Sunday, April 22, 2007

Installing and Configuring UltraEdit 13.00a Under XP

Installing and Configuring UltraEdit 13.00a Under XP

Back in my Windows 98 days, my reliable workhorse, the text editor on which I depended, was an extremely ancient version of UltraEdit, version eight point something.

This worked just fine for years and years but then, under XP, it became capricious and unreliable, deleting parts of files without provocation.

Even so, I kept using it, if only because it had a good spell checking function. Then that stopped working and, worse, spellchecking started resulting in the trashing of files.

Finally I decided that i would have to find a stand-alone spell checker. After searching, I did find one which I thought would be workable. But, after thinking it through, I decided that what I really wanted was UltraEdit.

So I did the sensible thing and downloaded the latest version, copyright 2007, the latest being 13.00a.

Once it was up and running it was blindingly fast. That was the first thing I noticed. And, having explored the new version, I became increasingly convinced that this was the way to go.

The installation of the old 8-dot-something version was a bit clunky. You had to choose some options as you installed, and then you had to go back and do a separate installation to add a dictionary file to the setup.

By contrast, the installation of 13.00a is, if you accept the defaults and do not opt to configure it to your own personal requirements, is extremely quick and straightforward.

By default, UltraEdit installs an icon on the desktop and another in the quick launch box. It adds itself to the right click menu so you can conveniently open a file type with which you have not associated it. And a whole bunch of dictionaries are installed along with the program, with the default being a vanilla English dictionary.

Because this program is primarily intended for people who write software, the default setup of 13.00a is optimized for the needs of people who write code. Every line starts with a number, the tab space is 2, and lines do not wrap at the window's edge.

This, presumably, makes code writers think that they are in heaven, but what is optimal for writing code is not optimal for writing writing. I don't think William Shakespeare used a text editor which put a number at the start of every line, and my surmise is that neither did Jane Austen.

The following is the list of the steps I took to configure 13.00a to my personal requirements.

Before fine-tuning UltraEdit, I made some initial changes to convert the default programmer-friendly defaults into a setup customized for my personal preferences.

My first steps were as follows:-

First, VIEW -> SET FONT, and change font to Courier New, bold, at 48 point.

I am blind in the right eye and rely these days on the left eye, which is one I bought at a second-hand car yard. I bought it on an "as is where is" basis, and it doesn't work good.

One reason why I no longer use Microsoft Reader or Microsoft's Encarta encyclopedia is because, in the case of both products, the "largest" font permitted is, from my perspective, laughably small.

I then went to ADVANCED -> CONFIGURATION -> EDITOR -> WORD WRAP/TAB SETTINGS, turned default word wrap on for each file and changed the tab size from 2 to 8.

My next stop was ADVANCED -> CONFIGURATION -> EDITOR DISPLAY -> CURSOR/CARET where I chose "Inverted - Block caret for insert mode, vertical bar for overstrike."

This gives a nice fat cursor which is very easy to see. A big juicy cursor like this is something I've been wanting for years and years, and now, at last, I have it. I hope this marriage will last.

Then, still in the EDITOR DISPLAY sub-menu, I went to FORMATTING and unchecked everything there, getting rid of auto indenting.

Next, in MISCELLANEOUS (again, in the same EDITOR DISPLAY submenu) I checked "Disable line numbers."

I then went ADVANCED -> CONFIGURATION -> SPELL CHECKER -> DICTIONARIES, where you see a host of dictionaries to choose from. These, of course, are spelling dictionaries, not dictionaries which provide definitions.

The default is "en" but I opted for "en_US," since I have settled on American English as my standard.

I then checked that I could invoke the spell checker with ctrl-K, as in the old version of UltraEdit that I have been using for so long, and, yes, this works just fine.

At this stage I had more work ahead of me, because I wanted to customize both the toolbar and the key mapping, but, having carried out the steps detailed above, I already had a program that I would be comfortable with using as a text editor.

