Three Text Editors for Chrome OS

by: Scott Nesbitt | 18 May 2022

Like them or not, you can’t deny that Chromebooks (and other hardware running Chrome OS) have carved themselves a niche in the computing world. Several niches, in fact.

Devices like the Chromebook, the Chromebase, and the Chromebox aren’t, as some people have labelled them, underpowered toy computers. You can do serious work with them. In a lot of ways, devices running Chrome OS are excellent examples of what I call technology for the masses, not the classes.

And, yes, you can work in plain text on those devices using one of the several text editors available for Chrome OS. Let’s take a quick look at three of those editors. And, to push back against another long-held misconception about Chromebooks, you can use all of these editors without a connection to the internet.

Code Pad

Code Pad is billed as a programmer’s editor. But don’t let that put you off. As with an editor like Notepad++, Code Pad is great for basic text editing tasks — and a few tasks that aren’t so basic, as well.

Like every good text editor out there, Code Pad supports syntax highlighting, autocompletion of text, folding, and an assortment of customizations to the look and feel of the editor — including the ability to change fonts and to choose a different theme. The editor is very responsive; I didn’t notice any lag between keyboard and screen.

Code Pad has one annoyance: when you create a file by selecting File > New, the editor creates an empty JavaScript file with its basic structure. If you want to create another type of file — like a Markdown or an HTML file — you neeed to select the file type from the +New dropdown list in the top-right corner of the editor window.

Editing text with Code Pad


When I regularly used a Chromebook, Caret was my go-to text editor. While its developer describes it a professional text editing for Chrome and Chrome OS, it does most basic text editing tasks quite nicely.

Caret’s creator based his tool on the popular Sublime Text editor. Don’t expect Caret to match Sublime feature for feature, though. You'll be disappointed. That said, Caret does have a number of useful functions. You can have multiple files open in separate tabs, the editor automatically applies syntax highlighting to files based on their extension, and you can use Sublime Text’s keyboard shortcuts.

One very useful feature of Caret, especially if you prefer to let your fingers do the walking, is its *command palette. By pressing Ctrl+Shift+P, you can quickly access any of the editor’s commands.

As an editor, Caret works swiftly and smoothly. It packs a lot into a small package.

Working with Caret on a Chromebook


This is the editor that’s built into Chrome OS. It’s a lot like Notepad under Windows. Text is spare, with few features and functions. But it’s far from useless (as I’ve heard a couple or three people describe it).

To use it, you fire up Text and start typing. Or you can open a text file that you’ve saved to your Chromebook. The options are pretty rudimentary. You can change the size of fonts and tabs, convert tabs to spaces automatically, wrap lines, and the like. Nothing that a so-called power user would be interested in, but Text is great for simple, day-to-day text editing tasks.

Using the built-in editor on a Chromebook

Bonus Editor: Emacs

Believe it or not, you can turn on a Linux development environment in newer versions of Chrome OS. Which, as you’ve probably guessed, enables you to install and run various Linux applications.

One of those applications is the Emacs text editor. While you might be able to install and run other Linux text editors, Emacs is the only one that I tried. It works quite well, too. And, yes, you can install org-mode along side it …

I didn’t stress test Emacs on the Chromebook I was using while writing this article, but for what I was doing it worked fairly smoothly and seamlessly.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a Chromebook user, it is possible to comfortably live the plain text life on your device. You might not get all the features you find in the top-tier text editors on the Linux, macOS, or Windows desktops but chances are you won’t miss those features.