“Get the right tool for the job.” That’s what Tera says (among many sayings; she’s that way). So it is with editing text and processing words.
The end result is not the same so the tool should be the one that best does the job. Tera uses BBEdit. I use TextMate. Why?
Because I’m not always processing words. While I don’t code for a living or write for a living, I use both tools. Text editors and word processors.
Tera swears by BareBones’ BBEdit for coding, and there are few editors on the Mac with as many features or ease of use.
I come from the Windows world, switched to Mac a few years ago (succumbing to pressure from my wife and the frustration of too many blue screens of death), and started looking a Mac software through new eyes.
Windows users have more choices for most applications than Mac users, certainly so in games, accounting software, anti-virus, and anti-spyware.
For text editing, my application of choice was TextPad. It was loaded with features, highly customizable, yet with a clean (as much as it can actually be “clean” in a Windows app) interface.
When moving my digital life to a Mac I started looking for a similar text editor.
BBEdit is good, but it’s also a Mac-like application, which is to say, not quite so comfortable for those moving from Windows.
My search for a text editor with a lean, clean look and feel, yet with plenty of features under the hood stopped when I hit TextMate.
TextMate is not a word processor, not a replacement for Microsoft Word, or Nisus Express, or Mellel (which my wife Carol uses). It’s a text editor. TextMate is used for creating and editing text in a programming environment.
Remarkably, programming environments and languages vary, hence the need for a text editor that’s flexible and efficient. That’s TextMate.
From my own experience, the key to success is in the name of TextMate’s publisher, MacroMates.
Snippets. Scoping. Project management. And Macros. You’ll find macros in many Mac applications. Hit a key and let the application do some work that you’ve pre-recorded.
Programming of nearly any kind is hard work, unlike word processing which is so easy that an infinite number of monkeys could do it, and eventually write all the code in Windows Vista. And still ship it before Microsoft.
Making easy that which is tedious or cumbersome or reptitive is what TextMate does. Unless you’ve used a text editor before, and don’t know how to spell Terminal, TextMate opens with a frightening look.
There’s nothing there. It’s worse than dBase II in DOS (anybody besides me remember the “green dot?”). There’s nothing there. It’s an empty page with no ruler, no tool bar, no nada, waiting for you to figure out what to do.
That’s where TextMate becomes fun. The Mac menus above will get you everywhere you need to go, and everything you’re familiar with is good to go, except you have to find it.
All the basics of text editing are available and a click away. Auto-complete. Clipboard with history. Auto-paring of brackets. CSS-like Selectors. Dynamic outline (good for multiple files).
Wait. There’s more. Unix folks will love the “grep” attitude for regular expression search and replace. Flexible syntax highlight colors.
Did I mention syntax? How about support for over four dozen different languages.
TextMate also works as a terminal and you can run shell commands from within a document. Again, it’s just another way to save a little time.
Saving time also shows up in the visual bookmarks which can be placed within a file, allowing you to move quickly from point to point without scrolling through three million lines.
There’s support for PHP, HTML, Python, Perl, SQL, Objective C, Java, LaTex, XML, and more.
For me there’s one big plus, and one minor minus. The plus is the macro recording capability. It’s sweet and simple and creates excellent macros that enter code quickly, easily, and with a click.
I love that. What I don’t like is the lack of attention to CSS relative to XHTML. BBEdit might be easier to mix and match the two, but the coding required is also in a different world than most owners of TextMate visit.
TextMate is mature, stable, runs on PPC and Intel and even at $50 gets high marks from nearly everone who uses it. Chances are you won’t write the next award winning play, or a movie script, or a novel using TextMate.
But you might change the world anyway.