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Programming IT Technology

Leading A Low-Profile Free Software Project 144

NEdit is a Linux/Unix "point and click" text editor that gets almost no press but has a dedicated (if small) band of devoted users, including rusty at kuro5hin and myself. We get lots of news about high-profile Open Source and free software projects, but rarely hear about ones like NEdit or the people who lead them -- like Mark Edel, NEdit's original author, who is still the project's integration "gatekeeper." This is a good opportunity for anyone who is thinking about starting a free software project to ask what it's like to toil in the shadow of giants. Please post your questions below. We'll forward about 10 of the highest-moderated questions to Mark tomorrow, and will post his answers next week.
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Leading a Low-Profile Free Software Project

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  • At the time NEdit was started, there was no real alternative, but if you were starting again today, would you still choose to use Motif?
  • by techmuse ( 160085 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2000 @07:05AM (#695514)
    First, thanks for producing Nedit. I've been a big fan of the program for years, and it's always one of the first things that I install. I'm wondering how you go about coordinating the development and testing of code on an open source project. Do you create well defined APIs for modules to interact with, and then ask people to work on modules that use those APIs? Do you put one person in charge of each segment of the project? How do you resolve disagreements over the features and functionality of the project? PS. What happened to the // or /* */ commenting macro in Nedit? I miss it!
  • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2000 @07:06AM (#695515) Homepage
    A lot of people are very hesitant to install a whole set of libraries to run only one application -- almost no matter how good the app is -- when there are 'good enough' alternatives for the standard libs they already have.

    Do you feel that NEdit has suffered from not using more popular libraries, and does it matter to you?
  • I saw some screenshots on your site that show the KDE window manager, but nedit's look is that of CDE. How did you convice Motif to look like it does on a CDE environment without CDE being present?
  • I run a small (one developer: me!) project at sourceforge []: a text-based web bulletin board called vaxbb [].

    Although sourceforge says it's been downloaded 63 times, I've received nary a comment or email of any sort. Granted, it needs a lot of work before vaxbb will be an install-n-go program, but I definitely think it fills a niche (I started writing it because I couldn't find a free bb that I liked the look of).

    So, after all that intro, my question is: Does a project have to be super-slick before people will use or contribute to it? How does one find developers w/out a huge user base. . .or get a user base without having a fully-developed program?


  • Make it use only the features found in the standard c++ standard then just code the rest into the app. Makes it easier to have people run the stuff. I have not used programs before because of just this reason.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Must make the obligatory, and wholey unnessisary satement
    vi is the best editor in the world!
    Nedit is for windows programmers who don't want to leave their point and click world.

    </needless rant>

    Other than that though, Nedit is pretty good.
  • What does it take to get more developers on in on this sort of project. I'm sure there are many people who'd be interested in working on a good project internationally. How does one track them down and get them involved?
  • In today's world, an editor needs to be able to emulate at least some of the interfaces that folks already know - this is called leveraging the user's knowledge.

    In addition, an interface should be designed to be friendly to RSI sufferers. This usually means providing a way of avoiding the mouse, because switching between mouse and keyboard tends to stress the hand. The idea is: provide a point & click interface for beginners, and a keyboard interface for experienced users.

    This all leads up to an editor that allows switchable keyboard interfaces so that the large nuber of folks with expertise in emacs, vi, msword, etc can leverage their experience.

    Lee Campbell
    Always in Error, never in doubt!
  • by Coz ( 178857 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2000 @07:13AM (#695522) Homepage Journal
    I used Nedit once, years ago and I'm glad to see it's still around. I see from your pages it's still X-focused, Motif-based, although it's been ported to Windoze and the Mac.

    My question: has there been consideration of rebaselining it into a truly "portable" language or library set, such as Java with Swing or one of the other "lightweight" open-source multiOS frameworks, or will it stay X-focused for the forseeable future?

  • Why should I choose Nedit over gedit, XEmacs, emacs, vi, or ed?
  • Are there any plans to port it to Windows or Mac OS? Or perhaps a more exotic port: Palm OS?
  • I'm a huge fan of NEdit, to summarize my POV: it's my favourite editor.

    It has only one downside: you have to keep you NumLock off to use the shortcuts (a "feature" caused by Motif..).
    This means that I have to remap the NumPad on each computer I use!
    This is not a big problem but it is annoying, and NEdit is the only app which is still using Motif on my PC (I don't use Netscape at home).

    I have considered doing the port of NEdit to Gtk+, but as I don't know Motif, it would be quite difficult..
  • by pb ( 1020 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2000 @07:18AM (#695526)
    What data structure do you use to store the text internally, and why? What trade-offs exist in your approach?
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [].
  • by sips ( 212702 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2000 @07:18AM (#695527) Homepage
    One of the problems is that people will not contribute to a project if they don't have any way to see it being used or see that it has a good code base. This goes for any project that you want to have people work on. This is purely psychological but is deeply engrained in how people think.

    PS. It would also help if you uploaded at least a temp page for sourceforge. I just like to be able to get some page and maybe some info before downloading things to see what the project is like.

    Does your bulletin board support nested comment display ala slashdot? If it does avoid nested tables like the plague because it's not considered good coding form by the lynx developers and the like and excludes many people who want to undetstand the flow of conversation that is going on.
  • by OlympicSponsor ( 236309 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2000 @07:18AM (#695528)
    Reading newsgroups and mailing lists, I occasionally come across people who have problems that could be solved with software I have written and made available. I have a hard time coming up with a way to point them towards my software without coming across as some kind of big-headed, know-it-all, "my software cleans your floor and does your taxes" loser. What to do?
    An abstained vote is a vote for Bush and Gore.
  • Offtopic, I guess, because it's not a question, but I'll risk it...

