I want a simple text editor (much like WordPad) for creating task lists. The problem with gedit is that there are no plugins for formatting options. On the other hand, Bluefish and Sublime are much too heavy.

  • 1
    Have a look at emacs org mode and taskwarrior. Feb 3, 2015 at 13:57
  • 3
    A good place for recommendations is softwarerecs.stackexchange.com
    – Elder Geek
    Feb 6, 2015 at 15:23
  • @ArunMohan What are you doing? you are changing the accepted answer for multiple times. Do you know you only can mark ONE answer as accept? or not? Feb 12, 2015 at 10:16
  • @KasiyA I'm new to askubuntu and as a result unfamiliar with the rules. I thought there was a provision to accept multiple answers. Thanks for pointing this out. Wont repeat the mistake.
    – Arun Mohan
    Feb 13, 2015 at 11:39

6 Answers 6


If you want a text editor, there is no such a thing as bold.

Plain text is plain text. The bold, italic, colored thing you see in a programming editor like gedit, geany, kate, etc. is syntactic highlight, added by the editor to facilitate the reading and writing of programs or whatever --- it is not stored with the text.

Now, you can leverage this to see bold in the gedit. For example, if you save your file like a markdown (extension .md), you will see this:

gedit editing markdown

...using the same syntax you use in Ask Ubuntu to make pretty questions and answers. You can then have a lot of tools to pretty print them, like for example pandoc.

Otherwise, you are looking for a word processor, which is another kind of beast completely. You have a partial list here; I heard very good reviews of Ted but never tried it.

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    Upvoted this beacuse of Markdown and pandoc. Feb 3, 2015 at 8:04
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    @Rmano "Plain text is plain text" - extraordinary words
    – 2707974
    Feb 3, 2015 at 8:21
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    For a bit stronger markdown (or reStructuredText) support check out retext. Feb 4, 2015 at 14:36
  • the .md trick is awesome. Jan 3, 2022 at 17:09

If you want to look at source code with rich formatting, then Geany or Kate is your best choice.

However, it seems that you basically want a Rich Text Editor. In this case you should go for Abiword or Calligra Words.

Abiword is much like WordPad. Install Abiword:

sudo apt-get install abiword

enter image description here

  • 5
    I added a screenshot if you don't mind :) Feb 3, 2015 at 8:26
  • Thank you for the answer. Abiword seems fitting for my purposes.
    – Arun Mohan
    Feb 3, 2015 at 8:59
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    If you don't need many fancy features, Abiword is a good lightweight alternative to LibreOffice Writer. Same goes for Gnumeric as a replacement for Calc.
    – musiKk
    Feb 4, 2015 at 8:56
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    @trlkly RTF is a text-based format, the DOC format is binary, so this is not true. Feb 5, 2015 at 8:17
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    @trlky Well, what I read from this doc, is that Word reads RTF file with .doc extension. This does not makes it a valid DOC, MS Word simply just does not care about validity. Just to be clear: I never argued that it is not compatible, I merely pointed out that "RTF is valid .DOC" is false. Feb 5, 2015 at 8:39

Emacs is an easily customizable text editor which is widely used and probably has more features then any other open source text editor out there.

To install, just press Ctrl+Alt+T on your keyboard to open Terminal. When it opens, run the command(s) below:

sudo apt-get install emacs

enter image description here

Once you highlight what you want to make bold, then:

enter image description here

  • 3
    I consider myself a moderately experienced Emacs user, but I would have absolutely no idea how to do what is shown above. Please tell us more :)
    – Brian Z
    Feb 3, 2015 at 8:29
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    Yeah, and while emacs is certainly more thoroughly customisable than almost any other editor, it's rather misleading to say it's easy to do this to a beginner. Feb 3, 2015 at 8:52
  • 9
    Obligatory xkcd.com/378 "Dammit, Emacs". Feb 3, 2015 at 10:16
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    Just out of curiosity, how does Emacs save the text properties? In separate file, or how?
    – hyde
    Feb 4, 2015 at 9:07
  • 3
    @hyde It doesn't save them
    – Squidly
    Feb 4, 2015 at 9:39

There is a continuum with 2 ends:

  • Dedicated TODO management software (with autosave, devices sync, reminders, outlining, archiving of done/old tasks, etc.). Frequently stores your notes in some obscure database / format / cloud.
  • Plain text files, manually managed by you, edited with any plain text editor.

If you're comfortable with "I'll manage my own file(s), just give me an editor", you're already close to the latter. I wouldn't go the WordPad-like (e.g. Abiword) route, with messy formats like .rtf or .doc. Take the remaining relatively small step to plain text, which gives a lot of power: you can use unix tools like version control or grep on the notes, and you have much wider choice of editors.

Note that this doesn't mean you give up text styling! As others here recommend, a lightweight markup convention like Markdown lets you type # Heading or *italic text* (instead of Ctrl+I italic text Ctrl+I), and many editors can highlight it appropriately.

But you can take a step further and pretend you're editing rich text with Zim:
Zim screenshot
while the underlying text is still plain text files + simple syntax e.g. //italic text//.
You can apply most styling both as you would in a rich text editor (select, menu or shortcut) or by just typing the syntax.

And Zim has several handy features and plugins for organizing tasks: interlinked pages, calendar with daily pages, checkboxes, tasks with due dates...


Someone already mentioned emacs so I'm going to mention---wait for it---vim!

Granted, to add these "special effects" to vim, the file needs to be in markdown format (with a matching .markdown or .md extension, I believe). But it is there by default.

An example readme from one of my projects showing the "formatting" of markdown text.

To install use:

sudo apt-get install vim

More information can be found at this question

  • Note that in Vim versions older than 7.4.480, .md files are recognized as Modula 2 by default rather than Markdown, unless they are called README.md. It may seem tempting to use the next shortest variant, .mkd, but the only other pretty much universally supported extension is .markdown, so it's better to use that.
    – alexia
    Feb 4, 2015 at 19:44

This one is called JEditor. Its very light and has many modern editor functions. It is also actively updated by the developer. You can download the deb package from here.

enter image description here

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