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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor Pick of the Week
TextWrangler icon The macosxhints Rating:
9 of 10
[Score: 9 out of 10]
Up until very recently, TextWrangler was Bare Bones' entry-level text editing product, priced at $49. But at Macworld Expo, they announced a new price: $0. For me, this was great news, as I don't need the full power of BBEdit enough to merit its $199 purchase price. TextWrangler takes the best of the old free BBEdit Lite, and adds a bunch of useful new features, including:
  • Single- and multi-file search and replace
  • Find differences between two files
  • Supports a bunch of BBEdit's plug-ins
  • Integrated OS X spell checker
  • Multiple clipboards
  • Syntax coloring for many programming languages
  • Open files on FTP and SFTP servers
There's lots more, too -- check out the product page for links to multiple feature pages. TextWrangler has many of BBedit's features, and most of its look and feel, for a lot less money. For me, it does nearly anything I think I could ever need in a text editor -- I only marked it down for two reasons. First, I like to be able to view multiple documents in one split-screen window; you can't do that in TextWrangler (or BBedit, for that matter). Second, I wish it had HTML tag completion -- in jEdit, for instance, if you open a tag (<li>), then as soon as you type </, jEdit will type the closing li> for you. In TextWrangler, you have to type the closing tags yourself. But for free, it's really hard to beat the feature set in TextWrangler.

As an added bonus, if you're in the market for the full BBEdit program, you should download and register TextWrangler. When you do, you'll get an email with a URL that offers a generous discount on BBEdit -- $70 off the $199 list price!
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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: merlyn on Jan 19, '05 09:58:51AM
If you want a very powerful editor, which has everything you wanted and more, and yet for free, check out the Carbonized Emacs distributions. You can build it directly from the CVS HEAD if you want daily (sometimes hourly) bugfixes and improvements, if you've installed the free Apple developer tools (CVS Root is :ext:anoncvs@savannah.gnu.org:/cvsroot/emacs). Or if you google for "Carbonized emacs", you can find a .dmg package updated occasionally.

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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: Cap'n Hector on Jan 19, '05 11:11:09AM

But I don't want to learn the EMACS key combos, and I don't need yet another e-mail program, IRC client, CVS client, debugger, and news reader.

It might be nice if EMACS could do RSS…has that been added yet?



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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: hunterx11 on Jan 19, '05 08:18:52PM

You probably should, since they work in every Cocoa application.



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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: gidds on Jan 20, '05 01:14:26AM

Mmm. As someone once said, EMACS isn't a bad OS, but to compete with Linux &c it needs a better text editor...

(Personally, I do quite a bit of fairly complicated editing, and I find vi's powerful regular-expression based commands invaluable. But for basic text entry, I rather like the simplicity of TextEdit.)

---
Andy/



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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: merlyn on Jan 20, '05 08:32:13AM
You're dissing emacs because vi has "powerful regular expression commands"? Hey, emacs has those, and more. In fact, if you can't get your fingers out of "vi" mode, you can even emulate vi in an emacs buffer, and still have an emacs behind the scenes to do the rest of everything.

In fact, I haven't seen a single thing in this thread that emacs cannot do... and for free. Plus the fact that GNU emacs has a huge community behind it, so you can get books, websites, help sheets, bolt-ons, commercial training, etc etc. There's nothing even close to this in the OSX world.

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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: wdnx on Jan 20, '05 11:38:35AM
In fact, I haven't seen a single thing in this thread that emacs cannot do...

Here's something I haven't seen it do yet: Get its fans to stop talking about it like it's the second coming.

I used to use emacs all the time before I switched to the mac, but at the time I switched, there wasn't a very good version to be had for OS X (the terminal version felt very wrong, and carbonised emacs was very young and fairly buggy), so I switched over to vim, and you know what? It wasn't the end of the world... Sure, I had to learn some new commands, but you get the basics down in a day or so (actually, I found that I liked the vim style of commands a little bit more). For tips and add-ons vim.org was quite helpful for a guy just starting out.

Now I use TextMate. Why? Because it feels o bit more like home to me. And also because I'm not going to treat some text editor like it's a religion.