    For me, Nedit was an important transistional program between the Windows world and the Linux camp. It did some things I expected a text-editor to do, and was not as daunting as vi. I was able to accomplish work with Nedit, and knowing that one tool made me a little bolder in exploring other tools that are second nature to the *nix gurus but cryptic to the newbies.

    So, no question, but just a thank you.

  • My tiny utility has had nearly 1000 downloads. And what have I gotten in my inbox? One patch, maybe two bug reports and possibly as many as 5 "thanks". I'm not complaining, I'm just saying that a very very small percentage of the people who download, use. And a very very small percentage of the people who use, contribute.
    An abstained vote is a vote for Bush and Gore.
  • I have considered doing the port of NEdit to Gtk+, but as I don't know Motif, it would be quite difficult.

    The topic of porting to GTK+ comes up regularily on the NEdit mailing list - a bit like the C++ threads on the Linux Kernel mailing list. NEdit uses the Xt convenience functions a hell of a lot, so porting it to GTK+ wouldn't be much fun. Porting to Qt using TrollTechs QXt extension would probably be easier.

  • Now that NEdit is /.-ed :

  • Motif is highly customisable by resources (unlike some other toolkits). All you have to do is set the right X resources the same way CDE does--it's built into Motif.
  • I've written a LGPL'd Java FTP library. It's been downloaded maybe 1000-2000 times, but I've received no more than about 10 emails. My impression is that you receive an email every 100-500 downloads.

    This is quite possibly good news - people have downloaded and used the library, and have no problems with it. There's not really a need to contact the author unless you want an enhancement of some sort.

  • I did research for myself about 4 months back to find the most useful X-based text editor I could find - good features sets (syntax highlighting for the various bits 'o code I write was a big one - had to support PHP, Perl, HTML and shell at the least) but at the same time let me keep using the windows-type key bindings for navigation and text manipulation (shift and control with the arrow keys, Home and know, basic stuff), and I eventually decided on Nedit.

    Though it's got a few (very small) rough edges, and I'd like to see some features in it more like the windows editor Ultra's still great. Though I'm sure that vi(m) and (x)emacs are just fabulous, I've managed to get my windows-type text navigation keybindings hardwired into my brain, and trying to change that makes me break out in hives and want to kick the cat. :)

    I'd have to say that the "high profile" projects spoken of in this article are high profile only because of press coverage, and that because of the press' need to find a few "major themes" and sell advertising space around them. The reality (and beauty) of the open source community (I'm not using this word in a Katz-Petreley sense, I'm using it in a smile-and-nod-at-the-bumper-sticker sense) is that people who want to make cool stuff happen do it because they want to, because it's fun, because nifty people are impressed by it, and because they want to be a part of creating something free, diverse and very long lasting.

    I'm looking forward to writing free software and documentation - my major problem is figuring out exactly what project to work on. I'm looking forward to that first email or message board post (and all the others after it) from a knowlegeable person telling me where I've screwed up and where I can get better - because I want to learn and make it (whatever "it" eventually is) better.

    Every little bit of work that every person out there does toward making a better, freer world does indeed count. It means something. I know that it does, because if someone can read a HOWTO and understand it all perfectly the first time around because I either wrote it well or did good copyediting on it, they've saved time, and they're now that much closer to being a part of that overall freedom. Just because information about my efforts is not squished between advertisements in a magazine somewhere doesn't take away from that at all.

  • How much control do you exercise over NEdit?

    With this question, I would like insight into the kind of benevolent dictator you are (if you do indeed follow the Linux method of development) in terms of personality and "managing" your developers (like a project manager). I would also like to know how much direction you give to the project at this point (actively deciding to pursue new features for NEdit, rather than just building on ideas that others bring up).

  • I hate to see people bash Motif like this. You can customise all this stuff using X resources if you don't like the way Motif handles numlock. (incidentally I've never noticed sure you're not using some weird old version of Motif, or maybe Lesstif?)

    I use NEdit all the time, and one of the things I like best about it is it is based on Motif. Rather than all the shitty "glitzy" toolkits like Gtk and Qt that take hours to load over the network and are not worth it anyway, NEdit uses the best toolkit around. Motif is still better than all the alternatives--it's faster, more efficient, more to-the-point, and more powerful. This is one of my main reasons for using NEdit in the first place.

  • If you use Nedit instead of vi?

    I can't you how many times I've impressed a geekchick with my deft use of vi (yanking and putting are sufficiently obscure to the average geekchick to work), resulting in us leaving the computer lab together for a night of carnal bliss.

    Would this be happening if I used Nedit, or would they think me some kind of Linux-come-lately poser?

    Any geekgirls who want to kick in can answer this too.

    And to any of the geekgirls that might recognize me behind my nom-de-plume, hey, we sure had fun, drop me a line, maybe I can see how many times I can make your kernel panic in a night!
  • Tk NotePad was something I wrote. I got a lot of suggestions and even some patches and fixes.

    Suggestions for new developers:

    First post your software on the web. If you don't have a place of your own ther eis always

    Next make sure the name is descriptive of what it is. Sure a cool name is great, but it should also describe the software. I used Tk NotePad cause it is basically like windows notepad except in Tcl/Tk so it runs on Mac, *NIX, and Windows. Thus the name.
    Post a link to it at According to them I have had somewhere in the over 1000 downloads range.
    Make sure that if it has a GUI the GUI is intuitive. Not just to you, but to others as well. Ask friends to try it out. Since i modeled mine after windows notepad the GUI framework was already there. I also added a few necessary features to it.
    Next make sure people understand what type of license you have it licensed under. GPL, MPL, LGPL, or in my case, "It's on your machine you do as you wish. If you fix a bug please sent it to me".
    Make sure it solves a problem. At the time that I started my editor and released it to the net, kde was not at 1.0 and lesstif did not easily compile nedit. (AFAIK) Thus the choice of editors was emacs and vi.
    lastly you cannot 'attract' developers. They will come only if they are interested in the project. Lets face it some projects are just not as interesting as others. Luckily for me there were other people out there that realized that at that time there were not real simple and easy to use text editors, and even though I did not get other developers to work on my project, I did get bug fixes, suggestions with & without patches and the shere enjoyment of learning Tcl/Tk (which made learning perl/C/C++ and Java easier).

