The 7 Best Text Editors for Programming on Raspberry Pi


Finding a good text editor available on Raspberry Pi is not easy. Most applications are not released for the ARM architecture.
So, well-known apps like Sublime Text or Atom can’t be used.
But I have found a few ones that works very well, in which you’ll probably find your favorite.

It’s really a personal choice, as you may have some habits with other editors, and it also depends on what you are coding.
I will sort in my favorite order, but really browse all the list to make sure there is not a better one for you.
If you don’t know, I’m also a web developer, so I have my own habits with text editors 🙂

Each time, I will give you an overview of the text editor features, and explain how to install it on Raspberry Pi OS Desktop (as it’s the main issue I got while testing everything).
Also, for your information, I will not include some IDE in this post, as the main goal is to find the perfect lightweight text editor for Raspberry Pi.
Let’s go!

Code – OSS

Overview

On Windows, I’m using Microsoft Visual Studio Code for everything.
Unfortunately, it’s not available on Raspberry Pi (or at least I never managed to install it).
By chance, there is a website providing an open-source edition of VS Code, available on ARM, so it works very well on Raspberry Pi.

VS Code is powerful, and I probably don’t use everything.
What I really like is that you can install many plugins to add the features you want. For example, on my computer, I have some themes, Tortoise SVN and PHP Debug. SVN is the tool I used to save and centralize my code, so the direct integration in VS Code via this plugin really helps.

By default, VS Code already includes features. There is autocompletion for most languages, a decent theme by default, split screen and a terminal is also included. Just try, you’ll like it 🙂

Installation

As I told you, the installation is pretty easy as there is an installation script working directly on Raspberry Pi.
Here is the procedure to follow:

  • Download the script from HeadMelted.
    You can also check the website if you want more details about this program.
    wget https://code.headmelted.com/installers/apt.sh
  • Change the permissions before running the script:
    chmod +x apt.sh
  • And run it:
    sudo ./apt.sh

That’s it, the script will install everything for you.
You can then find the shortcut in the main menu > Programming > Code – OSS (headmelted).

PyCharm

Overview

PyCharm is another excellent editor for Raspberry Pi, developed by JetBrains, the same team as PHPStorm for those who have already used it.
I didn’t know it so well, but it was easy to install with a solid first impression.
The design is elegant and you can customize it as you want.
It works on any platform (Windows, macOS and Linux), so you may already know it.

It’s another smart editor with powerful features like code completion, error detection and easy navigation by clicking on the functions or classes.
You can try it for free by downloading the community edition, but there is a paid option available with more features that could be interesting on Raspberry Pi (remote development, Python frameworks, etc.)

Installation

Here are the steps to follow to install PyCharm on Raspberry Pi OS:

  • Download the community version for Linux on the official website.
    You can do this from your Raspberry Pi, or in command line through SSH:
    wget <URL>
  • Once done, extract the files. In command line the command is something like:
    tar -zxvf pycharm-community-2020.2.1.tar.gz
    Don’t forget to change the file version.
  • Then, there is nothing to install, it’s a portable version.
    Go to the binary folder. In my case :
    cd pycharm-community-2020.2.1/bin
  • Run the app once (from the Raspberry Pi terminal):
    ./pycharm.sh
    For information, I tried that with MobaXTerm the first time (via SSH), and it started the app on my computer 🙂
  • Once started, create a shortcut immediately.
    Click on Configure > Create Desktop entry on the bottom right.
    This way the app is now available in the main menu > Programming.

If you want to change the default theme, you can do this easily in View > Quick switch theme.

Nano

Overview

Nano is the default text editor on many Linux operating systems, including Raspberry Pi OS (Lite or Terminal).
It can be complicated for beginners as the interface is not so intuitive, but once you know how to use it, it’s really as powerful as other solutions in this list.

