By Monte Ferguson
There are lots of apps for the Mac that are really quite pleasing to the
eye. They utilize eye catching designs that immerse the user. BBEdit is
not one of those programs. It follows the old maxim “form follows
function”. It has a very spare appearance. You won’t find any frivolous
buttons or mock 3D interface. No, you’re presented with a work area and
a few tools. That bare bones look might seem simplistic but it is
deceiving. There is a LOT of power under the hood of this app.
BBEdit is a tool designed by folks who work with code all day for other
folks who work with code all day. BBEdit is designed by BBEdit is not a
word processor. No does it truly try to be, though it can be used that
way. It is a text editor. It works with raw text, or plain text, as
opposed to styled text, like Microsoft Word files.
This is an app for those serious about manipulating text. It has gained
a true following with those who write code. And there is good reason.
BBEdit includes a lot of useful tools for coders. But it’s main benefit
is that the program doesn’t get in your way. It doesn’t try to reformat,
auto complete, or second guess you. The program does not get in your
New Features There are a bunch of new features with this release. I’ll
cover them briefly below.
Code Folding: collapses sections of text to simplify your document’s
structure and improve readability.
Clippings (formerly known as the Glossary) is a repository for
frequently used text and code. Think of it as a clipboard that’s always
there for you when you need it. Clipping creation has been improved with
this release. There are a couple of added menu bar commands “Save as
Clipping” and “Save Selection as Clipping” that simplify creating new
clippings and sets. There is also a Clippings menu for quick access and
management of clippings. The “Insert Clipping” command is been beefed up
with auto completion. Just type the first word, or a partial word, then
use Insert Clipping and BBEdit will do the rest.
Preferences have been revamped with an eye towards making things easier
to find and understand. Using the new “Menus” preference you can turn
off menus and commands you never use. If you can’t find a preference
setting BBEdit now has a search drawer in the preferences windows. Start
typing and BBEdit will list likely matches.
Coding improvements You can set different text colors for different code
languages;control soft wrap, spell checking, and more on a per-language
basis; selectively show and hide status bar and navigation bar elements.
Added support for SQL syntax coloring and function navigation. As well
as adding such support for Ruby and YAML.
Improved Features Indented Soft Wrapping allows lines to be indented to
the windows left margin, to the same level as beginning of the line, or
reverse indented. Improved disk browsers: Hierarchical file list, with
available file filtering. Sub-line differences: When comparing files
using Find Differences, BBEdit shows you the differences in words within
each line of differences. Read, write, and search gzip (.gz) files: How
cool is that? Auto-save: Periodic snapshot of unsaved documents to avoid
data loss in the event of power failures or system crashes. PCRE 5.0:
Extended regular-expression matching engine adds support for named
subexpressions and many other new features.
Pro’s There is so much to like about this program it’s hard to boil it
down. BBedit is just one heck of a text editor. It’s a Power Users tool.
You can edit locally or remotely, it comes with a built in ftp engine so
you can save changes directly to your production site. Thanks to support
for Apple’s WebKit, which is the engine behind Safari, you can now see
live previews of your web site as they would appear in a browser. For
those who code in languages like PHP or JSP you can now even preview
those pages. Automator actions support is included with this program
which means you can access this app’s text processing capabilities in
your Automator Workflows. BBEdit has this cool feature called Text
Factories. With no scripting or programming you can create basically
macros that streamline repetitive text processing tasks. If you like to
dive into the command line you’ll find that BBEdit can take the place of
command line editors like Pico. If you install the optional command line
tool you can create and run command line commands and scripts from
within BBEdit. If your forte has to do with web development you’ll be
pleased to hear that the Tidy Tool, for cleaning up HTML and XHTML, is
built into BBEdit. The built in HTML Syntax Checker, think of it as a
spell/grammar checker for HTML code, can now check page fragments and
generated code. (You can also mark sections for the checker to skip). If
you’ve never used it you’ll love the Find Differences command which can
quickly compare two versions of a document and list all of the
Cons There are only “con” that I can think of. The first is, if you’re
new to the program it can be daunting learning your way around. You’re
presented with a very basic interface. Though you can get up and running
quickly I would suggest diving into the User Manual. There is a lot of
power that isn’t immediately apparent at first glance.
Conclusion I haven’t gone over all of the features of this program.
There are a ton of things that will please programmers. This is just one
of those humble programs that doesn’t try to be everything to everyone.
It’s a text editor and it focuses on that function. If your needs fit
within it’s capabilities I’d highly suggest this program. It’s a swiss
army knife for text. It’s not the prettiest program but that is a
benefit not a shortcoming. The program is suited for an audience that
doesn’t want superfluous decorations. They just want to get work done.
And BBEdit will do just that.
Posted: Saturday, March 10th, 2007