    This was my experience so I thought I'd share. (okay this is a shameless self plug) In case you are interested in a simple text editor check out /~j oeja/programs.html#Tcl-Tk []

    I don't want a lot, I just want it all!
    Flame away, I have a hose!

  • Wow, thanks. I have to use several Motif apps in places where CDE is not available, and I like the CDE/Motif look better than standard Motif. Would you happen to know what resources those are?
  • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2000 @07:31AM (#695541) Homepage
    One of the big things that is said about the beauty of open source is that it allows for a lot of people to see the code and weed out the bugs. So, on a smaller project such as this, how has the level of interaction with users and development been? Do you find you get lots of useful feedback and bug fixes or is it mostly you at the helm just trying to make a good piece of software?


  • A recently posted Slashdot article (I believe the original is at railed against one of the failings of OSS, citing text editors in particular, arguing that people don't want to contribute to other projects, they always want to run their own. What originally possessed you to create your own editor, rather than extend another project (call it editor X)? And, if someone today feels the same way about NEdit that you did about editor X at the time, would you recommend that they create their own editor too?
  • I think you'll find that Nedit was there before most of them. Maybe all of them with the exception of vi and ed! (exhagerating I know, but this is an old project, not some new upstart editor).

    So what possessed him to write an X based editor? There were none freely available at the time. Simple. Editor X didn't exist.
  • Number of users is proportional to two things:

    How easy it is to find your software, and how many people want that kind of software.

    I've averaged pretty close to one email per one hundred downloads of my software, so the above figures seem right to me.

  • This is probably the single most FAQ on the support list. Someone has recently submitted a patch [] to fix this problem.

  • by AxelBoldt ( 1490 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2000 @07:39AM (#695546) Homepage
    Prospective developers tend to hang out on usenet. Figure out what newsgroup is the right one, and post announcements of new versions of your program there. You'll get more feedback that way.


  • by dilger ( 1646 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2000 @07:40AM (#695547) Homepage

    Here's two questions:

    1. From which (if any) of the commonly accepted principles of FS/OSS development [] does your project deviate?
    2. How much time do you spend writing code vs doing more administrative/moderation tasks?

    thanks. cbd.

  • by Midnight Warrior ( 32619 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2000 @07:41AM (#695548) Homepage
    Now that you've successfully created a wonderful, stable editor, how many of the following software engineering techniques were used on the project, or would have been helpful?
    1. Clear, concise statement of work (since NEdit was developed with U.S. Govt funding)
    2. A Requirements Management process (measurable details about end-user goals)
    3. Requirements Traceability Matrix (did all the planned stuff get implimented?)
    4. Design Documents (GUIs plus interactions with black-box libraries or external packages)
    5. Work Breakdown/Size Estimates (what are the pieces of the design that need attacked, what skills are required for each, who is attacking each piece)
    6. Project Tracking (some automated way of allowing outsiders to see how it's going)
    Colleges are teaching this. Companies who want government contracts are starting to do this kind of stuff. Would these software engineering techniques help OpenSource biggies stay on track and on time even though there is no financial interest to do so? The upcoming <cough>Linuxkernel<cough> comes to mind.
  • I have been looking for a GUI tool kit to use for open source development. To support my application it must have a 3D widget (something that supports OpenGL or equivalent.) To make it possible to reach a large audience it must be portable to UNIX and Win32 (hiss boo but still 95% of the users.) Support for Mac and other niche OSes would be nice.

    Does anyone know of a good one? So far I've identified the following:

    Java -- has everything I want, but can require nasty complicated down loads and installation to get a version that has all the features I want to use.

    tcl/tk -- Ok, I just don't like tcl, but it meets the spec.

    QT -- almost perfect except that the GPLed version doesn't support Win32. Win32 support costs ~US $1500.

    Any other suggestions?

  • There is a port of Nedit to cygwin. Runs great with Exceed (win32 X Server) under windows.

    Granted, this is not the easiest way to run it, and for my money ultraedit is all a win32 user could ever want or need in a text editor.

    Wish the ulraedit guy would work on a Linux/Unix port.

  • That's just flat out not true. You're obviously very ignorant of what Motif can do. Motif is extremely flexible and can dynamically be made to look practically any way you want it to. All you have to do is set the right X resources the right way.
  • Since is slashdotted, FYI:

    NEdit has recently been added as a SourceForge project []. This was possible because the license recently changed to the GPL from a more restrictive one.

    You can get the source there if the main distro site is overloaded. Stop by and see why NEdit rocks. (Hint: it's much faster than that Other Editor.)

  • by Midnight Warrior ( 32619 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2000 @07:47AM (#695553) Homepage
    One of the big moments for mature software projects is the issue of keeping the software cross-platform. Can you tell us a story about your struggles with keeping NEdit cross-platform? As a starter question: Is there a lessons-learned document around that gives good tips to avoid cross-platform issues, or have you ever though about making one?
  • by Analog ( 564 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2000 @07:59AM (#695554)
    I find that NEdit has a near magical combination of ease of use and power. Using it for web development, I've set it up to syntax highlight the appropriate scripting language/html combinations, update my cvs repository, stage the site to a staging area on my local server and load the page into Netscape to verify everything's okay, then upload it to a remote webserver. And it's all attached to a hotkey combination; I can do all this without leaving the editor. Outstanding. Yet my wife can use the exact same setup and never know it does anything more than Notepad; all this doesn't get in her way in the slightest.