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-30-

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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: lrivers on Jan 20, '05 04:14:20PM

You are funny! I rarely crack up reading comments, but I did reading yours, glad I wasn't drinking anything at the time!



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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: jen729w on Jan 20, '05 09:42:44PM

Yeah, and if I recall correctly, the fancy carbon version is something like 170MB!? Christ alive! You'd want it to wake you up in the morning with a cup of tea for that.*

j.
*I believe it does this, with this simple emacs command: ctrl-hyphen-space, wait fourteen seconds, hold down "x" and blow your nose simultaneously, then repeat "I believe in emacs" thirty six times.



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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: haumann on Jan 19, '05 01:40:45PM

Merlin,
I'm afraid I don't see the advantage you're suggesting. Why would I want a text editor that gets "daily (sometimes hourly) bugfixes and improvements"? I suppose that's OK if there's no workflow to consider.



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Frequent improvements is a bad thing?
Authored by: jacius on Jan 20, '05 01:40:36AM

Just because there are hourly bugfixes doesn't mean you are compelled to update hourly. If the current version is fine, you might not upgrade ever. If there's a particular bug that's bothering you, you might update as soon as its fixed (instead of waiting several months for some company to release a new version). It's not like a popup is going to appear every hour and not let you work until you get the new version.

Re: Emacs in general:

I recently added an iBook to my formerly linux-only selection of computers (actually, I only have two, including the new one... oh well). In linux, I had been using vim exclusively, and at various times had played around with Emacs to see "what all the fuss was about." I never got into it, because a) it seemed quite bloated with things that I would never need; b) I didn't like Emacs' tab key functionality (automagically indent the current line, rather than insert a tab char); and c) it was hard on my pinky reaching for the Ctrl key for all those "crazy key combos".

Then I got a Paul Graham book about Lisp (_ANSI_Common_Lisp_) for Giftmas, so I thought I'd try Emacs on my iBook (Emacs and Lisp go together like something and something). The previous problems of bloat, indentation, and the Ctrl key came up again, but this time I got around them by a) shrugging and forgetting about bloat, as I have disk space to spare and not much on the Mac is particularly "lean" anyway; b) shrugging and not being obsessive about doing my own indentation, which I've come to realize is quite tedious; and c) remapping Caps Lock to Ctrl via uControl.

Problems solved. I ran through the tutorial for about the third time, and this time it stuck, and I got the hang of Emacs. It takes some time to get used to, and it's practically required to go through the myriad settings and customize it to your liking. I miss the powerful search/replace regex stuff of vim, but I'm sure it's possible to do similar stuff in Emacs, I just haven't discovered how yet.

All that said, Emacs is not for everyone. For example, remembering the common keys might be difficult for senile old ladies (no offense to senile old ladies intended). Although people who like to complain about new and different things will probably find lots of useful material for the first week or so of using Emacs. ;)



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Search and Replace / Auto indent
Authored by: jago_lebow on Jan 20, '05 01:44:13PM

M-% for search and replace in emacs. Its funny because the auto tabbing is probably the reason I haven't switched to an OSX text editor. most native mac osx apps have great multi lingual support (emacs has multilingual support, see my hint about it) and they just look nicer ;) . But the auto indent is such a time saver for me, it helps you to find missing parens or ;'s. And I'm sure if it is something that you don't want you can always get rid of it.

I also love the built in 'scp/ftp' no other apps needed.



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TextMate: A full-featured text editor
Authored by: Azark on Jan 19, '05 10:57:58AM
And if you want a powerful text editor that looks like a real OS X app check TextMate (macromates.com).
Lots of nice features (code folding, macros, command, etc.) and constantly improved by its dev.
Nice community around it too, check the wiki.

It's not free but really worth the 49$.

---
iMac G5 1GB SD 10.3.7 /
G4 400 AGP 768MB 10.3.7 /
G4 400 AGP 768MB OSX Server 10.3.7

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TextMate: A full-featured text editor
Authored by: caesurae on Jan 19, '05 12:24:03PM
this comment really wasn't all that helpful. at least the emacs comment was regarding a _free_ alternative, nevertheless, i hope this doesn't digress into a 'my favorite text editor is better than yours' thread. and honestly, i really doubt TextMate is worth the $50.

