Text Editors

Editor dock icons For those of us who spend a significant portion of our time in front of a computer – usually earning a living, there are certain tools that we use every day and wouldn’t be complete without. There are also tools that we need from time to time to do some specialized task. As a web developer I have a few applications that I more or less depend on. Obviously I need a browser, but aside from that it is the text editor that is paramount.

If it isn’t clear from the image above (and it likely isn’t) I have about about five actual text editors on my dock and another four specialized editor/IDE programs. Do I use them all at once? Definitely not. I don’t even use all of them on a semi-regular basis. In fact I can’t think of the last time that I launched Eclipse – but I have launched it and it remains on my dock because I have a small place in my heart for any editor/IDE.

A couple of the editors pictured (the two leftmost) are quite new in my personal toolkit. The one with the red fruit is Smultron and it is free and open source. It is my current favourite, but my needs are always changing. The gear on the purple backdrop is called Textmate and it isn’t free – €49 I believe. That is the main reason that I don’t use it as my primary editor. It is quite impressive and under active development, but I don’t know if I want to invest yet. I’m still on my 30 day trial. If you are looking for the be-all and end-all of Mac editors, this one has that potential.

The one with the green characters holding a pencil is SubEthaEdit and really shines in the area of multi-user collaboration on a document over the internet. It is free for non-commercial use, and I will occasionally use it on my personal projects because it is lightweight. However, I think that Smultron has replaced it as my quick goto editor for the moment. As an editor it is quite nice, but in my mind lacks in the document management department. I used to assume that I wanted tabs for my documents (ala. UltraEdit) but I have found that a list on the side of the window to be even more useful. Smultron offers that, but I first encountered it in the now free Text Wrangler (the yellow ‘W’ on the blue diamond). Text Wrangler is the baby brother of the Mac stalwart BBEdit – and as such has more of a classic feel to it. It suffers a few usability maladies, but otherwise is a competent editor. I use it a fair bit for editing remote sites.

skEdit is the one with the yellow helmet and it is one that I have not only paid for (around $20 US) but I am a beta tester. The author is a college student in the states and he is actively developing it. I have found a few bugs at various times, but I will admit that I haven’t used it much lately. I think that once it is a bit more refined and a couple extra features are added, it will be a contender that will threaten some of the more established editors.

The other four (on the right hand side) are Xcode, Eclipse, TeXShop, and Script Editor. None are the greatest for anything to do with the web, but are used on occasion for their own purposes. I can’t speak for Eclipse in general, but I have heard there is a plugin called Trustudio that can be used for working with PHP files. I have used a really old version that wasn’t worth it, but I have been lead to believe that great progress has been made. At this point in the game, I’m just too comfortable with what I have to bother investigating it.

I think that sometime in the near future I would like to compile a bit more of a comparison grid between some of the various editors that I have used. Then I could have that online as a good reference for all of the switchers who are looking for their own editor fix.