    How did you achieve this balance? What design decisions were made in the beginning that facilitated this, and how have changes been made during NEdit's evolution such that this balance hasn't been disturbed?

  • I have similar experience, having worked on the Exult project about three years. Here are some comments and suggestions:

    1. Yours is a specialized utility, so advertise it in places where bb users are likely to browse. For example, I usually post Exult release notices on the Ultima newsgroups. Also, put it on; that gets a lot more hits from casual users.
    2. Most people won't bother trying your program until it's fairly far along. I received very little feedback the first year.
    3. Most emails will be from users with bugs or suggestions. If your utility is small, focused, and works right, you won't get as much email.
    4. It takes even longer before others will contribute. In my case, a couple people helped a little during the second year; but it was only during the third year, when the code base had grown quite large, that I started getting major help.
    5. (I hate to admit this...) Exult didn't start getting a lot of users until one of the contributors ported it to Win32, after I had replaced the X code with SDL.

  • So, what is the right way to set the X resources to get the "flat" CDE look as opposed to the "3D" normal Motif look? Can you give me an Xresources file?
  • At the end of the day, most mature text editors have the same core functionality, but some make it easier to use than others. I chose NEdit because emacs is too complicated for my liking (and for anyone else who thinks you should be able to pick up an editor in half an hour), and if I wanted to change its behaviour on any small point I had to delve into the voluminous documentation. I'd previously used Zap [], and Nedit is certainly the closest to this editor that I'd found. Its interface shows off all its features without the user needing any documentation, and there's a large `cookbook' type library of macros and syntax hilighting available which you can just plug in.

    I'm not doubting the capability of emacs or vi, but I came to Linux from RISC OS, an OS where user interface design was very important, and so I don't believe you should have to spend any time at all learning how to use an editor. So when X isn't an option I use joe or pico-- I think you'd be surprised how many other `serious' programmers just can't be arsed to mess around with customising their editors when there's real code to hack.
  • Do you have any experience with programs written in a foreign language? I wrote this "free webmail" system in perl, and I want to open source it, but most of the code is in spanish (I mean the variable names, comments, etc), and I can't find a proper place to post the code. There are users, but it's difficult to find developers.

    Do you have any experience with this? is it difficult for english speaking developers to read code on a different language?


  • better than CygnusEd? I got to get me one of these! Now if only I could run it on a better OS than Workbench...
  • Let me guess, you're writing this from a green-on-black text terminal, aren't you? And under the hood, I'll bet you've got that other vestige of '70s computer technology: The Intel 8086 series. How many floppy drives do you have within easy reach? I'll bet also that all the code you write is all cramped together with nary a whitespace for lack of maneuverability. Some call it compact, I call it ugly. The only thing missing from NEdit is a popup menu to jump to function declarations. I use gTags for this, but its not as seamless as implemented in BBEdit.
  • by angst_ridden_hipster ( 23104 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2000 @08:24AM (#695561) Homepage Journal
    First, I want to say that I've been using Nedit for probably seven years, and I've always thought it was the best thing out there. Someone mentioned that it eased the transition from PC/Mac to Unix, and that was certainly true for me. So thanks for your great work!

    When I first used Nedit, I was working for a government-related agency, which had restrictions on what kinds of software could be run. Because Mark Edel hosted the source on a Fermi Labs machine, I was able to weasel around some of those restrictions. This, of course, was not before GNU but was well before the Open Source movement gained its groundswell of popularity. When the movement did gain popular momentum, it was looked upon with distrust and suspicion within the agency where I worked. There were offhand references to Communism and anarchy whenever people heard my enthusiasm. Likewise, when I wanted to give out source to some utilities I wrote, I was summarily shot down and chastised -- "this was paid for by the Government!" I was told (which was exactly my point; they just had a different conclusion as to what that meant).

    So... how did you convince Fermi Labs (or the DOE) to allow source distribution in the first place? Did you run into any difficulties when you decided to change the license? Did you have to get permission within the organization? If so, what did you need to do to get approval?

    Thanks again!
    bukra fil mish mish
    Monitor the Web, or Track your site!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What made you change to the GPL?
  • by Grab ( 126025 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2000 @08:27AM (#695563) Homepage
    One of my pet peeves is lack of design, documentation, commenting and testing. I'd appreciate your views on how much you believe these are necessary. Do you design before you code, or do you just dive in? Do you like to provide loads of support documentation for users and co-workers, or are you of the "the-code-is-my-documentation" school?

    More importantly, how do you enforce any such standard on your project, given that you've got other people submitting you code patches which may be technically perfect but visually obfuscated? And has this caused any friction, since managing coders is a "herding cats" scenario, and criticising someone's coding style is often taken very personally?

  • How do you balance your time with your job and
    the project ?
    I have my own little project ( []).
    Whenever I release a new version, it increases my site traffic to around a few thousand hits/day for a around 2-3 weeks.. then things settle down once again. I get a lot of questions on how do something, but no constructive critique
    of the code. Or help with the code.
    Secondly I have a full time job, in which I work 12-13 hrs/day.. I get paid hourly.. so it's not so bad as base salary only.. but still it makes it so that I can't have enough time to have a social life and to work on the project.

