If you’re going to code on your Chromebook, you need a web-based text editor designed for programmers with features such as syntax highlighting, tabs or split-view and advanced search functionality. ChromeOS doesn’t have a good text editor built in, so I went looking for the best ChromeOS text editor for developers.
Two options quickly rose to the top – Caret and Zed. I spent a good amount of time testing each one. Let’s see how they compare.
What to look for in a coding text editor
First, it has to work in ChromeOS without installing Linux or going into Developer Mode.
Second, it has to keep working offline.
Third, it needs to display multiple files at once. Tabs or split-view depending on your preference.
It also needs to be highly customizable or hackable, it’s nice to have the ability to configure your code editor exactly the way you want.
Both of the best text editors share some great features. They’re both free and open source. They have themes, so you can change the color scheme easily. Both editors have multiple cursors that let you update text in multiple places at once. The config files for both editors are editable, so you can tweak the settings to your taste. Beyond that, each one has a different feature set.
Here are the features that make Caret special.
- It can save to remote storage (indirectly, see FAQ)
- The “go to anywhere” feature, taken from Sublime, lets you jump to any file.
- Fuzzy search via the command palette
- Project browsing
- Extensible with plugins (experimental / beta)
- The familiar vim bindings made Caret easy to work in.
- Tabs make it easy to find the files you were working on.
- Caret is an actively-developed open source project. The creators resolved the last pull requests just four months ago.
Caret’s lack of split screen was disappointing.
Zed is intended to be a little simpler, but it still has some killer features.
These features made Zed stand out.
- Code completion and snippets.
- Split-view editing, with up to 3 screens, lets you compare and switch between files quickly.
- Zed is smart – it persists state between sessions.
- Zed gives you the ability to edit files on any remote server using zedrem (Zed remote editing utility).
- Minimalist UI design
- The autosave feature means no need to manually save your files.
- Zed has Dropbox and Github file support
- Zed doesn’t have tabs.
- The project hasn’t been worked on in a while, last commit was in May 2015.
Conclusions – Caret or Zed?
If you like Sublime, you’ll like Caret. Zed is preferred by people who like vim/emacs. Some people see Zed’s minimalist UI design as a con, but as I’m partial to vim this looks great to me.
They’re both great ChromeOS text editors for coding. Which one you choose is going to come down to personal preference. The vim-like interface and split-screen option were the killer features for me, so I’m going with Zed.