Tools of the Trade: UltraEdit

The following is not a compensated post; I’m merely extolling the virtues of a piece of software I found useful.

I have been a fan of UltraEdit probably for about a decade; I cannot actually remember the last time I had a PC onto which I did not install this robust little text editor.

Notepad and Wordpad come free with Windows and most workstations in offices come with Microsoft Word these days, so you might not see the value in adding another program to your desktop. However, UltraEdit adds a number of features not currently available in these other applications, including:

  • Syntax highlighting, which shows keywords in a number of languages in another color to make the files more easily readable. The list of languages and the keywords themselves are extensible, so you can make your own as needed (I once made keyword files for MOL and SDF chemical data files).
  • Tabbed view, which means I can have a bunch of files or empty files open and can work on them at once, seeing their contents at a glance. Neither Notepad or Wordpad offer the multiple files thing, and Microsoft Word allows multiple files, but not a tabbed view.
  • Find or search/replace in files, which lets you dig through all the files in a folder to find what you need.

At only $50 a throw, I install it on every PC I own, as I mentioned, and I’ve also introduced it to every workplace where I’ve been in the last decade. Friends, let me tell you that this includes a rather surreal experience I had with my last Corporate employer.

You see, I was hired on as a low-level QA Analyst and a publicly-traded multinational company that had layers and layers of managers. The fellow who hired me, as a matter of fact, had an MBA but no experience in QA when he was hired to be the QA manager. He did, however, have plenty of experience with risk/benefits analysis and meetings, so when I asked for permission to purchase UltraEdit, he wanted to know why I needed it. I explained it briefly. He said he wanted to know more about it. I wrote a 7 page document that detailed the things you could use it for and why it beat Microsoft Word and Notepad. After reviewing the document, he scheduled a meeting with the QA team (him, a lead, and three testers/analysts) to discuss it. However, before the meeting, the team lead called a pre-meeting so we could discuss what we would tell the QA manager. So I spent like 6 hours on the document, 1 hour in the pre-meeting, and 1 hour in the meeting with the QA Manager to facilitate the purchase and installation of $35 (at the time) software. Ultimately, it came down to a conversation between the QA lead and the QA manager, and the QA lead said “XML,” so the company bought a three license pack for $105 and I had my UltraEdit. I quit a couple months later, meaning no one else ever used it, but on one hand at least it was only $100 for UltraEdit and not $25,000 for an enterprise QA package. One the other hand, my reputation as Johnny UltraEditSeed lives!

That being said, here are some of the things I told them you could use UltraEdit for, because you can (and I do):

  • Editing data files.
  • Editing .ini files.
  • Writing batch (.bat) files.
  • Reviewing log files.
  • Editing HTML files.
  • Writing blog posts.
  • Reviewing/editing XML files.
  • Editing other scripting language files, including Ruby and PHP.

As you can see, the uses are endless. If you need to do those things. If you’re the sort of QA professional who spends all day running reports out of your defect tracker and holding meetings to discuss the reports you’ve run and then writing e-mails to summarize the meetings about the reports, I guess you won’t understand.

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