Back to BBEdit

I’ve used BBEdit for years. I think I started with version 4 sometime in college. I’m sure I used ‘borrowed’ copies until I started grad school, when I purchased my own copy circa 2001. I learned Python in it, wrote both my undergraduate thesis and my graduate dissertation, both in LaTeX, which I also learned with BBEdit. Once OS X killed Eudora, I moved to Bare Bone’s Mailsmith email client, which shares a lot of DNA with BBEdit. I eventually moved on from Mailsmith due to the rise of IMAP (and really, iPhones), and I settled on mutt. This sounds like a digression, but I wrote some scripts to use BBEdit as my editor for mutt. I lived in BBEdit.

Around 2011,1 with me doing lots of Python scripting/analysis (and using mutt for email) I started to take a closer look at Vim. My sloppy coding had me going to the arrow keys all the time for corrections, and it was bothering my wrist. I bit the bullet, learned Vim and all of its weirdness, and switched over. I was also using one laptop for both personal and work stuff, so I had plenty of time to tinker. After leaving that job, I got stuck on Windows computers for about 8 years at work, so I just soldiered on with Vim.

I still bought every version of BBEdit that came out, as it was useful to have around for certain things, as well as to support a good Mac software developer.

BBEdit 14

Fastforward to this year, and I’m finally back on a Mac at work. Even better, BBEdit is approved for install on our computers. Which leads me to the release of BBEdit 14.

I bought v14 like I always do and started to play around with it. The Notes feature is cool. And not surprisingly, BBEdit has advanced a lot since I’ve used it daily. While I was well accustomed to the scripting and filtering features, the Open File by Name and Go->Commands features bring some of the fuzzy file finder-ness and keyboard centric navigation I’m used to from Vim. The new LSP integration is also very cool. And wow, has the Preview in BBEdit function gained functionality.

I’m doing less coding and website stuff, both personally and professionally, and more ‘knowledge management’. I still prefer to mostly work in plain text (Markdown to be specific) and am allergic to using our prescribed note taking tool, OneNote. OneNote isn’t bad, but I can’t have my stuff locked up into some cloud only format. I have some cobbled together thing with Vimwiki which works okay, but BBEdit’s Projects seem to be better suited for me for project-oriented work. One BBEdit project per… project, and I can easily cross link things if I choose. The attachment script for dropped images–super cool. Now I can drag an image into a Markdown file, and get Markdown formatted image code. Very nice.

BBEdit still lacks in some departments. I really wish the user configurable syntax coloring and code folding were more capable, and as strange as vimscript is, AppleScript is no walk in the park. That being said, I’ve grown a bit tired of some aspects of Vim. It is an incredibly capable and extensible editor, and the modal nature of it is really great for modifying and navigating text without a mouse. But the mouse support obviously takes a back seat. At the same time, I don’t live in a text editor as much as I used to, and the care and feeding of a custom Vim setup takes effort. As a result, some of my Vim setup is a little creaky and needs attention that I can’t give it. The Vim community is great with lots of amazing integrations available, but they become abandonware too frequently. For example, I’ve used no less than 4 fuzzy file finder implementations in Vim in the last 8 years, yet BBEdit’s is pretty good and professionally maintained.

I do wish the BBEdit community was a little more vibrant. Even if it had the equivalent of just one tpope, I would be much happier. Is there someone I can pay to write a BBEdit version of speeddating.vim?


  1. Around BBEdit v10. ↩︎