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Text Editor Performance Comparison

This started out as a check on some performance problems which were fixed for the latest version of JOE (version 4.3), but is interesting in its own right as a comparison between some text editors.

Joe's Own Editor - Mercurial Source Repository

The system

Lenovo G570 laptop on AC/mains power

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS 64-bit

Swap = 6 MB

Hitachi HTS545050B9A300 500 GB drive 5400 RPM, 8 MB cache, SATA 3.0 Gb/s

Memory 4 GB (2x 2 GB 1333 MHz DDR3 SODIMMs)

Intel Pentium B970 2.3 GHz Two cores, 64-bit, 2 MB L3 cache

The Editors

Editor Screen Highlighting Unicode Windows*
Joe 4.3 Yes Yes Yes Yes
VIM 7.4.52 Yes Yes Yes Yes
gnu-emacs 24.3.1 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Notepad++ 6.9.2 (running on Ubuntu in Wine) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Jedit 5.1.0 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sublime Text Build 3114 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Atom 1.9.6 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Visual Studio Code 1.4.0 Yes Yes Yes Yes
ne, the nice editor 2.5 Yes Yes Yes No
mcedit (Midnight Commander) 4.8.11 Yes Yes Yes No
Nano 2.2.6 Yes Yes Yes No
Gedit 3.10.4 Yes Yes Yes No
Micro 1.01 Yes Yes Yes No
nedit 5.6 Yes Yes No Yes
JED 0.99.19U Yes Yes No Yes
Mg mg_20110905-1.1_amd64 Yes No No Yes
NVI 1.81.6 Yes No No No
Gnu Ed 1.9 No No No No

(*) Windows: yes if the editor allows multiple views of the same buffer on the screen at the same time.

ne uses the syntax highligher code from Joe.

Micro is written in Go.

Jedit is written in Java.

The files

  • hello.c Tiny "hello, world!" program
  • longlines.txt Two 120KB lines
  • test.xml 5.8 MB XML file
  • huge 3 GB file (3M 1K lines)

Memory used when loading "hello.c" with syntax highlighting enabled

Editor RSS
ne 1,396
nano 2,208
jed 3,512
mcedit 3,904
joe 4,772
vim 5,336
nedit 7,036
micro 8,740
emacs -nw 17,060
notepad++ 21,092
gedit 26,368
emacs 34,924
sublime 45,800
jedit 86,928
atom 250,404
code 339,512

RSS is amount of physical memory used in KiB. If the editor starts multiple processes, all are included.

Memory used when loading "hello.c" with no syntax highlighting

Editor RSS
ed 680
mg 932
ne 1,204
nano 1,684
nvi 2,224
jed 3,352
mcedit 3,880
joe 4,988
vim 5,180
nedit 6,940
micro 8,792
emacs -nw 15,584
notepad++ 20,804
emacs 33,752
sublime 43,444
jedit 84,416
code 341,116

Memory used for loading test.xml with highlighting enabled

Editor RSS
mcedit 9,604
vim 11,952
joe 11,968
ne 14,228
nano 17,336
emacs -nw 23,216
nedit 24,332
notepad++ 34,752
micro 38,212
emacs 42,892
sublime 64,608
jedit 99,372
gedit 132,336
code 391,496

Memory used for loading test.xml with no highlighting

Editor RSS
nvi 2,348
ed 5,368
mcedit 9,584
joe 11,496
vim 11,824
nedit 12,696
mg 13,420
ne 13,864
nano 14,172
jed 14,356
emacs -nw 21,320
micro 26,192
notepad++ 34,176
emacs 39,492
gedit 48,460
sublime 63,800
jedit 94,876
code 383,440
atom 825,232

Time used to load test.xml, jump to end of file and exit

Editor Time (seconds) Comments
jed .048 No highlighting
mg .088 No highlighting
ed .107 No highlighting
ne .174
nvi .231 No highlighting
joe .347
emacs -nw .437
mcedit .460
nano .492
emacs .852
sublime 1
nedit 2.213
vim 4.288
jedit 5.322
micro 8.6
notepad++ 12.43
gedit 14.929
atom 18
code 22

Older versions of JOE had trouble with JSON and XML files. The issue was that the context display (the part of the status line which shows the name of the current code function you're in) used a bad algorithm.

Visual Studio Code jumps to the end of the file quickly, but then takes many seconds for the highlighting to complete.