    I guess my question is how do you balance your time, specially when there aren't 100's of programmers working round the clock ?
  • One of the tenets set forth by Mike Gancarz in The Unix Philosophy is to implement the "90% solution." Implicit in this recommendation is the suggestion that efforts can be best directed towards other projects rather than focusing on the "100% solution." Given the myriad text editors that are already out there (including yours), don't you think that developer efforts would be better utilized by focusing on a small core of efficient tools, rather than reinventing the wheel?
  • CDE sets a number of resources on the XmDisplay object. In 2.0, this tells most of the Motif widgets to change their appearance. Some of these are:

    XmNenableThinThickness: use smaller shadows to make the 3-D effects "flatter"
    XmNenableEtchedInMenu: reverse menu shadow effects
    XmNenableToggleVisual: use 'checkboxes' for toggles instead of reversing shadows.

    To get the complete list, you need to have a 2.0 Motif manual. Unfortunately, most info out there is only for 1.2 as that's what is most prevalent.

    Motif 2.x documentation is sometimes difficult to find in print [], but there are some good sources online []. Read the docs. Motif is impossible to use without full, accurate docs on all the resource settings.

    You can put this in your .Xdefaults file to make all Motif 2.x apps look similar to CDE:

    *enableBtn1Transfer: true
    *enableButtonTab: true
    *enableDefaultButton: true
    *defaultButtonEmphasis: XmINTERNAL_HIGHLIGHT
    *enableDragIcon: true
    *enableEtchedInMenu: true
    *enableMenuInCascade: true
    *enableMultiKeyBindings: true
    *enableThinThickness: true
    *enableToggleColor: true
    *enableToggleVisual: true

  • All I said is that it is Motif that defines the look of an app, not the desktop environment.

    Wrong. While Motif does define the look of an app, the desktop environment can make global changes to impose a look on all Motif apps.

    CDE (and KDE) both do this.

  • Me too! Well, second best... I prefer Ultraedit for windows because it has load from/save to ftp, which means I can edit php/pl/html/whatever remotely without the annoying ftp step. I saw a mention of the possibility of it being incorporated into future versions, PLEASE DO!
  • "Plus, it doesn't require Gnome or KDE." That's the best reason I can think of NOT to use it. Both Gnome and KDE are available, and highly visible, when you install any recent Red Hat, or many other distros. I don't even KNOW if I have Motif, and the lst time I looked into it a couple of years back, Motif cost real money (like, over $100). Maybe there is a free version now, but even so making it a prereq is a downer - I'd much rather get something Gtk+ or Qt based since I have both easily available.

    I've used, and still use, lots of editors. Vi's user interface sucks, but it's handy for some jobs (EMACS I have never even tried to learn). Windoze style editors are OK, I like gEdit. And for some work I still use a DOS line-based editor called TinyEdit which comes as a 10K exe file and beats out some editors 100 times as big. I can adapt to many editors, the MAIN thing is it has to be easy to get to, already installed or VERY EASY to install. Because of the Motif requirement, I don't plan to even TRY Nedit.
  • A few I've seen (but never used myself, mind you) are wxWindows [], V [] and FLTK [].
  • I can answer that: Yes. My team is currently engaged in deciphering the "Singapore Code," a code base for our company that was written by the French for a Singapore-based project. Try translating from the french when you've no background in the language... *shudder*

    However, an uber-coder can read code, regardless of the mother tongue. We're lucky to have one of those on staff, and I'm not so arrogant to say it's me.

  • aee and pico are far more user-friendly, smaller, and faster than vi (for those who use console-based apps).

    Heh. pico doesn't even do autoindent, and I can't jump to a given line number. At least, according to it's help.

  • It may not teach you common Lisp or demonstrate the latest trends in portable interface design but it edits text faster than anything else. The block selection features cut down formatting time.
    The C commenting macros reduce #ifdef clutter, allowing you to try different designs quickly. Any time there's a text box in Netscape I write it out in Nedit and paste it in Netscape.
  • vi and emacs are the first things i nuke after i install... then i throw on pico or nano.
  • NEDit is absolutely the most useful Unix utility I possess. I've been using NEdit exclusively for at least 5 years (except for the occasional recourse to vi when I'm in a hurry). I always have at least 3 NEdit windows open at any given time. If this product doesn't exemplify all that's good about the Open Software movement, I don't know what possibly could.
  • Nedit is a wonderful program. It does an incredible job of maintaining consistency with common Mac/Windoze keybindings, while offering incredible power to the power geek. We have quite a few users in our center.

    Part of the reasons for its being low profile were the lack of perfect functionality with lesstif. This meant the quality version was staticly linked with Motif, and that many linux distributions would not ship it for licensing reasons.

    It is really good to see that is over with, and it is similarly easy to predict a rapid increase in its use on free unices as the GPL version (with lesstif) gets shipped with all new linux distros.

    My question: do you feel licensing issues can inadverdently affect acceptance of quality software, and how do you feel the Nedit team could have handled its licensing to avoid being left out of common linux distributions ?

  • I use it on my SuSE system almost every time I log on. I currently use WindowMaker as my WM, and after finally deciding to use this WM, I went and tried to find what text editor I wanted to use for coding and other things (I needed something that would work well for me for coding, as well as allow me to write up simple text documents and other such things), and NEdit is what fit the bill.

    It works great for me! I don't think I would use it for extreme document layout stuff, but that isn't why I selected it - I selected it for coding. I have only found one problem, and I believe it is something I don't have configured right:

    When using cut and paste, I can't paste data cut/copied from Netscape - other apps I can cut/paste from fine (in fact, I can cut/paste from Netscape to other apps fine as well, just not to NEdit). I can cut from Netscape, see the result sitting in the clipboard (XClip? - Can't remember the clipboard app name), but can't paste it into NEdit. Like I said, I think I don't have something set up properly (so many other things going on I haven't had time to look).

    Other than that, it is perfect for what I need it to do (and I am sure I have an older build anyhow - I am currently running SuSE 6.3, updated to 2.1.14 kernel - and the NEdit is what came on the SuSE CD set).

