Text editors are like religion. There’s one on every block, some are popular, some are obscure, some users are fanatical about their choice.
I’m torn between two worlds of text editors; the traditional, the new and hip and chic.
Like religion, the text editors choices are numerous as the reasons why we use what we use. Like religion, switching ain’t easy.
For the uninitiated, a text editor isn’t a word processor, though some may use an editor for such.
At the basic level, a text editor creates clean text—the kind that’s used in programming code in various languages. Naturally, each text editor creates crisp, clean, acceptable code for the need at hand.
One of the most popular text editors ever is BareBones BBEdit. I’ve used it for many years, going back to Mac OS Classic days.
BBEdit is a tool worthy of buyiing a Mac. It’s fast, produces clean code, performs wonderful searches through multiple documents, and, for the most part has never failed me.
Through the years, I’ve attempted to try other text editors but nothing stuck for long. Familiarity is cruel mistress.
Saying goodbye is excrutiatingly difficult. That’s how some Mac people feel about their choice of editors.
Last year I tried out TextMate from MacroMates. It’s clean, lean, produces good code, comes with a bunch of time saving “bundles” and the retail price was about the same as the upgrade price to BBEdit.
This is where I found myself torn between two worlds. BBEdit and TextMate.
BBEdit is familiar, and that means fast. I know where every function and feature sits. Almost. That’s a problem, because editors these days have so many features it becomes difficult to master them all.
Worse, no single editor is really perfect, even for the part-time coder, though most let the user customize various functions. That was never easy for me to do in BBEdit, but it’s a snap to do in TextMate.
With little work, I could create and control TextMate’s bundles to let the editor work the way I want to work. But I straddled the fence, torn between the familiar and fast, and the pleasure of building add-ons to function the way I want to work (making work to make work easier).
Neither BBEdit or TextMate is a perfect solution, or a good tool for a beginner to use as a primary, first-time editor. TextMate is minimalist lean. BBEdit is warm and friendly, if a bit pudgy around the middle.
Which one is better? As it will be with your experience and your choice of an editor, the answer is, “it depends.”
Depending on the job at hand, BBEdit is the friend who helps with big jobs. TextMate does XHTML, CSS, and bundles and templates better than any utility I’ve owned.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that either editor is perfect for you. Scan the list of available Mac editors and you’re reading a Who’s Who list of famous names.
For beginners, Jedit X is a great choice from Japan, as is the free Smultron. The former is superb, but carries a price tag. The latter is a great tool and uses the WebKit browser so makes for a capable XHTML and CSS editor.
The above are not meant to be a comprehensive look at all the text editors available for Mac OS X. My favorites are popular, one more so than the other.
One growing problem I have with Mac applications is that they’re improving with each version, which makes choosing a single tool all the more difficult, as no one editor does everything exactly the way I’d prefer.
As always, your mileage may vary. Do you use a text editor? If so, which one? Why? What makes it stand out from others? What don’t you like about BBEdit or TextMate or the Emacs versions for OS X? Share your experience with other Mac360 readers in the Comments Section below.
My favorite? I still lean toward the somewhat pudgy BBEdit though I’m using TextMate more because those bundles and templates are so easy to create.