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                    NEdit Version 5.5, October 2004

$Id: README,v 1.49 2006/11/22 21:16:55 yooden Exp $

NEdit is a multi-purpose text editor for the X Window System, which combines a
standard, easy to use, graphical user interface with the thorough functionality
and stability required by users who edit text eight hours a day.  It provides
intensive support for development in a wide variety of languages, text
processors, and other tools, but at the same time can be used productively by
just about anyone who needs to edit text.

As of version 5.1, NEdit may be freely distributed under the terms of the GNU
General Public License:

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under
the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software
Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later

In addition, as a special exception to the GNU GPL, the copyright holders give
permission to link the code of this program with the Motif and Open Motif
libraries (or with modified versions of these that use the same license), and
distribute linked combinations including the two. You must obey the GNU General
Public License in all respects for all of the code used other than linking with
Motif/Open Motif. If you modify this file, you may extend this exception to your
version of the file, but you are not obligated to do so. If you do not wish to
do so, delete this exception statement from your version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY
WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A
PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License in the file
COPYRIGHT as part of this distribution; if not, write to the Free Software
Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place - Suite 330, Boston, MA  02111-1307, USA.

NEdit sources, executables, additional documentation, and contributed software
are available from the NEdit web site at


NEdit was written by Mark Edel, Joy Kyriakopulos, Christopher Conrad,
Jim Clark, Arnulfo Zepeda-Navratil, Suresh Ravoor, Tony Balinski, Max
Vohlken, Yunliang Yu, Donna Reid, Arne Førlie, Eddy De Greef, Steve
LoBasso, Alexander Mai, Scott Tringali, Thorsten Haude, Steve Haehn,
Andrew Hood, Nathaniel Gray, and TK Soh.

The regular expression matching routines used in NEdit are adapted (with
permission) from original code written by Henry Spencer at the University of

The Microline widgets are inherited from the Mozilla project.

Syntax highlighting patterns and smart indent macros were contributed
by: Simon T. MacDonald,  Maurice Leysens, Matt Majka, Alfred Smeenk,
Alain Fargues, Christopher Conrad, Scott Markinson, Konrad Bernloehr,
Ivan Herman, Patrice Venant, Christian Denat, Philippe Couton, Max Vohlken, 
Markus Schwarzenberg, Himanshu Gohel, Steven C. Kapp, Michael Turomsha, 
John Fieber, Chris Ross, Nathaniel Gray, Joachim Lous, Mike Duigou, 
Seak Teng-Fong, Joor Loohuis, Mark Jones, and Niek van den Berg.


Version 5.5 offers one major new feature along with a few others:

  - Tabbed Windows  (How long has this been on the wish list?  :-)
  - A menu item for enabling auto-scrolling
  - Find and Clear buttons for the interactive search bar
  - Improved Latex & Python syntax highlighting patterns
  - Superuser receives a warning when trying to overwrite a read-only file
  - Various bug fixes and performance improvements

See the ReleaseNotes file for a more detailed description of these new features
and a list of bugs fixed in this version.


Pre-built executables will be available for many operating systems, including
most major Unix and VMS systems. Check out the NEdit web page at

If you have downloaded a pre-built executable you can skip ahead to the section called INSTALLATION.  Otherwise, the requirements to build NEdit from the sources are: 

 - ANSI C89 system (compiler, headers, libraries)
 - make utility (eg, GNU make)
 - X11R5 development stuff (headers, libraries), or newer
 - Motif 1.2 or above (Motif 1.1 might work, but is no longer supported)
   This GUI library is a standard part on most systems which have an
   X11 installation. Most commercial Unix systems feature this, others may
   require a separate installation. 
   A "free" (LGPL'ed) alternative to Motif, called LessTif, is available.
   See the LessTif section under PLATFORM SPECIFIC ISSUES for details.
Optionally one may use:
 - yacc (or GNU bison)

The two directories called 'source' and 'util' contain the sources for NEdit.
'util' should be built first, followed by 'source'. The makefile in NEdit's
root directory can be used to build both in sequence if your system is one of
the supported machines and no modifications are necessary to the makefiles. To
build NEdit from the root directory, issue the command: 'make <machine-type>';
where <machine-type> is one of suffixes of a makefile in the directory
'makefiles'. For example, to build the Silicon Graphics version, type:

	make sgi

If everything works properly, this will produce two executables called
'nedit' and 'nc' in the directory called 'source'.