The big challenge now would be to see whether UltraEdit would survive and prosper in an XP environment, but my working assumption was that the latest version would surely have been tweaked to make it XP-compatible.

I used my new UltraEdit's spell checker to check a blog entry which included the name "Marisa Acocella Marchetto." Working with a fatigue-damaged brain, I mindlessly clicked ADD for each of the elements of this name, and only later, after I'd uploaded the blog, did I realize that I had left an "e" off the surname.

I thought about going back online, deleting the blog entry and then uploading a corrected version, but I rejected this notion because I feared I might end up getting myself in a real mess.

I consoled myself with the thought that the New York cartoonist's name is correctly spelt in the link to her CANCER VIXEN breast cancer memoir which you will find on the right hand side of this blog page.

The UltraEdit 13.00a spell checker differs from the old one in that it lacks a button to click on to keep the spell check box frozen in place. But, as I found when I used the spell checker, if you shove it to some area of the screen then it stays there, and does not have an inbuilt tendency to revert to its opening position each time you click on one of its buttons.

I found the font a little small, but I had my magnifying glass for that.

Later, I realized I might be able to use my ThinkPad's TrackPoint magnifier, which I have set at 600 pixels wide by 400 tall.

Unfortunately, this didn't really work, because any time you click once on the spell check box, the magnifier goes away. You can invoke it simply by pressing the central button of the ThinkPad's three-button mouse, but I think it will be simpler just to use the magnifying glass, ie the physical magnifying glass which I have sitting on the kitchen table which serves me as a writing desk.

The next thing I decided to tweak was the colors. For UltraEdit 13.00a, the default color scheme for *.txt file is black text on a white background for the main body of the text, with the active line featuring a dark blue text on a very light blue background. (At least, my interpretation is that the dark blue is in fact exactly that, but, since my color perception is damaged, I may have this wrong.)

I didn't find the dark blue of the active line quite sharp enough for me, and, after some reflection, I wanted the main body of the text to be a white font on a black background with the active line as a black font on a yellow background.

The overall result is pretty grotesquely ugly, but I'm in a utilitarian mood. I have work to do, and that's why I'm setting up this piece of software.

So I went VIEW -> SET COLORS and made the desired adjustments.

I also set selected text to white on a dark red background.

I was now into the fine tuning stage, at which I made the following adjustments in the ADVANCED -> CONFIGURATION menus.

By default, UltraEdit creates backup files by adding a BAK suffix to each file it opens. The idea is good, but the *.bak files clutter up my FILE HANDLING -> BACKUP and chose a directory into which to dump each and every BAK file. This gives me a cumulative archive in one place and means I don't have to delete BAK files when I upload a folder of HTML files to a website.

I also went EDITOR -> NEW FILE CREATION and unchecked "Create new EDIT file when opening with no other files." I'd prefer to open with a blank screen then choose what I want from my FAVORITES or elsewhere.

Next I went TOOLBARS / MENUS, and everything that follows is from that TOOLBARS / MENUS menu.

At MISCELLANEOUS I checked "Recent files list on files menu," accepting the default number of recent files, which is 4.

I went CUSTOMIZATION -> CUSTOMIZE TOOLBAR. You see, on the left, a column showing all the buttons presently on the toolbar. On the right, all the buttons not on the toolbar. The bar that separates the two fields contains two little buttons. When you highlight an item, you can use the button pointing left to send the item from right to left, and the button pointing right to, likewise, send an item on the right zipping over to the left.

I fooled around with this until my toolbar had been stripped lean of almost all its buttons. I'm a ten-finger touch typist and I don't like taking my fingers off the keys to mess with a mouse, even if it's a TrackPoint mouse that sits in the middle of my keyboard, which it is.

My toolbar ended up looking as follows, with a liberal use of separators:


There were two toolbars which were subsets of the main toolbar, one being the HTML toolbar and the other being something else, and I kicked them both off, over to the right.

I then customized a few keys to suite my personal preferences, which you do in KEYMAPING.

