Power Edit v2.24

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, with contributions by Mark Goldstein, November 2006
Published by: Glenn Alcott Software
Requires: Windows 95 through Vista, 32MB RAM and not much else
MSRP: US$25.00 (PayPal payment), $29 (via credit card or MO)

Power Edit has a reputation as a pure programmer's editor and the rep appears to be justified. You can use Power Edit as a general writing tool, but then you just wouldn't see the program's true power. I reviewed Power Edit, writing and research documents firmly in hand, but also asked contributing reviewer Mark Goldstein (who's a programmer) to have a look at it and put it to daily use for a few weeks.

As my good friend Paul Rochford of Techspertise repeatedly states to anyone who'll listen, "Dreamweaver and FrontPage suck! Real web developers use a powerful text editor to do all their programming!" Paul is correct to a significant extent. The cleanest web page code you'll find is usually that which is produced by a decent programmer working with suitable editor. Clean HTML, PHP and jscript often results in web pages that load faster and offer greater browser compatibility. Certainly as well, combining various methods in order to accomplish different web site development tasks, effects and so on means that web developers are usually better off learning how to code manually rather than relying on the complex workflows involved in getting Dreamweaver, FrontPage and GoLive to perform multidisciplinary programming tasks. For application programmers working in C++, VBScript and other common programming languages, a good quality editing program is frequently the difference between a positive, productive day and a really bad one. Obviously in most situations, coding talent wins the day. Combine the talent—even novice efforts—with a competent editor and good things can happen.

We installed Power Edit on several different workstations and laptops. We gave it a good workout in everything from Windows 98SE through XP. We did not have a chance to try it in Windows Vista (RC2). The Power Edit installer is tiny—3MB or so—and the program installs in less than a minute. The installation includes a nice selection of clip lists (commands, tags and so on that you can copy & paste from the clip list sidebar), and a robust and speedy spell checker. The supplied spell checker installs automatically along with the main program. The spell checker is as limited as you'd expect it to be considering its association with a programmer's editor. There are additional free spell check databases which can be downloaded from the product web site and they really help to fatten the basic database into something quite useful.


The clip list is similar to other such lists found in competing editors. The HTML list is literally an extensive list of HTML tags which can be quickly copied and pasted into your code. With the cursor properly positioned, hit the keyboard shortcut to focus the clip list, use the arrow keys to select the required tag, then hit the Enter key to make the tag appear at the cursor. It's a simple system and reduces or completely eliminates an enormous number of common coding errors.

Power Edit has very few size limits. Editing multiple files containing long lines is part of the basic feature set. The file list is tabbed at the top of the main program window which makes it easy to navigate with either the mouse or via keyboard shortcut. The file window can be split vertically or horizontally to provide two different views of a file—very handy.

Power Edit contains all the usual features expected of text editors and several that are unique. The search and replace function is especially powerful, including regular expression handling as well as soundex and approximate searches, which are found in few if any other editors. In addition, the program includes many text manipulation functions which are difficult to find elsewhere, such as removal of leading spaces, position-based text deletion, deletion of blank lines and extraction of e-mail addresses and Internet URLs.

Cons: The spell checker is speedy because it's quite compact, and that means the word list is comparatively small. Where TextPad is clearly a tool which works equally well for writers and programmers, Power Edit is in our opinion much more focused on programmers. That's not actually a 'Con', but it's worth noting nonetheless. I get nervous when an editing program fails to display an indicator of some sort during a Save. Despite Power Edit's power, the product web site looks like a bit like a refugee from 1994, which is not a great recommendation for what happens to be a very good code editor.

Pros: Power Edit programmer Glenn Alcott has wisely developed his software without extraneous junk, resulting in a very fast little editor. Despite the 'Con' about the spell checking, it works properly. It's hard to ignore the built-in Thesaurus (for programmers who want to write intelligible comments possibly?) which also has a somewhat limited vocabulary. Nevertheless, it's there and quite useful, so prose and letter writers who need help in that area can also put PowerEdit to good use. Long time readers of Kickstartnews reviews are well aware of my personal view that formal word processors are really not the best tool for active writers, and especially not those writers who regularly produce copy for web sites, presentations and a thousand other sorts of projects where page layout is superfluous or otherwise ill-advised. Give me a competent text editor (with robust spell checking) any day—PowerEdit is another fine choice. Alcott continues to do a thoughtful and effective job of developing and supporting the software. The vertical and horizontal split file views are neat and allow you to quickly review various parts of your work without losing your place or even having to refer to line numbers. Power Edit v2.2 is fast and the editing window is as clean as anything we've seen. Code formatting features abound (justification, centering, line inversion, etc., etc.), so serious programmers of all types should find a use for this one. Anybody who is still fighting with Windows Notepad or Wordpad needs to stop right now. There have been superior alternatives for years and Power Edit is also one of the lowest cost serious choices we've seen. Power Edit v2.2 was perfectly stable—rock solid actually—in over two months of regular use. Highly recommended.

KSN Product Rating:

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