The Source Directories

Since executables are already available for the supported systems, you are
probably not just rebuilding an existing configuration, and need to know more
about how the directories are organized.

The util directory builds a library file called libNUtil.a, which is later
linked with the code in the source directory to create the nedit executable.

The makefiles in both source directories consist of two parts, a machine
dependent part and a machine independent part. The machine dependent makefiles
can be found in the directory called 'makefiles', and contain machine specific
header information. They invoke a common machine independent part called
Makefile.common (which in turn includes also Makefile.dependencies).
To compile the files in either of these directories, copy or link one of the
system-specific makefiles from the directory 'makefiles' into the directory,
and issue the command:

    make -f Makefile.<machine-type>
(where <machine-type> is the makefile suffix).  Alternatively, you can
name the file 'Makefile' and simply type "make".

If no makefile exists for your system, you should start from Makefile.generic,
which is extensively commented. Contact the developer at for

Building NEdit on VMS Systems

A command file is provided for compiling and linking files from all
source directories. To build on OpenVMS change directory into 
[.makefiles] and run ''.

Additional Settings

Some C preprocessor macros may be used to en/disable certain parts
of the code. Usually this correponds to some non-important features
being selected or certain workarounds for platform-specifc problems.
Those which might be useful on more than one platform are documented
in makefiles/Makefile.generic.

Note that a special compilation flag, namely REPLACE_SCOPE, is currently
available. Its purpose is to allow the evaluation of two alternative
(but functionally equivalent) Replace/Find dialog box layouts. 
By default, NEdit is built with a Replace/Find dialog containing 2 rows
of push buttons. Compiling with the REPLACE_SCOPE flag enables an 
alternative layout with a row of radio buttons for selecting the scope of 
the replace operations. Eventually, one of these alternatives will
probably disappear, but up to now, the NEdit developers have not been able
to decide which one to drop. Please give them both a try and let us know 
which one you prefer (via the discuss mailing list, for instance).

Another compilation flag, HAVE__XMVERSIONSTRING, adds additional
information about the Motif version in the menu item "Help->Version" or
the command line option "-version". Whether this is available on your
system depends on the Motif implementation. It is known to work with
OpenMotif 2.1.30, and Motif on Solaris 2.6 and AIX 4.3.3.


NEdit consists of a single, stand-alone executable file which does not require
any special installation.  To install NEdit on Unix systems, simply put the
nedit executable in your path.  

To use NEdit in client/server mode (which is the recommended way of using it),
you also need the nedit client program, nc, which, again, needs no special
installation.  On some systems, the name nc may conflict with the 'netcat'
program.  In that case, choose a different name for the executable and simply
rename it.  The recommend alternative is 'ncl'.  Don't forget to put the
man-pages for nedit and nc into a place where your man command is able to find
them (e.g. /usr/man/man1/nedit.1), and don't forget to rename to
if you've renamed nc to ncl.

On VMS systems, nedit and nc must be defined as a foreign commands so that they
can process command line arguments. For example, if nedit.exe were in the
directory mydir on the disk called mydev, adding the following line to your file would define the nedit command:

	$ ned*it :== $mydev:[mydir]nedit.exe


To run NEdit, simply type 'nedit', optionally followed by the name of a file
or files to edit. On-line help is available from the pulldown menu on the far
right of the menu bar. For more information on the syntax of the nedit command
line, look under the heading of "NEdit Command Line".

The recommended way to use NEdit, though, is in client/server mode, invoked by
the nc executable. It allows you to edit multiple files within the same
instance of NEdit (but still in multiple windows). This saves memory (only one
process keeps running), and enables additional functionality (such as find &
replace accross multiple windows). See "Server Mode and nc" in the help menu
for more information.