In the left box you highlight a function you want a key combination to perform, such as FileClose. In the box for "Press New [Multi]key."

I pressed CTRL-Q then ASSIGN and clicked okay to delete the existing function and reassign the key. I've been using control-q for years, having gotten into the habit when using NEdit running under Linux.

I made SearchFindNext CTRL-G and SearchFindPrevious CTRL-H and FileSaveAs as CTRL-I.

I then went ADVANCED -> CONFIGURATION -> TOOLBAR/MENUS -> CUSTOMIZE MENUS and removed everything I didn't need from the pull-down menus. This made so much space on the FILES menus that I changed the number of recent files listed there from 4 to 8.

I then looked at CUSTOMIZE POPUP MENU, but I realized I couldn't figure out what you were supposed to be able to do here, and I decided that my installation of UltraEdit was already good enough for my purposes.

So I decided I was done.

The installation file that you download comes with an entitlement to run it for evaluation purposes without paying. The nag screen that pops up when you first fire up the text editor makes the point that if you're going to keep it and use it then you should pay for it, fifty bucks, please.

(Well, actually, US $49.95, but if you're an Ohio resident then you have to add tax on top of that.)

I paid for my first version of UltraEdit and got excellent value for money, using it year after year as my major productivity tool. So I have no objection for paying for a new version, on which there has been, obviously, a huge amount of work.

The old version was limited to 45 days unless you registered, but there's no sign of a cutoff limit in the nag screen that comes with the present version. Maybe you can run it forever, continuing your "evaluation" until the day you die. But I really don't think you should do that.

If you do a Google for "UltraEdit Ian D. Mead" you get a page with, at the top, a snippet about one of the core values of "our Founder," this being Ian D. Mead.

When you click to the site you see a picture of the said I.D. Mead, a guy who, a long time back, went out on a limb to set up his own company. He'd been searching for a decent editor optimized for programmers and, not finding one, had figured out that there must be a market for one.

Which there was.

He is not, then, an evil monopoly capitalist using financial might to force rivals into the wall and to inflict bad software upon the long-suffering world. He's an entrepreneur in the best sense of the word, something who took an idea that not only made money for him but, additionally, added value to human civilization by cooking up a technically better way of doing something.

"At IDM we feel a deep responsibility to use our resources to help people around the world and in the US. One of the core values of our Founder, Ian D. Mead, is that "to whom much is given, much is required". Therefore we strive to help meet the physical and spiritual needs of people in our community, country and around the world."

That sounds like a Socialist position, but it's actually a Christian position. Years back, the UltraEdit site highlighted Mead's ardent Christian faith but, while the faith evidently still prevails, it's not up there on the front page.

The front page has a header that says "Our Vision." The text of this is as follows:

"To provide high quality products that combine innovation, technology and performance with value pricing, while exceeding our customer needs and expectations of price, service, support, and selection. To this end, IDM desires to be the total file management solution provider for professionals worldwide."

Where most corporate mission statements are concerned, I believe that you can take them to the toilet and use them for the appropriate purpose. But this is a mission statement that I, having been served well for many years by UltraEdit, can believe.

My old UltraEdit failed under XP, but I should have upgraded at least a year ago, instead of just whining about it. Now the time has come.

I went HELP -> ABOUT, where there's a link you can click to get to the BUY page. On that page, they say the following:

"UltraEdit-32 is the #1 selling, most powerful, value priced text editor available! The ideal text, HEX, HTML, PHP, Java, Perl, Javascript, and programmer's editor!"

A proud boast, but I believe it.

I entered my credit card details and clicked to buy.


Blogger Sage said...

Thank you very much, Hugh. This was Hugh-gely helpful ;) ..

I'm a n00b and really appreciated this.

Cheers - and God's speed/good luck with your treatment

12:41 PM  
Anonymous Petter said...

The tips with Default Backup Directory was really helpfull! Now I have a simple Version handler. By the way, in my version of UE(11.00) you find this configuration under Advanced=>Configuration=>Backup

3:30 PM  

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