Editor Edification


Click to see a picture of Kate

  • Kate - KDE advanced text editor
  • Kile - KDE integrated LaTeX environment


  • Modes: block selection & VI
  • Replace with regular expressions
  • Split view
  • Terminal: pipe, sync, focus
  • Highlighting & indention
    • spaces > tabs
  • Simple auto-completion
  • Auto-brace



Vim is a fully featured editor in that you can do just about anything you can do in any other text editor. What makes it special is its "philosophy", so to speak. I will focus on what makes Vim different from other popular editors.

Vim is a modal editor. Each mode allows you to perform certain categories of tasks, like moving around, inserting, or selecting text. These modes are what make Vim powerful.

When you start Vim, you are in what's called Normal Mode. The strange part about this mode is that you can't type any text. You might be thinking, "Why would anyone use an editor that doesn't let you type right away?" When you get used to it, though, you might wonder how you lived without it. Or maybe not. smile

Normal Mode is the glue that holds the other modes together (including the mode that actually lets you type). In this mode, you can move around and do lots of other stuff, like copying and pasting and deleting and indenting and and searching and things like that. The ability to move around may not seem that great, but Vim provides all kinds of ways of doing it. Here are a few ways to move around:
  • up, down, left, right (amazing, right?)
  • by word
  • start or end of a line
  • top or bottom of a window
  • by next or previous occurrence of a pattern (searching)
  • by line number

When you actually want to insert text, you use Insert Mode. You can enter this mode many ways, but the primary way is by hitting the i key. Type to your heart's content and hit ESC to exit back into Normal Mode.

The other two most common modes are Visual Mode, which lets you highlight text in lots of ways and then do something to the highlighted area, and Command Mode, which lets you enter commands like Save (:w) and Quit (:q).

Pros and Cons

  • Can be a bit challenging to learn, but has an extensive help system and tutorial built-in (try running vimtutor or gvimtutor)
  • Is extremely common; pre-installed on most Linux-based systems already
  • Can be used either in a terminal or in a graphical window
  • With plugins, Vim can do just about anything you want
  • Has no built-in pipe to terminal functionality, but can issue terminal commands from within (Possible solution provided via Conque Shell plugin)
  • Can be used without any need for mouse interaction


Emacs is an incredibly powerful text editor. It can be programmed to do anything. It was written before the advent of GUI interfaces, so every important function can be accessed through a series of keystrokes. Many of the more popular functions appear in menus. If you spend the time to learn the small subset of keystrokes for basic functions, you will find that Emacs is very well laid out, intuitive, and very fast to use.

Emacs features

  • Contextual syntax highlighting
  • Contextual code indention
  • Automatic bulk re-indention of code
  • Extremely large number of major modes for programing languages.

Emacs functionality is split up among major and minor modes. A major mode controls the built-in syntax parser to provide syntax highlighting, indention, commenting, syntax based navigation and code completion. A document can only have one major mode active at a time. A minor mode controls more general functionality like automatic word wrapping, spell checking, cursor display, etc. A document is allowed to have multiple minor modes active simultaneously.

Emacs Pros and Cons


  • It is extremely powerful tool.
  • Can be used with out any mouse interaction, but has a fully functional mouse interface.
  • Any command can be bound to any key short cut, or mouse button.
  • Many of the code major modes have interactive code interpretors integrated into emacs.


  • It is challenging to learn.
  • It has a relatively slow load time (relative to an editor like nano) so it tends to be overkill for small text editing jobs (like fixing a typo).
  • Can lead to pinky strain.

SoftMaker Office

The department has a site license for a product called SoftMaker Office. It is a suite of office software (word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation tool) that is compatible with the similar programs of Microsoft Office. Instructions for downloading and installing SoftMaker Office are at http://biostat.mc.vanderbilt.edu/wiki/Main/SoftMakerOffice.

The suite has three components:

  • TextMaker for word processing "Many features in TextMaker have been designed with the goal of allowing TextMaker users to work seamlessly in Microsoft Word-dominated environments"

  • PlanMaker for spreadsheet "PlanMaker reads and writes XLS files created by Microsoft Excel 95 up to Excel 2010 with the highest fidelity... the software can also read the new XLSX format of Microsoft Excel 2010 and 2007 without loss of formatting or content"

  • Presentations PowerPoint like presentation program "fully compatible with Microsoft PowerPoint"

Unlike OpenOffice, the SoftMaker programs are designed to have the look and feel of Microsoft Office 2003. The menu items are pretty much in the same place and track changes features work the same as Microsoft Office.

a PowerPoint file rendered by MS Office 2010, OpenOffice 3.2, and SoftMaker 2010

| pp2.jpg | oo.png

a Word file rendered by MS Office 2010, OpenOffice 3.2, and SoftMaker 2010

| w2.png | oo1.png

Click on the images to see a bigger version of each.

We encourage you to try SoftMaker Office. Anyone in the department can download and install the software. A license key is required and can be obtained by making a request to biostat-it@list.vanderbilt.edu.

By the way, we have a wiki topic called Problem Microsoft Office Documents. This topic is a place where we can post Microsoft Office documents that are causing problems. If you have a Microsoft Office document that will not behave with non-Microsoft tools, attach it to this topic and inform biostat-it@list.vanderbilt.edu. We will have a look and see if there is anything we can do.

Topic attachments
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
intention_example.RR intention_example.R manage 0.3 K 28 Jul 2010 - 13:10 CharlesDupont  
oo.pngpng oo.png manage 204.2 K 28 Jul 2010 - 11:46 DalePlummer  
oo1.pngpng oo1.png manage 247.1 K 28 Jul 2010 - 11:46 DalePlummer  
planmaker.pngpng planmaker.png manage 49.3 K 26 Jul 2010 - 11:43 DalePlummer  
pp2.jpgjpg pp2.jpg manage 152.8 K 28 Jul 2010 - 11:46 DalePlummer  
presentation.pngpng presentation.png manage 62.3 K 26 Jul 2010 - 11:43 DalePlummer  
sagan.txttxt sagan.txt manage 1.5 K 28 Jul 2010 - 13:10 JeremyStephens  
sm.pngpng sm.png manage 200.0 K 28 Jul 2010 - 11:47 DalePlummer  
sm2.pngpng sm2.png manage 248.2 K 28 Jul 2010 - 11:47 DalePlummer  
sweaverEXT sweaver manage 0.2 K 28 Jul 2010 - 13:55 DalePlummer run Sweave and pdflatex
textmaker.pngpng textmaker.png manage 48.3 K 26 Jul 2010 - 11:43 DalePlummer  
w2.pngpng w2.png manage 122.1 K 28 Jul 2010 - 11:47 DalePlummer  
Topic revision: r15 - 28 Jul 2010, DalePlummer

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