By the way, I have a complete tutorial about Nano on Raspberry Pi that you can check if you are not familiar with it.
It includes search & replace functions, syntax highlighting and there is even a mouse support if you are on a Desktop OS.
The main strength is that it’s available directly, so it’s perfect to create scripts quickly. However, I’m not sure if it’s a solution I would consider for bigger projects.

Installation

There is nothing to do 🙂
Nano is already pre-installed on any Raspberry Pi OS version.
If you are on another distribution, it’s probably the same. If not, it’s available in the default repository most of the time.

Geany

Overview

Geany is a programming editor I used a lot in the past, when I was on Linux all the time at work. We had a big web project that worked very well compared to other (paid) solutions. So Geany is really a lightweight editor, perfect for Raspberry Pi.

It’s light but with many features already included:

  • Appearance customization
  • Syntax highlighting
  • Autocompletion
  • Project management
  • Smart navigation
  • Etc.

Installation

I tested on Raspberry Pi OS Desktop with recommended software and it was already installed.
If it’s not the case in your version / distribution, it’s probably available in the repository:
sudo apt install geany

Vim

Overview

I rarely used Nano before starting on Raspberry Pi a few years ago, Vim was my only editor in a terminal, and I really liked it.
But in recent systems versions, I had many problems with it (whatever the system, even on Debian). You have to tweak a few things to make it work, and it’s not perfect.

If you know how to do this (I also have a tutorial on the topic), it should be as powerful as Nano. It’s straightforward to install on any Linux system, and most features we have seen before are available.
I know that some professional developers still use it all day at work, but I had too many issues with it to keep it on my servers and Raspberry Pi.

Installation

On Raspberry Pi OS, it’s no longer installer by default, so you need to install it yourself.
Everything is explained in the tutorial linked previously, but in short here is how to install it:
sudo apt install vim

Then you can start it with one of these commands types:
vim
vim /home/pi/script.sh
sudo vim /etc/apache2/httpd.conf

BlueFish

Overview

BlueFish is a one that I absolutely never used, but that comes often in other recommendation, so I add it here to complete the list for Raspberry Pi.
It’s a cross-platform text editor that you can install on any system, including the Raspberry Pi (we’ll see that just after).
It supports most languages (HTML, PHP, JavaScript, Python, etc.) and is really close from an IDE in terms of features.

Main features include obviously syntax highlighting, code navigation, auto-completion. But you can also find more original ones like upload files, spell checker and more.
Even better, you install add some plugins and scripts to customize it your way.

My first impression was not excellent, but it seems interesting to check it more than that next time I code something.

Installation

On Raspberry Pi OS, Bluefish is available in the default repository:
sudo apt install bluefish

I think it’s also available in the repository for other systems, but to be sure you can check the official website here.

Caret

Overview

The last one of my selection is very original as it’s a Chrome Apps: Caret.
The main strength is that there is nothing to install, so it’s cross-platform as soon as you have Google Chrome or Chromium installed.
I didn’t test it, but if you synchronize your settings with Google, you can probably recover any installation preferences on your computer or after a Raspberry Pi reinstallation.

Even if it’s a lightweight solution, Caret includes most features you can expect from a programming text editor: Syntax highlighting, project management, tabbed editing, etc.

Please check the official website for more detail, as I just tested quickly.

Installation

The installation is pretty simple:

  • Open Chromium (or Google Chrome on other operating systems).
  • Go to the Chrome Web Store (direct link to the app)
  • Click on “Add to Chrome
  • That’s it, Caret is ready to use!

Conclusion

That’s already the end of this selection, I hope you find at least one interesting solution for you in this list of text editors for programmers.

Also, if you know other applications that work well on Raspberry Pi, feel free to leave a comment below. I often use the same one, and don’t have much experience with other ones.

Patrick Fromaget

I'm the lead author and owner of RaspberryTips.com. My goal is to help you with your Raspberry Pi problems using detailed guides and tutorials. In real life, I'm a Linux system administrator with a web developer experience.

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