktop." I have begun using it lately to create articles in the Asciidoc format. The benefit of using Asciidoc is that the syntax is easily manageable and importable into web rendering systems such as Drupal. See the Gedit Wiki for many tips and tricks.

Editing text

An extensive list of editing software is available in the open source world. This list will likely grow as I continue writing. The primary goal for me is simplicity in formatting. I want my articles to be easy to import, convert, and publish in a web-focused platform.

Your writing style, feature needs, and target audience will guide you in determining your preferred tools.

Alan Formy-Duval Opensource.com Correspondent
Alan has 20 years of IT experience, mostly in the Government and Financial sectors. He started as a Value Added Reseller before moving into Systems Engineering. Alan's background is in high-availability clustered apps. He wrote the 'Users and Groups' and 'Apache and the Web Stack' chapters in the Oracle Press/McGraw Hill 'Oracle Solaris 11 System Administration' book.


In such an article it would be useful to the reader to have some feedback, based on your experience, of the pros and cons of the cited editors, rather than a list of some of those that are available.

I echo Oliverjames; it would be helpful to not only mention the tools you use (and perhaps a sentence); it'd be nice to show 2 or 3 specifics in which each tool helped you.

For instance, with vi, it's very handy to use modal commands, several of which are right on the fingers of typists who keep their fingers on the home keys with their left and right hands.

I was interested in what you were doing with Gedit and asciidoc, but I didn't really get a good idea why Gedit, versus vi or any other text editor made working with this tool handy - can you share some details?

With LibreOffice, I'm aware that it supports both the de-facto formats used by Microsoft Office and the industry standard formats that were introduced to provide standard formats NOT tied to or owned by proprietary vendors, such as Microsoft or Apple. My example is that for years (prior to retirement), I've used LibreOffice to create and update my resumes; just to be sure they WORK, I've borrowed or used systems with Microsoft Office to make sure they're readable there PLUS accessible to those who use UNIX, Linux, and Apple Mac or iOS, Android, in other words, readable across most commonly available resources today.

LibreOffice is not quite a 100% perfect replication of Office in every regard, but it's been very good as an interoperable tool, certainly able to exchange both written documents and simple spreadsheets.

Regarding editors, yes, I've used vi and vim for a long time, but during my software development and maintenance days, I often used Emacs, specifically the currently available GNU Emacs, to do most of my coding and maintenance testing.

For quick editing of plain text with very little formatting and only simple corrections, something like nano is just as fast and requires little understanding to type and make simple corrections.

A much lighter alternative to Emacs, but a programming tool nevertheless, Geany is a fantastic graphical editor. It can recognize many programming languages for indentation and matching brackets or parentheses, so it's useful for such things.

Finally, for those who do a LOT with XML and similar tagged resources, while Geany, Emacs, or Vi *could* do the job,(and they have colors and other mechanisms for matching, something like Notepad++ - some Linux distributions even have another alternative: notepadqq, which is similar.

Anyway, my point is that the overall ecosystem, regardless of which operating system or user environment you prefer to use, has plenty of useful editing tools; most of them are quite mature, and we can all explain endlessly why we like certain ones; having to use multiple free and proprietary systems, I've found that there really are useful editing tools on most of them and a few of them are present across several systems!

Another article here makes a REALLY GOOD case for using the Geany editor; I *was* going to write my own article about it, but this one does a very good job, and it's found elsewhere on this very site!

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