Sunday, December 19, 2004

BBEdit 8

BBedit 8: text/HTML/XML, etc., editor
By: Bare Bones Software
Type of review: minor, general comments, praise, criticism, no deep bone crushing code stuff.
I've spent a lot of time, nearly every day over the last year +, in one text editing program or another on the Mac, and some of the time on XP. I'm not sure that there is one editor to rule them all, but if I could combine two of them, they'd be BBEdit 8 and from the PC world, EditPlus. Maybe a BBEditPlus, if you will.

But that's not too fair, because between the two of them, I'd like all of what BBEdit has to offer, adding the tabs for windows and a few interface niceties from EditPlus. So really, BBEdit is as close to perfect as I've found on any platform.

Of the other editors on the Mac, I like Tex-Edit Plus (TE+). I bought a license for it and used it on my job for some time; however, there was one thing I couldn't live without - automatic syntax highlighting (Both BBE and EditPlus do this). To combat this in TE+, I used a script I wrote for text highlighting (so it'd look like BBE), but it only worked for existing text and had to be reapplied for every modification/addition. Not fun and not functional.

I used BBEdit 7.x.x in demo and built quite a few AppleScripts around it utilizing its excellent grep capabilities among other things, one aspect of the things that endeared me to BBEdit. But for sake of money and conscience, I turned to TE+. While powerful in its own right, it couldn't (can't) match the editing capabilities of BBEdit, driving me to learn other AppleScript solutions like fixing and tidying text on the clipboard.

But that still wasn't "perfect" - so the opportunity presented itself to me to obtain a BBE license finally and I've been quite happy ever since. While I miss some things TE+ allowed me to do (bold certain words, highlight words, etc.) BBEdit allows me to do other things better. Like perform grep functions better, in this sense - when I "set selection to clipText" in a script, that selection remains highlighted in BBEdit until I change the focus of the cursor. This capability allows me to run all manner of fix ups, etc., to the text w/o having to highlight it again, run a fix, ad nauseum.

BBEdit 8 presents a new layer of refinement and capability, the least of which is not the document drawer. Here is one thing that I do like, but prefer a tabbed interface a la Safari or EditPlus. I would LOVE for Bare Bones to add this option in the preferences. I realize that there is *sort of* a tab bar, but, to me, it is counter-intuitive. I have to click it, and a menu pops up of the docs I have open. Or I could click the right/left arrows to navigate thru my docs. But at least give me the option to remove those and place aquafied tabs of my docs.

In addition to the tabs, I need to be able to have a single keystroke to switch documents like I have when I switch windows - the command+` key. Instead, BBEdit forces me to use three-fingered commands - and two of them, to jump between documents. I find this inefficient and a waste of my time. Don't get me wrong, I like it better than having to have two windows open - I prefer it with the document drawer. But here's where EditPlus' tabbed documents would be a lovely addition.

So if you guys read this, would you mind adding that for me? :-) Purty puleeze?

At first the vertical lines bothered me, but I'm used to it now to the point that I don't like it w/o them. And it is great that the depth of preference is there for color, saturation, etc. I love the ability to identify which line I'm on by a subtle highlight spanning the width of the page at the cursor location. Excellent touches that make this app stand out from the rest.

Do I recommend BBEdit for serious programmers - absolutely. For web site builders/maintainers? Yes. My one major drawback is the retail price. I honestly think BBEdit is overpriced by ... well, a lot of money. EditPlus is $30 for a one-user license. If I had to live on Windows, there's no question I'd own it. It's a great app with a compelling set of features. BBEdit has more features, but for $150 more?? It is my sincere hope that Bare Bones will lower the price w/o compromising the functionality. Bring it into a price parity with the rest of the text-editor market.

What would I pay for BBEdit? Well, I think that even $80 is high, but I'd be willing to swing it if it had every feature I want. If EditPlus were on OS X (and was AppleScriptable), I'd wager it'd win a lot of converts on price alone. I realize Bare Bones is not Microsoft (apps also overpriced), and they deserve to make a good living for the great products they make, but it is tough to scrape up enough change to take the plunge.

Even so, I need BBEdit for peace of mind in doing my work. If I make an error in my tags, the syntax highlighting changes giving me a visual indication that something is wrong. This is a good thing. EditPlus does this, too, fwiw.

So the bottom line is that my only *real* gripe is the retail price of the package. Otherwise it is hands down the best out there.

Having read numerous reviews/blogs on this topic, I know there are those of you who hate BBEdit and prefer apps like TextMate, TE+, et al., so your opinion is fine, but I've tried many of the apps suggested on those blogs and found them to pale in comparison to BBEdit. FWIW, I still think TE+ is excellent and phenomenal on pricing. If Mr. Bender adds tabs and auto-highlight-syntax, it' be a strong pull to go back. But for now, my hat is hung with BBEdit.


Anonymous said...

I 100% agree with you on this. I actually do have to live in XP at work, and I use Edit+ exclusively (and have for several years). Up until the release of BBEdit 8, I didn't think many Mac editors quite matched it in the features I liked the most. (Namely, the syntax highlighting, the tabs, and the word wrap.. I really like that Edit+ wraps to the block indent rather than all the way back around to the left side of the window. I wish I could find a Mac editor that does this, too.)

I also think BBEdit is just way too expensive with almost all the other alternatives out there being significantly less. I can't afford a $200 license even thought I'd much prefer to use BBEdit. Instead, my money went to sKedit, which I think is an editor with a ton of potential.

Darren Mahaffy said...

Regarding the cost of BBEdit, for those who qualify, there is always education pricing which lowers the cost to around $100.

But dollar for dollar, program for program, BBEdit is at the top of its game, but priced, as I indicated in my thoughts above, it is definitely on the high end when all others are below $100.

Anonymous said...

I love My BBedit 8 upgraded from 7. I do not use most of the features yet, but uses it to maintain my website. Bought it because I wanted to have a great texteditor for html. Coding. I am at the same time learning how to use the terminal and thus how to shellscripte, I think I will start using more of its abilities. It might how ever be a good idea to offer limited versions of BBedit tailormaid to the different areas where BBedit excelles.

Anonymous said...

If price is that big a deal, why not try TextWrangler?