If you are accessing a host Unix system from a remote workstation or X
terminal, you need to set the Unix environment variable for your display:
        % setenv DISPLAY devicename:0
sh, ksh, bash, zsh:
        % export DISPLAY=devicename:0

where devicename is the network node name (hostname) of the workstation or X
terminal where you are typing.
On VMS systems, the equivalent command is:

        $ set display/create/node=devicename


Systems with LessTif, rather than Motif libraries

As of Lesstif 0.93.18, NEdit is very stable with Lesstif. 
You can get the latest LessTif version from
If you are having trouble building or running NEdit with LessTif,
remember there are pre-compiled statically linked executables available
from our website.
Known bugs which might show off in NEdit linked with LessTif include:

  1) Some dialogs which are intended to be modal (prevent other activity
     while up) are not, and doing other actions while these dialogs are
     up can cause trouble (.89.9+)
  2) Switching to continuous wrap mode, sometimes the horizontal scroll
     remains partially drawn after the change, rather than disappearing
     completely as it should. (.89.9+)
  3) Secondary selection operations are not yet supported in text fields.

  4) Status bar is blank after usage of Incremental Search field

Linux Systems

Red Hat Linux, as of version 8.0, no longer automatically reads X resources out
of the ~/.Xdefaults file.  Instead, it reads a file named ~/.Xresources.  Any
customizations stored in ~/.Xdefaults will not be honored, for all X
applications.  To fix this, copy the resources into ~/.Xdefaults, or link the
files together.

The default key bindings for arrow keys in fvwm interfere with some of the
arrow key bindings in NEdit, particularly, Ctrl+Arrow and Alt+Arrow.  You
may want to re-bind them either in NEdit (see Customizing -> Key Binding
in the Help menu) or in fvwm in your .fvwmrc file.

Some older Linux distributions are missing the /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/XKeysymDB
file, which is necessary for running Motif programs.  When XKeysymDB is
missing, NEdit will spew screenfulls of messages about translation table syntax
errors, and many keys won't work.  You can obtain a copy of the XKeysymDB file
from the contrib sub-directory of the NEdit distribution directory.

Linux binaries were built statically by default before NEdit 5.6. This has
changed with 5.6 to make better use of distribution-specific features. The
call 'make linux' will now create binaries dynamically linked to Motif or
Lesstif; calling 'make linux-static' will create static binaries.

Mac OS X Systems

NEdit is an X Window application and thus requires an X Window server, such as 
Apple's or's XDarwin, to be running.

If you are building NEdit yourself, you will probably need to edit
makefiles/Makefile.macosx to select the correct version of Motif.  There are
comments in the makefile to help you do this correctly.  Note that the
developers use the OpenMotif 2.1.30 package available (at the time of writing)

SGI Systems

Beginning with IRIX 6.3, SGI is distributing a customized version of NEdit
along with their operating system releases.  Their installation uses an
app-defaults file (/usr/lib/X11/app-defaults/NEdit) which overrides the
default settings in any new nedit version that you install, and may result in
missing accelerator keys or cosmetic appearance glitches.  If you are
re-installing NEdit for the entire system, just remove the existing app-
defaults file.  If you want to run a newer copy individually, get a copy of
the app-defaults file for this version the contrib sub-directory of the
distribution directory for this version on (/pub/<version>/
contrib/, and install it in your home directory or set
the environment variables XAPPLRESDIR or XUSERFILESEARCHPATH to point
to a directory and install it there.  In all cases, the file should be
named simply 'NEdit'.

No additional installation or resource settings are necessary on IRIX systems
before 6.3

HP-UX Systems

If you are using HPVUE and have trouble setting colors, for example part
of the menu bar stubornly remains at whatever HPVUE's default is, try setting:

   nedit*useColorObj: False

IBM AIX Systems

Due to an optimizer bug in IBM's C compiler, the file, textDisp.c, must be
compiled without optimization on some AIX systems.

Solaris (SunOS 5.3 and beyond) Systems

The nedit_solaris executable may require the environment variable OPENWINHOME
to be set to the directory where Open Windows is installed.  If this is not set
properly, NEdit will spew screenfulls of messages about translation table
syntax errors.

Solaris 2.4 -- Add -DDONT_HAVE_GLOB to the CFLAGS line in Makefile.solaris.

