Text editors are not word processors so everyone doesn’t really have a need for one.
If you use a text editor then you know the good from the bad. Surprisingly, there’s more text editors for Mac OS X than word processors. What’s that say?
Text editors edit text. So does a word processor. What’s the difference?
It’s all in the text and how it gets into the document. While word processors have layers of features and can embed everything from spreadsheets, to tables, to pictures, to movies, to graphics, text editors don’t do much more than, well, text.
Even more than word processors, Mac users who need a text editor, have a text editor, or have a love-hate relationship with a number of text editors, have favorites.
Text editors are what programmers use to create the “clean” code that goes into a script or a program. Most text editors are considered bare bones word processors. Bare bones? Did I let that slip?
However, text editors don’t really process words as much as they facilitate quick handling of the arcane programming and scripting languages required to make today’s Mac applications work.
Generally speaking, text editors are bare bones in that they “specialize” in creating text (code) that’s clean and will work appropriately as a script, or compile appropriately as an application.
What’s surprising is the sheer number of text editors available for Mac OS X.
In fact, your Mac probably has a few already. One is TextEdit. It’s really more of a bare bones word processor, though. It’ll read Microsoft Word files. But it’s not a good editor for creating PHP scripts or web pages.
Also on your Mac are two Unix-flavored text editors; the venerable and difficult to master Vi, and the menu-driven Pico.
I use Pico. I don’t use Vi. So Pico is on my list. Vi is on the list of many developers and programmers, though. For newbies, it’s pronounced “vee eye.” Pico is pronounced “pee-coh.”
Point your browser to VersionTracker and enter “text editor.” There’ll be about four pages of response, not all of which are true text editors. However, there’s enough to narrow the group down to five.
My first true text editor was Pico. It’s a great little editor that handles most text editing requirements. Pico is built in to most Unix systems and it’s available on Mac OS X via the terminal. Working text in Pico is not at all unlike working with WordStar on DOS machines back in the early 80s. There’s control keys, and a menu at the bottom.
Not much else.
As far as other text editors go, see if you can find one you know in the list below:
• TextForge (Cocoa-based editor)
• iText X (some word processing)
• iTexMac (TeTex front end, TeX editor)
• Tex-Edit Plus (scriptable editor)
• LightwayText (multi-lingual word processor)
• SubEthaEdit (Rendezvous, collaborative editor)
• JeditX (basic editor)
• TextWrangler (a junior editor from BareBones—free)
• Ulysses (special editor for writers)
• Emacs (GNU emacs editor)
• Emacs/Carbon (Aqua build of Emacs)
• Alphatk (for Java, TeX, HTML, C, Perl, Python)
• BBEdit (the master from Bare Bones)
There’s many more. I’ve tried and used most of those above. For most specific purposes, they’ll do the job. A text editor is a “personal thing.” The right editor makes the job easier, better, more accurate, more efficient. The wrong editor just causes grief at every stage.
That’s why there’s so many text editors. We’ll live with a word processor that’s common to everyone. If you sling code for a living, the editor has to “fit”.
Here’s my Top 5 Best And 3 Worst Text Editors (in order)
#1 – BBEdit from Bare Bones Software. A good reason to buy a Mac.
#2 – TexEdit Plus from Tom Bender. It does a little of everything quite well.
#3 – Pico (built in to Mac OS X) It’s everywhere you want to be.
#4 – TextForge (editing in Cocoa)
#5 – SubEthaEdit (way cool capabilities for group editing)
Why BBEdit? Ask anyone who uses it. It’s sweet.
The Worst Text Editors
#1 – Microsoft Word. No matter what, it can’t do clean text. Not possible, right?
#2 – Apple’s TextEdit. Is it SimpleText? Is it a word processor? Make up your mind.
#3 – Vi. Hats off to those who use Vi. It can’t get more difficult.
Honorable Mention Text Utilities
#1 – textSOAP. It just does so much to clean up text (more of a utility)
#2 – Text-Osterone. Gutsy name (creates Flash text effects)
#3 – Clean Text 3.4.1 (like textSOAP)
#4 – Tofu (arranges text in columns; on-screen text reader)
#5 – TextSpresso (text filtering and cleaning processor)
As always, your mileage may vary. Text processors are more personal than word processors, right? Did I leave yours off the list? Let me know what it is. What? You LOVE Vi? That can’t be, can it?
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The above is an updated Encore Presentation of a previous article. We’re celebrating today. Tera’s back.