Leafpad – An Ultra-Lightweight Text Editor [Linux]

Danny Stieben 02-05-2011

linux text editorI know that a handful of people value lightweight programs, especially after I read some comments on my previous articles. I must admit, it’s a great thing when a program is light on resources and does the job right every time. In today’s feature I’ve found another very lightweight program for your personal enjoyment called Leafpad. Leafpad will more than likely remind you of other programs, but we’ll get into that in just a bit.


Why Care About Program Resource Usage?

Looking after how much resources a program uses is a great skill to have in order to maintain a cleanly running, stable system. The more resources it uses (compared to other programs that achieve the same thing), the more inefficient the program will run, causing your system to become laggy. Over time you might accumulate a number of resource-hogging applications, and you’ll feel your system become slower and slower. Linux is still vulnerable to this problem, although it doesn’t suffer performance decay like Windows does after a while. Trust me, I haven’t yet mastered this skill. My laptop’s setup is currently more about customization rather than running at tip-top speed, and it shows in my boot time.

About Leafpad

linux text editor

Just look at the screenshot, and you’ll know exactly what program this Linux text editor looks similar to. If you answered with Window’s Notepad, then you’re correct! However, don’t think that I’m actually running Notepad through Wine; this is indeed a Linux-native program.

The program, you could say, is as simple as it gets. There are no buttons anywhere to be found, and the menus don’t offer a lot of options, aside from the basics like printing. The “Options” menu only has four items: Font Options, Word Wrap, Line Numbers, and Auto Indent. However, for an extremely lightweight application, those are probably the four great features that you could want from it. They definitely help you for whatever you want to do with it.

linux text editor


Speaking of how lightweight it is, you’ll probably want to have some numbers as proof. If the minimal UI doesn’t say much to you, try this: when you first run the program, it uses a measly 2.8MB. gedit, arguably the most popular text editor for Linux users, uses about 5.6MB at start. Both numbers are very small, but for those with weak computers, every megabyte counts.

Things to be Aware Of

With most lightweight applications, and especially ultra-lightweight ones, you have to take into consideration that the program might not offer some features that you’d be comfortable with. Therefore, when using Leafpad remember that it is very much like Notepad, and doesn’t offer much more than that. For people who want plenty of features, this may not be the best Linux text editor for you. However, for those who want a program that just lets you type what you want without doing anything fancy with it, this is definitely for you.


Of all the text editors I’ve seen so far, Leafpad has probably been the most lightweight option I’ve seen. It has extreme simplicity, and it stays out of your way to let you do what you want without any gimmicks.

What text editor do you use? Do you think Leafpad is a good option or is it too lightweight for your use? Tell us in the comments!


Related topics: Text Editor, Writing Tips.

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  1. Miriam English
    March 25, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    I used leafpad constantly. It is not the perfect text editor, but it is close. It has only 2 real flaws, in my opinion:
    - 1 an imperfect ability to save UFT-8 text if I've clip/pasted some into it. I need to explicitly tell it to "Save As" that and find the file I've been saving to all over again to save over it. Annoying, but not a giant problem.
    - 2 global search and replace can screw up if used more than once.

    The lack of complex functions is not a drawback to me as I make all the functions I need a small Apps and leave the icons on my ROX desktop as buttons. Many of them have menus and it is little effort to script in more actions for existing apps or build new ones. Generally I select the text I want to alter in leafpad (or any text editor) then use the App to modify it. This means I can keep my nice, fast, minimal text editor without it being weighted down by extra functions, and just add the things that _I_ want -- best of both worlds.

    The Apps are incredibly simple themselves and usually use shell script, or sed, or awk to do their processing, and xclip to pull selected text out of leafpad, and xdotool to paste the modified text back in.

    For example, if I load a text that has hard returns, formatting text in a paragraph, limiting lines to about 70 characters, I often with to wrap that text, removing all the end-of-line characters within the paragraph -- a surprisingly difficult thing to do without impacting single and double-spaced paragraph ends. My little App uses just 2 lines to achieve this:

    # read the selection into sed (use sed's new -z option to let it manipulate newlines as plain characters), then put the result back into the clipboard
    echo -ne "`xclip -o`" | sed -z -r 's/[ t]*n[ t]*/n/g; s/([^n])n([^n])/1 2/g' | xclip -selection c
    # then paste back into leafpad replacing the selection
    xdotool key ctrl+v

    Using this and the dozens of other tiny script apps with leafpad gives it high level functionality without sacrificing its elegance and efficiency.

  2. Werx
    May 3, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Leafpad is damn fast; less features means more concentration on what you really want to do. It is perfect.

  3. PedroB.
    May 3, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Emacs. Good for everything.

  4. Jim
    May 3, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I love leafpad. I use gnome but always install leafpad instead of gedit. I like its snappiness and its simplicity. For more advanced text editing, vim/gvim :)

    In Linux there is an editor (usually more) for each and every taste/need.

  5. Macaron
    May 3, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Where is the link ???

    You put gedit link page author but no link for Leafpad ... ? or i dont see it

  6. Dan
    May 2, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    Geany? It can take awhile to load in a limited system like a netbook. Which is why I prefer SciTE.

  7. Miggs
    May 2, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Yes. Leafpad is the first choice when it comes to "very" lightweight. As for me, it lacks a feature I always enjoy and use within many apps: tabs!

    That's why I use Geany, an editor both light and full-featured.