A brief message about Text Editors

As a consultant, I work with many different types of flat files.  PeopleSoft extracts, Essbase export files, etc.  Many of these files are quite large and the carriage return at the end of the file differs at times.

I believe strongly that Windows is the platform for business personal computing.  I grew up using Macs in middle school and high school and I am in no way tempted to go back to those days – no matter how much I love my iPhone.  As a Windows customer, I have several different options for text editors, namely Notepad, WordPad, and other non-Microsoft options.

First things first, I detest Notepad.  I very rarely use it unless I am writing a very small and simple batch file.  Notepad cannot read certain types of carriage returns, which leaves a data file looking like a bunch of garbage.  Case in point, this week a colleague was working with a PeopleSoft extract file and saw the garbage wrap since Notepad didn’t read the carriage returns.  We copied the data from that garbage file to the server and tried to import the file with FDM.  Well, needless to say, without carriage returns, FDM could not read the file.

The other built-in option for Windows is WordPad, which is less than ideal as well.  While it kinda looks like Word if you squint really hard, it doesn’t have very good built-in features for anyone that needs to edit large text files.  It also has these funky margins and wants to word wrap everything.  Enough with Microsoft stuff.

Notepad++ is an open source option that allows a greater range of editing features.  It’s free, so that’s cool.  The only thing preventing me from using it more is that it can’t handle very large text files.  Think about a yearly extract from HFM with balances for each and every account and see if you can open that in Notepad++, probably not.

A great friend of mine, we’ll call him Mr. T, enjoys using a software called KEDIT from Mansfield Software Group (he still has a copy on 3.5″ floppy disks).  For any old school Hyperion Enterprise folks, this was the go-to text editor for many years.  It handles large files very well and opens them quickly.  It also has some very advanced filtering and selection options.  The bad thing about it is that it’s not necessarily the most intuitive, at least the older versions that I am used to seeing.  Also, according to their website, KEDIT is not currently being developed any more and is pretty much on life support until June 2014.

That leads me to my favorite text editor, Helios TextPad.  TextPad has been on the market for awhile, I have used it to write HTML, Java applications, MaxL, do more data integrations with than you can shake a stick at.  TextPad can open and process huge text files, 4GB was the largest one I tried and it was pretty slow but that was six years ago.  Matt Milella from Oracle and the Essbase Labs blog  team developed a couple of plugins to TextPad that will highlight keywords for MaxL and Essbase Calculation logic (http://essbaselabs.blogspot.com/2008/08/working-with-essbase-files.html).   TextPad is not free, but you can download an evaluation version from Helios (www.textpad.com).  When I purchased my version it was around $27 after currency conversion a couple of years ago. 

One of the things I like most about TextPad is the Macros feature.  This comes in very handy when you have multiple files that all need the same edits made.  Just open the file and run a macro that does several find and replace edits and then save the file and move on.  It cuts down the monotony that comes with doing manual data integrations.  Another feature I have used quite extensively is to set up your Java environment and then write, compile, and execute Java applications all from within the tool. 

This topic struck a nerve after I had to do some dimension mapping and data integration work over the last couple of weeks, so I had to give a plug for my favorite text editor: Helios TextPad.

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