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TextMate: A full-featured text editor
Authored by: zebradung on Jan 19, '05 07:57:29PM

Yeah ... maybe $50 is a good purchase ... but free is free.

Trying TextWrangler for just a short time & I'm sold ...

---
-- PGP

G5 DP2.5 / 2.5GB RAM

It's so fast I get tired just watching it ...



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TextMate: A full-featured text editor
Authored by: wdnx on Jan 20, '05 12:00:45PM
Yeah ... maybe $50 is a good purchase ... but free is free.

Well here's something you get for your $50 that you won't get with TextWrangler: A developer who openly solicits suggestions for improvement, and who will actually tell you which new features he's planning on adding and when he's hoping to get them done by. Add to that a fairly rapid release schedule, so you don't have to wait 18 months to get those features you've been waiting for (i.e. you don't have to wait for FTP compatibility because he still has to add another handful of features -- the important stuff gets released when its completed). I'm sure the releases will slow down as the codebase starts to stabilize, but I don't see the "roadmap" disappearing.

I know that it's Bare Bones policy to not comment on future releases, and they have some good reasons for choosing this policy. But as a user, it's very maddening. I had to drop their mail client because (among other, lesser issues) they would never say if they were even considering adding IMAP support.

Anyway, you can use whatever editor you like... it's no skin off my nose. I just wanted to point out that you are getting something for that $50

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-30-

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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: kirkmc on Jan 19, '05 10:59:09AM
Another plus, especially for those who work with Terminal but who don't like using command-line text editors, is the Text Wrangler command-line tool. The program installs the tool, and you simply type:

edit [filename]
to open a file in Text Wrangler. This is similar to BBEdit's command-line tool.

---
Read my blog: Kirkville -- http://www.mcelhearn.com
Musings, Opinion and Miscellanea, on Macs, iPods and more

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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: garbanzito on Jan 27, '05 04:36:13PM

and it has a command-line diff, twdiff; i use the BBEdit/TW diff often (i own a BBEdit 6.5 list at home, but at work have to use whatever's free), but it isn't always right for what i want; it's good for analysis, but harder to just get a list of what is different, as i can with plain diff (which i might then pipe into TW for a few quick regexp transformations)

also, not mentioned yet, and an advantage over some other editors (including emacs and the old BBEdit Lite) is very good Unicode support



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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: lassowitz on Jan 19, '05 11:04:56AM

I would recommend Smultron ("http://smultron.sourceforge.net/"). It has all the same selling points as TextWrangler, but has the added "feature" of being an open-source development.

Our office switched to it exclusively after both BBEdit Lite and SubEthaEdit became commercial products. Check it out...



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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: KingDoom on Jan 19, '05 02:13:51PM

Yes, I second Smultron. It's perfect for my light-to-moderate text editing needs. It's Cocoa and it's free.



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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: webbix on Jan 19, '05 07:12:27PM

I know nothing of Smultron and it is likely a good option. I would only point out the TextWrangler is basically what BBedit Lite was. It is Free.



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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: KingDoom on Jan 20, '05 02:31:28PM

Yes, TextWrangler is free, but it does not feel like an OS X app, it feels rather clunky. Because Smultron is done in Cocoa, it feels more consistent with most of my other apps (e.g., iTunes, Safari, etc.).

Read this. http://smultron.sourceforge.net/faq.html



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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: vanthal on Jan 20, '05 04:53:44AM

Yeah, Smultron is my choice now. SubEthaEdit is very nice, but I end up with too many windows to manage. Smultron and TextWrangler both solve this with their MDI approach. I had a bad start with TextWrangler after it opened a few PHP files and destroyed the formatting around comments - lines which were fine in my other editors ran together in TextWrangler, usually when single-line comments were used. One thing I miss in Smultron is a list of functions in the open document, which SubEthaEdit and TextWrangler both have. Hopefully Smultron will gain this feature in time.