    I support the EFF [] - do you?
  • Both Gnome and KDE are available, and highly visible, when you install any recent Red Hat, or many other distros.
    But not when you're running Solaris, AIX or any of the other non-Linux/BSD Unixes. IIRC, Nedit was originally written for SunOS where Motif come standard.

    the lst time I looked into it a couple of years back, Motif cost real money
    It must have been many years if you haven't heard of either Lestif [] the Motif clone or the recently released (and slightly misnamed) Open Motif []. Both are available packaged in RPMs (since you mentioned Red Hat), which makes installation painless.
  • I actually program and install various components for programs and I feel that it's a real pain in the ass to force anyone to sit there and have to install that 5Mb library that one and only one program uses to display a fancy doodad. Look at the dependencies in debian if you don't believe me. The problem with them is that they install sometimes 20+Mb of libraries to run some little dinky program. Either way you pay for your code.

    Not only would this make developing applications impossible, the memory and disk footprints would end up being LARGER!

    But remember everyone and their mother dosn't have to give a shit about people like me who want to save money and keep a machine from being obselete next week because of their ever grander (and more lack luster) ideas.

    Tell me exactly how in the absence of having the library instaled on my system and writing or at least cut/pasting the code into the program of my choice how the size will be any different? Ahhh you can't that's why. Why? Because they are the same size. I am not as dumb as you take me for. I see no reason to force thousands of libraries that OSS programs think they need just to run them for one application.

    That is why linux really has started to suck. People think they need to have every possible library avaible for them and then they write one small dinky little application that uses that library for some trivial thing. If you ask I will even provide an example of such a program and then maybe you will believe me.

    sips, frankly that is a horrendously stupid idea. The "c++ standard" has for example no facility to display a dialog box. Now by what you're suggesting, every time I write a program I have to write all the code to display
    a dialog box.

    No I am saying that if you wanted to and you didn't have the library installed that it would be just as easy to rip the code from the library and install it in the application that is being developed.

    The one thing that has to be seen here is that sometimes you don't need say a complete library that will do every function in math through theoretical fields. Sometimes you only need to square a number of find an integral and that is all you need to do. What then? Is a full library install really necessary then? Do I really have to install that massive 50Mb of libraries to just find a simple answer to a simple problem in my program?
  • First, let me say that I have used Nedit off and on for several years and that I love its user interface. It would certainly be my first choice for an editor except for the fact that it has never been as stable as emacs (which I've never been able to crash). While the (infrequent) crashes are more of an annoyance than a (serious) problem, my number one criterion for an editor is stability. What has been keeping you from reaching the stability of emacs or vi?
  • > Likewise, when I wanted to give out source to
    > some utilities I wrote, I was summarily shot
    > down and chastised -- "this was paid for by the
    > Government!" I was told (which was exactly my
    > point; they just had a different conclusion as
    > to what that meant).

    At the company where I work, we were able to gain access to code written by a government agency through the Freedom of Information Act. Unless there is something special about that block of code, then I would assume that nearly all government sponsored code is or could be made to be open source!

  • Did any of you read the article? It has nothing to do with which editor is better, using motif or not, etc. The topic is what is it like to lead a low profile OSS/FS project. For quite some time, I was heavily involved in a lesser known OSS project, having written the core component for the project. Frankly, it was my experience that all the virtues that are touted by the usual OSS supporters don't apply. You don't get many eyes looking at the source. In fact, it seems that you get quite the opposite -- you get all the users who simply whine that you have a bug and demand it to be fixed. Some even go as far as to tell you how to fix it, but have never looked at the code so you get suggestions to modify code that is nowhere in the project. Mailing lists for the project seemed to be populated mainly by lurkers and only the very vocal minority seemed to communicate -- usually in off topic discussions. Given this somewhat dismal experience I had, has open source helped the project? Has there been much in the way of good feedback or is all the testing, bug fixes and additions of features done by the core team? Also, given the amount of work it takes to bring an OSS project to fruition, would you do it again knowing that it may not be very popular?
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2000 @09:38AM (#695583) Homepage
    I have a simple non-technical question.

    How do you keep going? As in when real life get's in the way. I head up 2 projects and there are times when the kids, my paying job, wife,etc.. keeps my development at a standstill.

    How do you cope with life interfering with your projects?
  • You don't need to be 'super-slick', but you do need to make sure people can understand it. My own project was going along rather quietly with little outside interest for quite awhile. Then I sat down and documented all the module interfaces, protocols, and structure member details. After that point, attention slowly built up around it.

    My guess is that some people will use it just because it scratches their itch, but to really get other people sending patches and the like, they have to know how it works. Some die hards will jump right in and attack the source, but others will wait for the documention. Besides, documenting all of it shows that there is someone behind the project who knows HOW to do such a thing, and cares enough to see it done. That's usually a little more encouraging for long-term results, as opposed to your typical "lookit me! i have a web page, code to follow soon!" startup.
  • I first used nedit when it was supplied as an alternative to jot on SGIs and it was a fairly small program. I redicovered it recently and am a huge fan (it's the perfect editor for the kind of people who have issues with emacs). Has it been difficult to maintain focus as the scope of the project increases? Clearly you are concerned by bloated installations as the binary installation is still one file. Has it been difficult to make backward-incompatible decisions as features have grown from experimental to cornerstone? - the main example being the expansion of the macro system. P.S. I have a load of requests waiting for the web wishlist system to appear...
  • At York U, in Toronto, NEdit is the default editor, at least for one of the CS labs (the Ariel lab for those who know my U).

    I've never used it though because I thought it was just some editor that comes by default with Solaris. And since they have pico, I didn't bother trying it out...