Solaris 2.5 -- Solaris 2.5 systems were shipped with a bad shared Motif
library, in which the file selection dialog (Open, Save, Save As, Include,
etc.) shows long path names in the file list, but no horizontal scroll bar,
and no way to read the actual file names.  Depending on your system, the
patch is one of ID# 103461-07, # 102226-19, or # 103186-21.  It affects all
Motif based programs which use the library.  If you can't patch your system,
you might want to just try the nedit_sunos executable (from
/pub/<version>), which is statically linked with a good Motif.  You can also
set the X resource: nedit.stdOpenDialog to True, which at least gives you a
text field where you can enter file names by hand.

Solaris 2.6 -- If you're experiencing performance problems (windows come up
slowly), the patch for Sun's shared Motif library is ID# 105284-04.  Installing
the patch alone will improve nedit's performance dramatically.  The patch also
enables a resource, *XmMenuReduceGrabs. Setting this to True will eliminate the
delay completely.

SunOS 4.x Systems

On some SunOS systems, NEdit will also complain about translation table syntax
errors.  This happens when Motif can't access the keysym database, usually
located in the file /usr/lib/X11/XKeysymDB.  If this file exists on your
system, but NEdit fails to locate it properly, you can set the environment
variable XKEYSYMDB to point to the file.  If you can't find the file, or if
some of the errors persist despite setting XKEYSYMDB, there is a XKeysymDB
which you can use to update or replace your /usr/lib/X11/XKeysymDB file
available in the contrib sub-directory of the NEdit distribution directory.
If you don't want to change your existing XKeysymDB file, make a local copy
and set XKEYSYMDB to point to it.

If you find that some of the labeled keys on your keyboard are not properly
bound to the corresponding action in NEdit, try the following:

  1) Get a copy of motifbind.sun (for Sun standard keyboards), or
     motifbind.sun_at (for Sun PC style keyboards) from the NEdit contrib
     directory on<version>/contrib.
  2) Copy it to a file called .motifbind in your home directory.
  3) Shutdown and restart your X server.


Existing .nedit Files

As of version 5.1, NEdit employs a built-in upgrade mechanism which will
automatically detects .nedit files of older versions. In general, NEdit
will try to convert and insert entries to match the latest version.
However, in certain cases where the user has customized the default entries,
NEdit will leave them untouched (except for possible syntactic conversions).
As a result, the latest syntax highlighting patterns for certain languages may
not get activated, for instance, if the user has customized the entries. The
latest default patterns can always be activated through the
Preferences->Syntax Highlighting->Recognition Patterns menu, though.

Next, some version specific upgrading issues are listed. Note that 
non-incremental upgrading (eg., from 5.0 to 5.2) is supported too.

* Upgrading from 5.4 to 5.5
  - Changes in the widget hierarchy, possibly effecting resource settings
    In NEdit 5.4 and below, the widget hierarchy consisted of a separate
    widget tree for each window. This was rather unconventional and caused
    certain problems. In 5.5, the hierarchy was changed such that all widgets
    belong to a single tree with a single root widget.
    For instance, with 5.4, the top of the widget hierarchy for a 2-window
    NEdit session looks as follows:
      NEdit  nedit
       +-- XmMainWindow  main

      NEdit  nedit
       +-- XmMainWindow  main
    In 5.5, the same session results in the following tree:
      NEdit  nedit
       +-- TopLevelShell  textShell
       |    +-- XmMainWindow  main
       +-- TopLevelShell  textShell
            +-- XmMainWindow  main
    Users with advanced X-resource settings may be affected by this
    change and may have to adapt their resource specifications.        
  - Minor change to the regular expression word boundary semantics
    In 5.4, the semantics for word boundary regular expressions ('<', '>', 
    and '\B') were changed to behave in a more intuitive way (see Upgrading
    from 5.3 to 5.4 below). However, this introduced an inconsistency between
    the regular expressions and several other places in NEdit where word
    boundaries were taken into account. Therefore, the changes were partially
    reverted to restore consistency, but without giving up the benefits of the
    more intuitive word boundary definition. More in particular, a boundary
    between two characters is now considered to be a word boundary only if
    exactly one of the characters is a delimiter.
    This change will have little or no consequences for most users.
* Upgrading from 5.3 to 5.4

