Advanced Linux Text Editors Compared: kate vs gedit

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Any Linux user will tell you that a good text editor is a vital component of a computer system, no matter if you’re a new user or a seasoned pro. While using a Terminal text editor (like nano or vim) is equally important, you might as well make use of your graphical desktop environment whenever it’s available to you.

kate, KDE‘s default text editor, and gedit, Gnome‘s default text editor, are powerful tools that can get the job done and then some. However, if you’re making the all-important decision of which desktop environment you want to use, taking a look at all of the related applications is a given. I considered both apps based on their features, flexibility, and ease of use in order to determine which one is the ultimate winner.


kate, as a KDE application, uses the Qt graphical framework for its menus and buttons. If for whatever reason it isn’t installed on your KDE desktop, it can be easily installed by searching for a kate package in your respective package manager (or otherwise researching how to install kate on your distribution if you can’t find that). You can technically install it on your Gnome desktop as well, but it will pull in a lot of KDE dependencies that you may or may not want to download and install.


kate isn’t a simple text editor like Notepad for Windows. Instead, it includes a lot of handy features such as

  • projects
  • sessions
  • bookmarks
  • syntax highlighting
  • infinite undo/redo
  • code and text folding
  • word wrap
  • line numbering
  • indent styles
  • spell check
  • force lowercase, uppercase, and capitalization
  • vi input mode
  • shell integration
  • available for Windows users
  • and various others!


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kate’s interface is also slightly different than what other text editors look like. While the menu and common buttons are along the top of the window with the editor space taking up most of the window, there are also “Project” and “Document” buttons along the left side, and “Search and Replace” and “Current Project” along the bottom. The Documents button opens a tree of opened documents (which is especially important because kate uses this rather than a tabbed interface), while the Projects button lets you open up different saved projects. The bottom buttons also open up respective features by reducing the overall size of the editing space.

The text editor is also flexible through the use of scripting and plugins. This makes the application infinitely productive as you can bend it to do just about whatever you want. Finding scripts and plugins for kate is difficult though, as there isn’t a central location where you can go to find them. Some Internet searching will be necessary if you are interested in either of these.


gedit, as it’s based on the Gnome desktop environment, uses the GTK graphical framework to create its menus and buttons. Similarly, it can be installed by finding gedit in your respective package manager — if for whatever reason you still can’t find it, you should search the Internet for your distribution and gedit. It should be a quick install for Gnome users if they don’t already have it, but KDE users who want to use it may need to download a lot of Gnome dependencies as a result.


The Gnome text editor sports the following features:

  • cleaner interface
  • tabs to switch between open documents
  • syntax highlighting
  • plugins
  • line numbering
  • word wrap
  • spell check
  • available for Windows users

Its interface is pretty straightforward and feels very similar to Notepad for Windows, but there are more features underneath its simple appearance. Again, similar to kate, it offers plugins which can add more features than it already has, making it a lot more useful. For a more detailed look, you can check out our earlier article about gedit.


In the end, who wins? While there are minute differences here and there, I have to call this one a draw. Both tools are about equally easy/difficult to use, and they offer the same features and same ways to extend functionality. You can either stick with the text editor that works best with your installed desktop environment, or you can choose then one which offers the interface you like best. Also, if you’re a Windows user and are interested in either one, you can try kate via the KDE for Windows project or gedit by getting its Windows installer. It’s simply too close to call.

Which is your favorite text editor? Is this even important in your opinion? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits: e_walk

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