    I guess I'll give it a try now, but still, IMO, the console rules, especially when it comes to writing code...

  • I love NEdit - the Windows key combinations are too deeply ingrained in my head to make it at all easy to use an editor which doesn't support them. You even have a version for SunOS, which our Comlab runs here at Oxford.

    However, sometimes I have to use Windows, and the Windows "port" of NEdit seems a bit heavyweight, what with it requiring an X server.

    Are there any decent free software editors for Windows? I've tried PFE, but it can't cope with mouse wheel scrolling. I currently use ConTEXT, which is OK. But can I do better?

    (Anyone else, feel free to answer this :-)

  • As others have said, 63 isn't actually that many.

    However, there are other reasons why you might not have heard from anyone. I'm the author of the Oracle on Linux Installation HOWTO (mirrored all over the net as part of the LDP) and I've noticed that immediately after a new issue the amount of mail I get drops. The reason, I guess, is that it solves more peoples problems. It does the job so people feel no need to comment.

    But, as you've found, it's still nice to get a "thank you" or a really good question that's not already answered.
  • "Leading A Low-Profile Free Software Project" What's the difference between a low profile and a high profile project? Did you start the project to scratch an itch or attract attention?
    Lord Omlette
    ICQ# 77863057
  • I've been trying to find a unix (console or X, doesn't matter) replacement for UltraEdit for *quite* a while... nothing comes close. Emacs is a pain in the ass, but it might have the potential. I'm getting used to it (slowly) :-)

    And UE doesn't run well under WINE... somebody get Ian Mead to port it!!!
  • I've been using Nedit for a little over a year now. I really like it, but have one issue. I usually compile everything from source, but Nedit doesn't want to compile, even with the latest version of Lesstif. I ended up having to download & use a statically linked binary.

    My question is this: Are there any plans to port Nedit to a more modern toolkit, like GTK or QT?
  • It's free, not written by Micro$oft, and it is probably the best editor for the Wincrap platform ever written. It has sidebars for HTML and a few other things, plus it can strip HTML tags automatically and completely (very few errors).

    It is available at []

    And, oh BTW, it runs rather well under WINE but it's a bit slow and the icons in the toolbar don't always show. But all other functions work.

    ------------------------------------------------ --
  • I love NEdit. At home it's always my first choice for any kind of coding. At work we have SlickEdit but that's expensive, and annoyingly slow sometimes.

    For some reason Debian puts NEdit in the non-free section. That means it doesn't come on the CDs. I was doing an install for a friend on his laptop, and NEdit is his favorite editor too, so this was kindof annoying; now he's got to get a NIC working in order to download it. So maybe you could look into making it truly free software? I wish I knew what the objection is...probably something silly.

    I also don't like the use of Motif. Not that Motif is getting in the way, it's just a minor nit for the usual reasons (lack of themability, having to load a library that I don't use for much else, or use a statically linked version which wastes memory). I do love the fact that it runs on other platforms like Solaris, but now that Sun is going to be using Gnome [] I guess that means GTK will always be available also.

    I have a lot of trouble with shortcut keys lately; in older versions they used to work perfectly, but now it seems that it takes time to notice that the control key is down; for instance I usually have to press control-C several times to successfully copy to the clipboard. Sometimes I've even seen it insert control characters into the text when I press the keys, like control-S comes out as or something like that; but this is an intermittent problem which often goes away if I close NEdit and start a new copy. The not-noticing-control-C problem does not go away.

    I love the column selection features; that and indent/outdent and macros are the major things I want to have in a code editor beyond the usual features. It's just a little quirky compared to other editors like SlickEdit or most Windows code editors that indent/outdent is not done with tab/shift-tab, and drag-n-drop is done with the middle mouse button. I can deal with these quirks but I'd rather be able to customize them.

    A means to choose a character encoding and thereby switch to an appropriate font would be nice. I sometimes use NEdit to practice my Russian, and have to manually change the font to Cronyx Fixed, which is KOI8 encoded. (But I don't want to use that font all the time, because it is not as easy on the eyes as Lucida.) Fortunately NEdit allows me to type 8-bit characters (I use xrus to switch the keyboard into that mode), otherwise it would not have been possible at all. But there is that dialog where the default fonts are set; it would be nice if I could also set fonts to use for various other encodings, in an extensible way (like add an encoding, add a font to go with it, instead of only having a fixed set of encodings). Then have an easy-to-access menu to choose an encoding while editing, from the known set.

    I hope NEdit continues to improve and asymptotically approach a bug-free state. Good luck to you with it.

  • Yeah, libraries are such a bad idea. Every program should statically compile the functions it needs because 50MB of disk is a lot more expensive than 100MB of ram.

    I took a look at NEdit, and thought about downloading it for my work Win2000 box. Then I saw that to get it, I'd need to download and set up a laundry list of other items.

    So Nedit is not on my machine now.
  • Since you are asking this question, you are not a "big-headed know-it-all". If someone you are helping thinks you are big-headed, that is a reflection of their insecurity, and I suggest you shrug it off.

    If you want to really soft-pedal your stuff, you might point people to your software without telling them up front that you wrote it.. the smarter ones will figure it out for themselves.

    As an aside, I wish more people making software available would give users an obvious way to thank/reward them in some way..

    If a software author said on their web page that they collect local bumper stickers, or maps, or beer coasters, say so and I'd be happy to send some.

  • I don't know, but I'm sure the objection is only that it uses Motif, which is non-free.
  • Look, there are (as we learned yesterday) 148 open source text editors. Look at the bloody source!
  • What does NEdit offer that Emacs doesn't? How do you compete or market yourselves against successful and established products? Do you even want to?
  • Imagine what it would be like for Linus if he got one email per 100-500 donwloads?
  • by lemox ( 126382 )

    Try vim []. The windows version looks almost exactly like the gtk version. You can either grab the dos-box version (vim) or the GUI version (gvim).