  - Resource syntax
    Basic colors, like the text foreground and background, are now true
    preferences.  A new dialog (Preferences > Default Settings > Colors) is
    provided to change them, previously only changeable from X resources. 
    Upon starting, NEdit will migrate any custom colors you have set from
    the old X resources.  Most users will not need to do anything.
    However, if you used X resources to dynamically change the colors on
    different invocations, you will need to use the new application-level
    resources instead.  See the .nedit file for details.
    In 5.3, color resources needed to be qualified by "nedit*" in order to
    prevent problems when the deepest color visual was not the default. 
    This is no longer necessary, and the qualification may be removed.
  - New location of configuration files
    The default location and name of NEdit's resource files has been changed.
    The most important change is the fact that they can now be stored in a
    custom directory, defined by the NEDIT_HOME environment variable. If the
    variable is not set, the directory defaults to ~/.nedit.
    The files have been renamed as follows:
       ~/.nedit        -> $NEDIT_HOME/nedit.rc
       ~/.neditmacro   -> $NEDIT_HOME/autoload.nm
       ~/.neditdb      -> $NEDIT_HOME/nedit.history
    For backward compatibility reasons, NEdit continues to use the old 
    convention when these files are already present. No attempt is made
    to force the user to adopt the new convention. 

    Users that would like to migrate to the new setup can do so manually 
    by moving and renaming the files.
  - Changed regular expression word boundary semantics and its effect
    on the syntax highlighting patterns.
    During the 5.4 development cycle, it was noted that the implementation 
    of NEdit's regular expression word boundary matching was rather
    unconventional. More in particular, the '<', '>', and '\B' patterns
    interpreted the boundary between any two characters of which at least
    one was not a word character as a word boundary. A striking effect of this
    was that the boundary between two spaces was considered to be a word
    boundary, which is obviously rather unintuitive. This has been corrected 
    in 5.4: the boundary between two characters is a word boundary, only if
    exactly one of them is a word character.

    Several of the built-in syntax highlighting patterns (implicitly) relied 
    on the old word boundary interpretation and they have been corrected too.
    However, if the user has customized some of these buggy built-in
    highlighting patterns, the automatic upgrading routines will NOT upgrade
    them in order not to loose any customizations. It is left up to the user
    to correct his/her customized patterns manually (using the corrected 
    built-in patterns as a guideline). 

    The following is a list of all language modes and patterns that have been
      Ada:         Based Numeric Literals
      Awk:         Numeric constant
      C++:         numeric constant
      C:           numeric constant
      CSS:         property, selector pseudo class
      Java:        decimal const, case numeric const
      JavaScript:  Numeric
      Lex:         numeric constant, markers
      Matlab:      Numeric const
      NEdit Macro: Built-in Vars, Numeric Const
      Pascal:      TP Numeric Values:
      Perl:        dq string, sq string, bq string, subroutine call, 
                   numerics, re match
      PostScript:  Number, Operator1
      Python:      Number
      SQL:         data types, keywords2
      Sh Ksh Bash: keywords, built ins 
      Tcl:         Keywords
      VHDL:        Numeric Literals
      Verilog:     Reserved WordsA, Numeric Literals, Delay Word, 
                   Pins Declaration
      XML:         element declaration keyword
      Yacc:        numeric constant, percent keyword, markers

    So, if the user has customized the highlighting definitions for any of 
    these language modes (not restricted to the listed patterns), (s)he is 
    strongly advised to restore the default patterns in the syntax 
    highlighting dialog and to re-apply his/her customizations.
    Moreover, it is advised to check any custom language modes for potential
    boundary matching problems as described above.

* Upgrading from 5.2 to 5.3

  There are no major changes in the format of the .nedit file for version
  5.2. Users that have customized the X Resources syntax highlighting 
  pattern may consider restoring the default patterns, as they resolve
  a performance issue when editing the .nedit file itself, for instance.
* Upgrading from 5.1 to 5.2

  There are no major changes in the format of the .nedit file for version
  5.2. NEdit will try to insert additional entries for the newly supported
  language modes and syntax highlighting patterns (CSS, Regex, and XML) and
  highlight styles (Pointer, Regex, Warning).