Note that time is total accumulated CPU time of all processes started by the editor. I skip the "exit the editor" part for editors which are indirectly launched (sublime, atom, code, notepad++). For these the CPU time is determined from "ps" or "top -p" after the operation is complete, but while the editor is still running. For editors which are directly launched, I prefix the shell command with "time".

Rehighlight test

Time used to load test.xml, split window, jump to end of file in other window, insert '<!--' at beginning (so that highlighting of the entire file changes and appears in the window at the end of file) and then exit.

Editor Time (seconds)
mcedit .343
ne .349
joe .627
nedit 3.389
sublime 5
emacs -nw 8.036
jedit 9.114
vim 10.01
gedit 17.431
code 28
micro 34.9
atom 82
notepad++ at least 5 minutes

I could not figure out how to have two views on the same buffer in Micro, NE, mcedit or gedit, so instead I inserted the '<!--' and then jumped to the end of the buffer.

Micro did not recolor the when I inserted '<!--'. It wants to recolor only if the final '-->' exists. In fact Micro did not recolor when I put the '-->' at the end of the file either. Perhaps it gives up recoloring when the file is too large. In any case, I notice that Micro is very slow when you insert characters at the end of the test.xml file.

Jedit did not recolor the other window until after I switched to it and moved the cursor around a little.

Jed is not in this test because it can not highlight XML.

Atom does not seem to highlight large XML files until you "split down" to open a second windows onto the file.

Notepad++ was very slow when I had multiple views open of the same large XML file.

Simple Search and Replace

Time used to load test.xml, and then execute 100,000 replacements (of "thing" with "thang"), and then exit.

Editor Time (seconds)
joe .683
ed .685
mcedit 1.009
jed 1.02
ne 2.67
nvi 3.44
nedit 4.228
vim 4.613
sublime 6
jedit 9.152
emacs 9.354
emacs -nw 9.738
notepad++ 31.30
gedit 44.016
code 72
mg 467.989
micro at least 10 minutes
nano at least 10 minutes
atom at least 10 minutes

In emacs, I used ESC %.

mg has a memory leak in its search and replace code.

Regular Expression Search and Replace

Time used to load test.xml, and then replace the regular expression "100|200" with "EXACT".

Editor Time (seconds)
ne .307
mcedit .565
joe .683
nvi 1.146
notepad++ 1.70
nedit 4.638
vim 4.647
emacs -nw 4.76
jedit 6.911
sublime 9
code 24
gedit 24.28
micro 176.4
nano 185.6

In emacs, I used replace-regexp. It's interesting that this is faster than query replace.

Time to load 3 GB file, insert character at start and exit

Editor Time (seconds)
mcedit 8.654
joe 43
ed 50.08
nvi 53
sublime 75
nedit Complains "file is too large to edit"
notepad++ Complains "file is too big"
ne Complains "Can't open file (file is too large)."
code Complains "file is very large"
jedit Complains "can not load, negative array size exception"
gedit very slow to load
mg system hangs
vim system hangs
emacs system hangs: but emacs warns file is "really huge"
nano system hangs
micro micro crashes
atom atom crashes: atom warns "may be unresponsive loading very large files"

JOE, ED and NVI swap large files to disk, so this test is no problem for them. JOE's RSS is 65756 KiB when the huge file is loaded. NVI's is 2088!

MCedit loads the file quickly into its simple gap buffer. However, the gap is locked to the cursor and distant cursor motions are slow since all of the intervening text has to be copied. Even so, for quick file viewing it's impressive. MCedit's RSS is 3 GB when the file is loaded.

I'm amazed that Sublime Text is also able to load a 3 GB file. When loaded, Sublime's RSS is 1384944 KiB. Sublime is nicer than JOE in that it shows a progress bar while the huge file is loading.

Gedit shows the beginning of the file and a progress bar while the file is loading.

Time to reformat paragraph composed of two 120K long lines

Editor Time (seconds)
jed .047
nedit .110
joe .142
emacs -nw 1.811
ne 3.025
jedit 6.242
vim 29.632
mg 35.552
nano 54.502
micro 65*
mcedit crashes

This was slow in older versions of JOE.

I could not quickly figure out how to reformat a paragraph in the other editors.

(*) Micro does not have a paragraph reformat capability, but I notice that it takes 65 seconds to load longlines.txt.