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Getting Started With Kate, the Friendly yet Powerful Text Editor

Getting Started With Kate

February 9, 2009

If you run KDE, you may already have encountered Kate, KDE's built-in graphical text editor. If not, it's well worth a look the next time you have text files to edit – whether those are code files, HTML files, config files, or just plain note files. There are stacks of useful features, including multi-document support (so you can have as many files open at the same time as you want, or the same file open in multiple windows), and session support (open sets of files together automatically).

This short series will help you in getting started with Kate. Today's installment covers the basics; the next one will look at customising Kate and using the command-line style interface; and finally I'll look at Kate's provisions for coders (including HTML coders).

Kate is straightforward to get hold of – if you have KDE, you'll already have it installed. Otherwise, install the kdebase package from your package manager, or download the source code from the KDE download page.

My First Kate File

The first thing you're faced with if you just type kate at the command line is the Session Chooser Window. I'll discuss the useful sessions feature further below, but for now, if you just hit the "Open" button, you'll get the default session, with a single new document open, as you'd expect when opening any other text editor (Figure 1).

After this, it's straightforward to just start editing (or creating) a file. The standard menus and commands (open, save, save as) are all present and correct, as are the standard keyboard shortcuts (Figure 2).

In the Tools menu, there are several options for things like highlighting and indenting – I'll look at these in Part 3. There's also options to change the selected text to uppercase/lowercase, and to wrap or join lines, as well as a spellcheck function.

If you start typing, you may notice that Kate matches brackets up for you – when you close a bracket, the matching opening bracket is highlighted. This is useful for code, when you may well want an easy visual check on where you're at with your bracket pairs. Unlike some editors, Kate doesn't issue a warning if there's no match for a close bracket – this is both useful (the warning can be irritating if you use smilies, for example!) and a nuisance (it doesn't bring a lack-of-match to your attention when coding).

It doesn't appear to save drafts on crash, although it does warn you on close if there are unsaved changes. Hitting Ctrl-S will either save the file, or bring up a save dialog if it's currently un-named.