    That way, you have the exact same editing enviroment for both linux and windows.

  • You mean like JEdit
  • Nedit has an intuitive and efficient interface combined with enough power for non-trivial work. That is remarkably rare among text editors.

    Some editors are extremeley capaable. Emacs certainly has a richer feature set then Nedit is likely to ever have. But it comes at a price. The interface is not intuitive and many moderate operations require complex interaction.

    vi can be highly efficient in terms of keystrokes but is also unintuitive and lacks the raw power of emacs.

    There are many obscure X based editors. They are generally easy to learn but terrible to use and seriously lacking in power.

    Editors are such a personal thing. Little nuances can change everything. Emacs vs vi is not enough choice to choose on nuances. Adding Nedit still isn't enough but it's better. I would say we need at least 5 generally useable editors. (i.e 5 editors that will do virtually any job you want. Pick one you like)
  • vim has a good win32 port. [] []
  • by drix ( 4602 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2000 @03:28PM (#695614) Homepage
    There have been many times when I've wanted to undertake a project and release the source but haven't simply because I'm self-conscious about the code I write. I feel almost embarassed at the thought of someone seeing sloppy, inelegant code with my name on it. I'm just curious if a.) you've ever had this problem and b.) in general, what have people's responses been (i.e. flames, a patch and some consoling words, etc.)?

  • I wish I knew the answer to this one. I have been working on an open source directory management project for the last 5 years, and I worked on a freely downloadable prototype for a couple of years before that. In all that time, the ratio of downloads to email sent has been on the order of 100 downloads per each email, leaving me without any idea how many people are actually using what I've been working on. Even when it was very difficult to do with the prototype, I found out years later that people had adopted it but never sent email to me about it.

    I think (hope) that if a project is well done and widely useful, that once it reaches a point of stability and documentation such that people can use it without a great deal of initial investment of effort that the ranks of downloaders will swell and that 1 person in 100 will grow to be significant enough that a few good developers latch on to the idea and come forward with enhancements to the already working system.

    In my project, I'm going through quite a lot of effort to make it feasible for others to customize the system for different environments, and I'm going through a lot of effort to try to document everything adequately, but the 1 in 100 factor still seems to hold pretty strongly.

  • Begging your email list for feedback doesn't work, I tried that.


  • I know that this is Slashdot, owned by the same company as Sourceforge, but here is the question: should somebody trying to start an OSS or Free Software project use the resources provided by SourceForge?

    The reason I ask is because the services offered are second to none, but its high quality has attracted so many users that now any project hosted there seems to be second-rate. I have, for example, some friends who will, upon seeing any * URL, say "Oh, just another SourceForge project. Just another OSS wannabe."

    I realize that the story is different for projects that thrive elsewhere and just use SourceForge for its rather, um, unique services. But still, for one that is just starting out... is it a good idea?
  • Because knowing vi allows you to telnet into any *nix box and edit text files with a reasonably powerful editor (it's especially powerful for repetitive and formatted text like configuration files). Since almost all system configuration in *nix is done with plain text files, this is incredibly useful. Especially in a data center like the one I work in with 4 different flavors of *nix.

    "Free your mind and your ass will follow"

  • I've hit against this problem so many times .. from the other direction.

    If I'm using a program that has a missing feature I really want .. I'll spend a while knocking it up, and submit it to the author.

    95% of the time the developer will ignore my mail, and not even respond.

    (Of course there are exceptions, like FreeAmp [] gave me write access to the repository on the strength of one context diff ;)

    Even more depressing, though, is the number of times I've sent people diffs/patches to allow their Linux based apps to compile/run on Windows - these are almost always ignored.

    Seems to me like lots of developers don't care about feedback. I'm always ecstatic to receive feedback on any of my code .. good or bad, and I've applied several patches random people mailed me ..

  • I came to Linux from RISC OS, an OS where user interface design was very important, and so I don't believe you should have to spend any time at all learning how to use an editor [...] I think you'd be surprised how many other `serious' programmers just can't be arsed to mess around with customising their editors when there's real code to hack.

    You're right, I would be. Given that text editing is what a serious programmer does all day, every day, it's the one thing that really *has* to be right, and if that means taking some time to get it working the way you want, then so be it. You talk about UI design being important, but this is one area that nedit is lacking and vi really has right. The UI should make the common tasks as efficient as possible -- the ease with which it can be learned is very much a secondary consideration here. I've yet to meet anything that lets the user edit text as efficiently as vi.

  • In the particular agency in question, I suspect that you'd have a hard time getting anything via FOIA. Although, admittedly, they're a lot less restrictive today, and they do release some code to the community.

    For a fascinating view of how the FOIA can be subverted (if you're not willing to spend millions of dollars), check out the book "Gimme Some Truth: the John Lennon FBI Files" by John Wiener (or check out the web support site at

    A lot of code gets classified, not because it has anything secret in it, but because they don't want to share it (also, the more classified documents you generate, the less likely you are to get fired, but that's another story). Also, a lot of fairly mundane code gets classified because it could lead you to ideas that might suggest to you something that *is* classified.
    bukra fil mish mish
    Monitor the Web, or Track your site!
  • First, thanks for producing Nedit. I've been a big fan of the program for years, and it's always one of the first things that I install

    Amen. I have used nedit for over 5 years - SGI has shipped it with their systems for quite a while.

    As soon as I switched to a new job coding on Solaris the first thing I installed was nedit. As soon as I got into Linux a few years back, the forst thing I installed was nedit.

    If you are reading this - thanks very much for producing nedit - I love it.

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