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I vote for Smultron as well.
Authored by: Viridian on Jan 20, '05 11:26:52AM

I used SubEthaEdit as well, which is free for non-commercial use, but I really had no need for the Rendezvous file-sharing feature, as nice as it is.
Smultron is more than enough for my modest needs, and I particularly like the fact that I can open a folder and all the files will appear in the same window, instead of multiple windows like SubEthaEdit, which makes life much easier. It also supports syntax-coloring, auto-indent, etc. You can even turn off the brushed metal appearance (the default) with a checkbox in preferences. Smultron is a very elegant and well thought-out application. Kudos to the author.



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TextWrangler: takes over your machine :(
Authored by: sighsigh on Jan 19, '05 12:17:47PM

just tried installing it on my test laptop under 10.3.7 and the little blighter promptly did a M$ thingy and took over every single text file sig type on the entire machine.... its just taken me 20 minutes to set them back to there originals!

NOT the kind of behavour I want to see outside M$....

Very unimpressed.



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TextWrangler: takes over your machine :(
Authored by: Shawn Parr on Jan 19, '05 03:43:30PM

Hm, when I installed it I didn't have this happen.

Currently I am on a workstation logged in remotely via LDAP though, so I will install on my home machine tonight and if it happens will report back.

My account is an admin on the network though, so I can install/modify settings on all the machines.



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TextWrangler: takes over your machine :( - Follow Up
Authored by: Shawn Parr on Jan 19, '05 08:21:43PM

I have installed this at home now. Still nothing out of the box associated with TextWrangler. Plain text and rtf are still associated with TextEdit. Old BBEdit Lite files are still associated with BBEdit.

I currently have no files associated with TextWrangler

But will soon. The terminal edit command is a great feature. :)



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re: terminal edit command
Authored by: sjk on Feb 01, '05 09:43:38PM

And SubEthaEdit has a "see" command line interface.



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TextWrangler: takes over your machine :(
Authored by: Makoto on Jan 19, '05 06:08:29PM

It didn't do that to me, either.




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TextWrangler: takes over your machine :(
Authored by: rmsiegel on Jan 19, '05 06:34:52PM
TextWrangler: takes over your machine :(

It does nothing of the sort. The OS recognized that it was capable of opening those files which otherwise had not file type or application binding, and so it used TextWrangler's icon for those files. However, the files are unmodified, and if you want to you can select one of them and use the Finder's "Get Info" command to change the binding for all files of that type.



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TextWrangler: doesn't take over your machine :(
Authored by: lrivers on Jan 19, '05 06:40:14PM

Well, for that matter, so do most other text editors. Typically, all you have to do is pick 1 file with the offending extension, then open the Finder's "Get Info" inspector, and switch the default app with the "Open With" part. Shouldn't take 20 minutes...



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TextWrangler: takes over your machine :(
Authored by: Jwink3101 on Jan 19, '05 08:04:56PM

I had the same experience with the trial of BBedit. Now when i come across a changed file i will just change it back.



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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: caesurae on Jan 19, '05 12:38:32PM
Hmm...a free app from Bare Bones Software that includes syntax coloring, ftp/sftp support, as well as the other great BBEdit-like features...impressive! :o)

But just for the record...BBEdit Lite offers "Single- and multi-file search and replace" and also "Supports a bunch of BBEdit's plug-ins", both of which are listed as new features in the hint.

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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: robg on Jan 19, '05 01:28:49PM

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply those were only 'new' features, just that they were useful features.

BBEdit Lite was great, but (as far as I know) it's no longer available, as TextWrangler took its spot.

-rob.



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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: lolopb on Jan 19, '05 01:50:54PM

Well, BBEdit Lite is still available on BareBones FTP server :

ftp://ftp.barebones.com/pub/freeware/BBEdit_Lite_612.smi.hqx

Exactly the same place where you can find TextWrangler.

But, I would recommand TW now as it's more up to date than BBEdit Lite which has not been updated for long and offers less features for the same price. And TW can use BBEdit compatible plugins as well...