  Moreover, the formerly boolean 'showMatching' option will silently be
  converted to a tri-state value.

  Users that have customized some of the syntax highlighting patterns may
  consider restoring the default patterns, as many of them have been improved
* Upgrading from 5.0 to 5.1
  NEdit 5.1 makes significant changes to the syntax of regular expressions.
  Mostly, these are upward compatible, but two changes; introducing the brace
  operator, and changing the meaning of \0; are not. Brace characters must now
  be escaped with backslash, and & must be used in place of \0 in

  NEdit 5.1 employs a built-in upgrade mechanism which will automatically
  detect pre-5.1 .nedit files and fix regular expressions which appear in
  user-defined highlight patterns. The automatic upgrade mechanism, however,
  can not fix regular expression problems within user-defined macros. If you
  have a macro which is failing under NEdit 5.1, you will have to fix it by
* Upgrading from pre-5.0

  If you are upgrading from a pre-5.0 version of NEdit, there are significant
  changes to the macro language, and you are best off simply editing out the
  nedit.macroCommands section of your .nedit file, generating a new .nedit
  file, and then re-introducing your user-written commands into the new file.
  Most macros written for previous versions will function properly under the
  new macro language. The most common problems with old macros is lack of a
  terminating newline on the last line of the macro, and the addition of "<",
  ">", and now "{" to the regular expression syntax. These characters must now
  be escaped with \ (backslash). Also, if you have been using a font other
  than the default for the text portion of your NEdit windows, be sure to
  check the Preferences -> Default Settings -> Text Font dialog, and select
  highlighting fonts which match your primary font in size. Matching in height
  is desirable, but not essential, and sometimes impossible to achive on some
  systems. When fonts don't match in height, turning on syntax highlighting
  will cause the window size to change slightly. NEdit can handle unmatched
  font sizes (width), but leaving them unmatched means sometimes columns and
  indentation don't line up (as with proportional fonts).


More information is available in the file nedit.doc in this kit, from NEdit's
on-line help system, the man-pages and from the enclosed FAQ file. 
There is also a web page for NEdit at:  For discussion with
other NEdit users, or to receive notification of new releases you can
subscribe to one or more of the NEdit mailing lists,, or  The NEdit on-line help has information
on subscribing under Help -> Mailing Lists.


The preferred way to report bugs is to submit an entry on our web-based
bug tracker at:

The NEdit developers subscribe to both and,
either of which may be used for reporting bugs.  If you're not sure, or you
think the report might be of interest to the general NEdit user community,
send the report to  If it's something obvious and boring,
like we misspelled "anemometer" in the on-line help, send it to develop.  If
you don't want to subscribe to these lists, please add a note to your mail
about cc'ing you on responses.
2012-10-25 Scott TringaliXft support under OpenMotif 2.3.3 - I've been using... master
2012-10-25 Scott TringaliTested with OpenMotif 2.3.3 (Ubuntu) -- looking good.
2011-04-21 Bert WesargFix our use of $em_tab_dist after it was changed to...
2010-07-05 Bert WesargEWMH raise support
2009-09-19 Eddy De GreefAdded support for MINIX 3, contributed by Erik van...
2009-09-14 Eddy De GreefAdded note on latest fix.
2009-09-14 Eddy De GreefFix for off-by-one error, potentially causing a crash...
2009-06-23 Bert WesargFix for SF bug #2687525: tipsfile parser error wt to eof
2009-06-23 Bert Wesargfix for #2149312: parse error with zero menu entries
2008-11-05 Bert Wesargupdate ReleaseNotes
2008-11-05 Bert WesargFix for SF bug #2222159: File was not reload when type...
2008-10-22 Bert WesargDon't use -import argument as fprintf format
2008-10-08 Bert WesargRemove memory leaks in BeginSmartIndent()
2008-10-06 Bert WesargFix use of Inst not as union.
2008-10-06 Tony BalinskiFix for 1869862 "^" doesn't match all lines
2008-10-03 Bert Wesargremove argument limit from action routines
3 years ago master
5 years ago BETA-5-6
8 years ago REL-5-5
12 years ago BETA-5-4
13 years ago BETA-5-3
14 years ago BETA-5-2