Tag Archives: text editor

Gedit versus Zim-Wiki for text writers

The best writing tool for writers is in my opinion a text editor, as I explained in this post. And frankly, it doesn’t matter what text-editor.

But I am not sure how to progress from there. I am a fan of freewriting, and this practice produces a lot of .txt files. Finding a system that can help me order it in the best way so that it can give me an overview and search possibilities will probably be a life long quest.

For my daily writing I started some months ago with the Linux text editor Gedit. It’s a good looking text editor that, combined with its plugins, does a fine job for a writer. Especially with the session saver plugin activated it is easy to keep different chapters, notes or a todo list of a book you are writing, in one session. Very practical and efficient.

The open source program Zim-wiki (see this post for my introduction of Zim) does more or less the same, but has a more streamlined approach to sessions. This could well help to keep an overview of the many .txt files that I produce. Zim-wiki  is not as allround as Gedit, but focuses on text writing. I tried both and wrote the following comparison:

The Comparison

First of all I must stress again that there is a big difference in the aim of both programs. Gedit can be used for many things, it is great for writing code for example, Zim-wiki is for writing text or at least notes.

My comparison only deals with those features that writers of text or notes would use.


  • Zim .txt files are always gathered in so called notebooks, but stored as individual .txt files. The files of the current notebook show up in the sidepanel, where they can be moved around and new files can be added or created. New files can also easily be made in the txt file itself.
  • The possibility of basic text formatting is nice for the eye and therefore a bit practical for writers, although a final more complicated layout should be done in a wordprocessor. Links can be added and the preferred application will open them. For example links to websites will open in your browser. Pictures can be added too (but I am not sure if that is a true advantage for a writer).
  • All sorts of files can be imported into a Zim notebook, for example as an attachment. Txt files like for example from Gedit can be opened and entered into the system without a problem.
  • The shortcut “[]” produces checkboxes that can be checked or unchecked. They are a bit fun and practical as Zim can gather all these [] boxes from all pages in the notebook, so that they can be used as a todo list or as tags for other purposes.
  • The calender plugin turns Zim into a journal or logbook. It stores the calender files in a year/month/day structure on the computer, which is practical.
  • There are many keyboard shortcuts so that the hands can stay on the keyboard as long as possible.
  • There is a search option giving quick access to search results of all files in a Zim-notebook. This is good way to go through a group of files.
  • Zim is available for windows too.

And with all this Zim still produces just a gathering of .txt files, ready to use wherever you want. Although the Zim-wiki way of formatting will be replaced by its equivalent symbols (E.g. “a bold word” becomes “a **bold** word” in a standard .txt file).


  • With the panel plugin Gedit can create an F9 sidepanel that shows all files in a folder using the computer’s file system . There is no interaction between the files from this panel (but they can be opened from there of course).
  • One can create sessions with the session saver plugin, this reminds of Zim’s notebooks, but Gedit’s sessions is not much more than a quick way to open a number of files at once.
  • The fact that Gedit can’t format text can certainly be seen as an advantage, as less possibilities should give less distraction.
  • Just like Zim-Wiki, Gedit also has many plugins for writers, like “Documents Statistics”, “Spell checker” and “Snippets” (for entering often used text).
  • It produces pure .txt files that can be opened as the are on any computer or other device regardless of the operating system or writing software installed.
  • Gedit is optimized for much more than just writing .txt files, like for example coding and LaTex

While checking both programs I noticed that Gedit does a good job when the same file is open in both Zim and Gedit. Both notice that the same file is being updated on the harddisk, but Zim just saves its version or comes with a rather confusing error message, where as Gedit shows immediately a warning message stating that the file has been updated on the harddisk and gives the option to reload it.


As Zim focuses solemnly on writing text and notes it has extra features that are practical, like the many shortcuts, the search option within a notebook (a series of .txt files), the sidepanel with good overview of the files and its subfiles and the text formatting possibilities. The notebook system might be a good way to have some order in the may .txt files, so I will use Zim for my writing for now and see how it works out with large amounts of data.

