BBEdit and TextMate

For the last few days, there’s been a discussion on the BBEdit mailing list about the relative merits of BBEdit and TextMate. The back-and-forth has not reached the fever pitch of Emacs v. vi, but there have been a few sharp remarks. I added this rather mild post:

I used TextMate exclusively for a few months last year when I first moved back to the Mac after several years of using Linux. Ultimately I returned to BBEdit, which I had used and enjoyed back in the mid-90s, because:

  • BBEdit does what it says it will do. I found that TextMate often didn’t.
  • BBEdit says what it will do. TextMate’s documentation was thin to the point of anorexia.
  • The TextMate “community” was acting like an open-source group, but I had to pay for TextMate and could never get into the code to tweak the things I didn’t like about it.

Some of these things may have changed, and I’m sure TextMate is a better product than it was when I left it. I seems more Unix-y than BBEdit, with is something I like, and I may eventually move over to it. But so far, whenever there is a new hullabaloo over TM—which seems to happen every few months—I download the latest version and check it out, only to find some dealbreaker or another that sends me back to BBEdit.

After sending it off, I decided to head over to Macromates and look at the current state of TextMate. It’s considerably better than it was the last time I checked. There’s an actual manual now, and the commands that were inexplicably broken in version 1.1 are working again. I’ve put it back in my Dock and will be trying it out over the next week or so.

I’ve always liked TextMate’s integration with the shell; it reminds me of my favorite Linux/Unix editor, NEdit, which TM’s programmer, Allan Odgaard, also admires. Both provide a nice GUI update to the classic shell command/filtering capabilities of vi. BBEdit’s shell worksheets, which may have been great in the pre-OSX days, are a pale shadow of true shell integration.

This ability to try out new editors—and I’ve always been promiscuous with text editors—is a direct result of a decision I made about 10 years ago: everything I write will be in a text file. No more word processors, no more worrying about compatibility or conversion of file formats. I can open up unfinished documents that were started in BBEdit and complete them in TextMate. Or vi. Or Emacs. Or all of them and back to BBEdit again.