BBEdit 9 review

BBEdit was the number one text editor on the Mac long before TextMate saw the light of day. It still is a powerhouse for programmers and web developers. Version 9 gives us new capabilities that put it in a comfortable position to compete with TextMate.BBEdit 9 looks familiar, but has a lot of new features. It replaces the term “File groups” with “Projects” which brings its terminology to the same level of understanding as TextMate’s—although projects are not entirely new in BBEdit; they do gain some additional capabilities. Projects allow for direct editing within the Project window, and direct manipulation of items within a project, including the ability to rename, create, and delete files and folders. Projects can contain any combination of directories and individual files, and their contents can be directly searched as well as processed by text factories.

BBEdit gains multi file search windows, and non-modal Find, and now allows you to edit in browsers, which again brings it closer to what TextMate users are used to. BBEdit’s search capabilities are now always available if you need them, even when you’re constantly going back and forth between various text windows and the Find window. When searching across multiple files, you can now edit files directly within disk browsers, search results browsers and related locations. This is a huge improvement over previous versions which forced you to close the Find window before you could continue doing what you were doing in the first place.
BBEdit 9 allegedly can now also search Xcode projects. Not being a programmer myself, I’ll believe Bare Bones Software on their word for it. More in my league of useful functionality is the auto-completion functionality of BBEdit. It works wonderful, although I must admit it’s better to turn it on by invitation only. You can set BBEdit 9 to auto-complete your text in two ways: either the program will automatically start suggesting text completion as you type, or you have to press a key on the keyboard to activate this on a word by word basis.

The good thing about both methods of invocation is that words that are in no dictionary, but are used a couple of times in your document, are apparently automatically added to BBEdit’s “memory”. This means that you can even auto-complete names or words in other languages. The downside of having BBEdit automatically suggest words is that the application is very zealous about it, making it sometimes sheer impossible to break free from the suggestion pop-up.
Automatic saved ScracthpadGranted, it’s a matter of getting used to the way it’s implemented, but for occasional users it will be better to turn on the “only by invitation” mode.

The Scratchpad is a bit of an oddball to me. It’s just another window where you can collect manual edits, copy/paste snippets, etc. The Scratchpad, the manual says, automatically saves its content. Well, that sounds great, but didn’t I read somewhere else in the manual that BBEdit auto-saves your documents now every minute? I mean: what can go wrong in a minute that you would need a Scratchpad for? Especially because the Scratchpad doesn’t support multiple clipboard copies. It’s really just another window that doesn’t need saving…
BBEdit should also show you its statistics in the status bar of each text view. However, this is tuned off by default—I really can’t tell why as I find this one of the most useful improvements for writing HTML code and web content. Especially if you’re using a text editor to write articles to copyfit, BBEdit 9 now supports an in real-time updating statistics counter that makes InCopy—at least in this area—obsolete.

BBEdit has always been my favourite text editor, but the last two versions were stuffed with so much new functionality that it became increasingly difficult to manage, especially when you weren’t working with the application on a daily basis. With version 9, Bare Bones Software has not just added new features, but also made BBEdit more manageable.
The new versions are implemented in a better, more lightly digestible way, and I find that comforting. TextMate still has the advantage of the bundle architecture, but most of the bundles that TextMate currently supports, are supported by BBEdit as well—albeit hard-wired into the application. The odd thing is that you can extend BBEdit’s functionality through plug-ins, but few people seem to bother.


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