Gedit will definitely be my preferred .txt application on my computer for all other purposes than my normal writing activities, as it is most practical in opening and editing a single .txt file. And of course it excels in writing and reading code.

Zim – Gain controle over your text files

Zim is made for Linux but according to the FAQ it can run in Windows.

Zim is more than just a text editor. Besides handling the most common formatting of text it serves as an excellent collector of .txt files and it will create and keep track of new files within the blink of an eye, so to speak.
It describes itself as a Desktop Wiki because of this and is comparable with for example Wikipad (Windows) and Tomboy (Linux).

When Zim starts it asks you to create a Notebook, which will be the home of a group of .txt files you are about to make. After that you can just start typing like in any other text editor, but when you select a word and click “link” it will automatically create a new .txt file linked to that word. This file will show up in the hierarchy of your notebook in the left hand panel, giving you an excellent overview of the files you create this way.
It is also possible to link to a document on your harddisk this way (triggering the connected application to open) or to an external link on the internet.

One could make good use of Zim’s capabilities when making notes during your study. Just create pages for subjects you want to make some quick notes about and these notes will be interlinked to the main text of your study and will always be easily available and updated.
Maybe you are writing a novel and use Zim to keep track of your places, persons and storylines in these small and fast .txt files or, with the help of the calender plugin, you can keep a diary or logbook.
I had for example a todo-list and a logbook for each month,  in separate .txt files, but now I gathered them in Zim.

Zim can also track your todo’s where ever they are in the Notebook and display a nice todo list with the todo list plugin.

See the screenshots on this page for an overview.

Related post: Gedit versus Zim-Wiki for text writers.

Vim – The keyboard text editor.

Vim is a well elaborated editor for many platforms including Windows, Linux and Mac, with a speciality: You can do all the work in the editor without letting your fingers leave the keyboard.  So you don’t need a mouse for example in order to find, select or replace text or do many other tasks, including complicated ones. This should speed up your text editing considerably.

It does require however that the user gets used to the various commands and knows how to use them quickly and without thinking.  Some practising is therefore needed. All commands can be looked up in the extensive help sections that can be reached by for example typing “:help” or one can spend some time at the extensive Vim Tips wiki pages.

“What Is Vim?

Vim is a highly configurable text editor built to enable efficient text editing. It is an improved version of the vi editor distributed with most UNIX systems.

Vim is often called a “programmer’s editor,” and so useful for programming that many consider it an entire IDE. It’s not just for programmers, though. Vim is perfect for all kinds of text editing, from composing email to editing configuration files.

(…) Vim can be configured to work in a very simple (Notepad-like) way, called evim or Easy Vim.

What Vim Is Not?

Vim isn’t an editor designed to hold its users’ hands. It is a tool, the use of which must be learned.

Vim isn’t a word processor. Although it can display text with various forms of highlighting and formatting, it isn’t there to provide WYSIWYG editing of typeset documents. (It is great for editing TeX, though.)”


Vim uses different modes that are used to perform different groups of actions. For example the “Insert mode” is for typing text and the default “Normal mode” is for all the numerous commands you can use to read, edit and search a text. One can switch to the different modes by pressing a key. Commands are given by typing a letter or a number or combinations of letters and numbers. Besides the usual commands like for example save or close (triggered by typing :w and :q) there are also more complicated commands like “select 5 words from cursor position”, “Replace this line” , “move cursor up” or “find and replace”.

In this way Vim makes it possible to quickly perform all actions directly from your keyboard, and as no space is needed on a menubar these actions can be many.

Besides the normal undo/redo possibilities Vim can also show a document as it was at a certain time interval, both backwards and forward (using the “:earlier” and “:later” commands).

Vim’s features can be furthermore extended with plugins.

GVim Is a graphical Vim version (see screenshot). Vim also runs in Linux in the terminal by typing “vim” <enter>.

Here is a link to a 6kb small text file explaining what Vim is. (It is also available in many other languages)

“Vim’s License

Vim is charityware. Its license is GPL-compatible, so it’s distributed freely, but we ask that if you find it useful you make a donation to help children in Uganda through the ICCF. The full license text can be found in the documentation. More information about charityware on Charity-ware.org. ”