I Choose BBEdit

I’ve finally decided to shelve my Text-Editor-exploring fetishes and stick with BBEdit. Too much time has been spent on this subject and i’m detailing my reasons out here, so any future urges to revisit this topic get quickly quashed.

I love Byword and nValt for simple writing. They are some of the best tools for the job. Both of these softwares are independently fantastic and if you’re interested in just basic writing, you should just use them instead. The experience is far superior to any text-editor currently in the market, even BBEdit. Seriously I can’t say enough good things about these two products.

However I “need” a much more powerful text editor to handle my day to day development. So the choices boiled down to BBEdit, Textmate or Sublime Text 2. I could have Byword/nValt also running but that’s two extra applications for the same requirement of “text editing”. Given the option, I would rather have just one application do it all.


Memory foot print, speed of opening files, general response: in all these, BBEdit trumps the others.

Opening large files

My definition of a large file is an apache text log around 800MB-1GB in size. BBEdit wins here. Actually it decimates the others while simultaneously shouting “Who’s your daddy” and bonking their heads with a hammer. Sublime Text 2 comes a distant second and Textmate 2 couldn’t even finish the race (meaning the file couldn’t be opened). This is the point where Textmate had to humbly back out of the race.

Snippets, auto-pairing etc.

Sublime Text is fantastic here, Textmate is really nice and BBEdit is ok. Yes BBEdit can be customized with Clippings, Applescripts but there’s just some thing in ST2 and TM2 that makes the experience more smooth.

For e.g. Wrapping with brackets, auto-pairing parenthesis, square brackets etc : these are things that are baked into ST2 and T2 (and done really well). No amount of customization can bring this sort of an experience to BBEdit.

But Keyboard Maestro comes to the rescue here by letting me customize any application (like it’s nobody’s business). I’ve managed to get most of these Text editing niceties to work not just with BBEdit, but any application where text is entered. Check my post on this.

Multi selection, vertical select

ST2 is leagues ahead here. Their implementation is simply astounding. Not only do they give you vertical select, they give you multi-selection. So you can just arbitrarily choose positions and simultaneously edit. TM2 is second with decent vertical scrolling and you can achieve this with BBEdit as well.

Customer Care and support

BBEdit is unbeatable when it comes to support and customer care. Shoot them a mail and a kind soul responds regardless of the stupidity of your question. Send them a tweet and you are almost always assured a response. One of my first requests was to convert my Mac App Store license to a normal downloadable because of the whole sandboxing thing with Apple. Without batting an eyelid, they gladly obliged. Not a single question asked. This is the main reason they won me over.

Longevity and reliability

When you’re dealing with an application so pivotal to your workflow like a text-editor, you’ve got to be damn sure the application has a decent backing. Textmate is infamous in this regard and classified as vaporware. Run by a one man shop, it simply cannot be relied on completely. The developer is a genius- no doubt there, but he’s one man. BBEdit on the other hand is run by Bare Bones Software, known to have debuted along with the first Macs (ok so i’m not entirely sure of that, but they’ve been around since 1993 and that’s pretty darn long back). Sublime Text 2 is the new kid on the block and doing pretty well. But I’d rather go with the more experienced alternative. Many years of tweaking and user feedback have gone into the making of BBEdit. I somehow trust them more.

Oh and by the way both John Gruber and John Siracusa swear by BBEdit ((hmm… i should have probably opened this post with that)).