I was talking on the phone this morning with Kate MacKenzie and made the mistake of asking, “What’s new?”
20 minutes later—after hearing about that idiot co-worker, this nosey relative, two rude waiters, a dropped iPhone, and a cop chasing a guy on the subway, all I could remember is, “Did you know TextWrangler is at version 3.0?” Simultaneously, Kate and I both said, “I thought TextWrangler was discontinued.” It’s not. It’s alive.
At version 3.0 there may not be a need to buy a commercial text editor. Ever. TextWrangler is that good.
TextWrangler is a text editor. That means it’s not a word processor. The latter creates documents with special formatting to look nice. The former is a geeky tool for editing text files, usually for coding—configuration files, programming in specific languages, or scripts, etc.
Text editing is like religion. There are a lot of text editors available for Mac’s and PCs, and most of the adherents of their particular
religion text editor swear by how wonderful it is, and everything else is not so wonderful.
BareBones’ TextWrangler was one of my favorites for many years. Partly because it was a good, clean, pleasant editing experience, as far as text editors go, and partly because it was free. At the time, free was important.
When my career blossomed, and I had disposable spendable income to spend, I bought BBEdit, kind of an important, rich, experienced, suave and debonair and well educated uncle to TextWrangler’s humble station in life.
That also meant that I stopped using TextWrangler a number of years ago. Now, there’s TextWrangler 3.0. How does it compare to other text editors? It’s still free. But it has more features.
First of all, TextWrangler is a general purpose text editor for Mac users. It’s not a word processor because it doesn’t do pretty formatting the way Word or Pages does. It handles text instead.
So, it’s good for programmers, server administrators who dig into the Unix of a Mac. It’s also a good tool for programmers; those who work on Mac applications and utilities, or scripts that do this or that. TextWrangler is fast, loaded with features, and may be the only text editor most of us need, an important consideration since BBEdit costs $125.
TextWrangler runs on Intel and PowerPC Macs just fine. There’s even a built-in command line tool to invoke it in the Mac’s terminal. It comes with multiple undo and multple clipboards.
The claim to fame might be its ability to read a bunch of different text files, Unix, Mac, DOS, et all, as well as the built-in search and replace, which works on multiple files, which don’t have to be open.
For the geeks among us, TextWrangler greps, comes with AppleScript support, which is recordable, has advanced find differences features, and built-in FTP and sFTP support.
TextWrangler also reads and writes compressed text files, uses Emacs variables, adds a few new split view options in the Show/Hide Editor, and so much more that it’s actually silly to list them all. I found a good reference list on MacUpdate.
What’s the point of TextWrangler? I’m not sure. The folks at BareBones have been doing some strange things lately. Their commercial email application for the geek world, Mailsmith, is now free. The free and seemingly forgotten text editor, TextWrangler, seems to do all that BBEdit did just a few years ago, except for the upgrade pricing.
To say this an upgrade is to say that Meryl Streep didn’t channel Julia Child. There’s just a whole lot more going on inside TextWrangler that makes it a worthy editor for anyone on a budget.
TextWrangler is missing a few items, such as code validation and preview functions which you find in BBEdit, but who cares? This is your father’s text editor, reborn for the 21st century.