July 2014 by Tobias Günther

Finding the Right Text Editor

There's definitely no shortage of text editors on the Mac. Quite the contrary: today, developers can choose from more great tools than ever. With this abundance of tools, however, the question is not how to find a "good" tool per se - but how to find the right tool for your needs. Luckily, text editors differ vastly in features and philosophy. By determining what general type of tool you're looking for, your options suddenly become manageable.

The Full-Blown Allrounder

Some applications provide much more than just text-editing capabilities. Though tempting at first, you don't have to automatically go for the "more is better" approach: Some people enjoy having a single tool for (almost) all of their development jobs, while others prefer to have many specialized, focused tools.

Panic's Coda is definitely one of the most full-featured development tools on the Mac. It aims to be your FTP client, your version control tool, and MySQL database editor. Along with its built-in web inspector and CSS tools, it's a perfect choice for web professionals.


JetBrains offers a whole range of development tools. Depending on the concrete programming language you're using, you might be more interested in their WebStorm, RubyMine, or PhpStorm apps. Taking WebStorm as an example, it features FTP deployment, a JavaScript debugger, and a unit-test runner.


The True Text Editor

A different kind of application concentrates solely on a single job: making code editing as good as possible. These very focused, traditional text editors are still quite popular amongst developers of all kinds.

BBEdit could almost be listed in the "allrounder" category: features like its HTML preview, code cleanup, and an extremely powerful search go beyond simple text editing. Also nice to know: it's one of the tools with the longest history on the Mac, originally published in 1992 (yes, that's last century).


Another very popular editor is Sublime Text. It comes with a very stripped down user interface and a special "distraction free mode". Being available for Mac, Windows, and Linux, it's the perfect match for people that (have to) work on multiple systems.


Chocolat probably offers the most minimalist and beautiful interface in this category. As Textmate's inofficial successor, it comes with similar features (including support for Textmate's bundle system). However, features like its live error checking and window splitting make it an innovative app on its own.


The Fully Tweakable

Many developers are real tinkerers - and, as such, want to be able to tweak their tools, too. A new generation of editors was made with exactly this in mind: allowing users to configure and extend it at will.

Atom is one of these tools. Coming from GitHub, the makers of the popular code hosting service, Atom was made with extreme hackability in mind: you can tweak everything from its looks to its features.


Brackets is another app in this category. With Adobe as its founding father, it's also backed by a big player in the digital industry. Just like Atom, it's mainly targeted at Web developers - and also extremely bendable.



Of course there's more to choosing an editor than just looking at its specs. Most importantly, you simply have to like the tool, because you'll be spending countless hours with it. Have fun choosing your new toy!