About completions, why not try :

http://c-command.com/bbautocomplete/



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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: craig on Jan 19, '05 02:25:35PM


Another new feature of TextWrangler is support for BBEdit's Text Factories, which enables you to apply numerous text transformations to multiple files.



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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: DougAdams on Jan 19, '05 03:37:43PM
Get Tex-Edit Plus. BBEdit is dandy, but Tex-Edit Plus is so 'scriptable it'll make yer Mac spin.

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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: lolopb on Jan 19, '05 06:14:40PM

I suppose you never had a look at BareBones website about AppleScript, these guys are crazy with AppleScript and it seems TW has most of (if not all) the scripting ability of BBEdit.

But I have to agree, Tex-Edit Plus is also highly scriptable, but a little bit more expensive now, if we consider that this news was mainly motivated by BareBones decision to offer TW (and to refund people who had bought version 1, which is rare).



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For HTML/PHP, check out Taco
Authored by: Tulse on Jan 19, '05 04:27:57PM
If you need an editor to do HTML/PHP coding, I'd suggest Taco -- it does syntax colouring, validation, document trees, all sorts of good stuff. And it is also free.

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just tried Taco, looks great
Authored by: wilton on Jan 20, '05 05:04:08AM

Thanks for suggesting Taco, looks like a great editor.



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TextWrangler: A full-featured (and now free) text editor
Authored by: Eravau on Jan 19, '05 04:39:31PM

Sheesh...and I thought the vi vs. emacs wars were bad.



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TextWrangler vs. nedit: will TW recapture mindshare?
Authored by: Bioinformatics on Jan 19, '05 05:07:26PM

I once used BBEdit Lite as my editor of choice, then migrated as it aged. I considered buying BBEdit, but when BareBones lifted the price from US$79, I abandoned the idea.

After trying many editors, I've settled on nedit, an editor that rarely seems to be mentioned in the context of free editors. It'll be interesting to see if the now-free TextWrangler regains my mind-share. For those you have yet to settle on one editor or a flexible about it, do look at TextWrangler. I can recommend it.

Let's compare some aspects of the two. Might help to put TW into perspective for some, perhaps.

nedit reasonably powerful without having too many unwanted "extras" and is cross-platform (I program on both Linux and OSX, with Windows as a client occasionally). nedit has tabs, split windows, smart indenting, brace balancing, rectangular cut'n'paste, shell interaction, macros, user-tweakable syntax colouring, strong searching, etc. Enough for me.

TW has all these things, too, although its not cross-platform AFAIK.

TW has a graphical diff, although you can get this via Apple's Developer Tools also. (Unix diff is so bad I wrote my own replacement...) Editing over FTP could be useful and may compensate for the lack of a Linux edition by accessing the Linux files over the local network. I certainly will continue to use nedit on Linux, however. Nice to see TW can use sftp (vs. plain ftp). The Cocoa interface and proper Apple key bindings will definitely help - one peeve I do have with nedit is the use of control key strokes; it is consistent within nedit across platforms, but inconsistent with Apple (nedit is X-based).

The use of a drawer (TW) rather than tabs (nedit) to switch between open documents is interesting; drawers take more screen space, but allow full filenames and more files to be visible. Both TW and nedit have a pull-down menu in addition to the tabs or drawer. Both applications can have multiple windows with several documents in each. In both you can move documents from one window to another, although TW's approach is cleaner. Drag the name in the document drawer to the drawer in the other window. Done! If you drag the name to an (empty) open window, as opposed to the drawer, the contents of the document are copied to the new window, leaving the old document in the original window - that'll be very useful for working with templates. The implementation of this very slick, typical of good OSX apps.

Better stop boring! I hope this gives a quick glimpse at TW's abilities.



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Am I missing something?
Authored by: garethwi on Jan 20, '05 02:10:17PM

Am I missing out on something here?

I do all of my PHP coding on XCode, and it works just fine. It handles projects, multiple languages, and just about everything I need. Plus it comes with your mac.

Could anyone tell me why this is not a good idea? I keep trying these different editors/ide's, and always end up returning to XCode.



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jEdit?
Authored by: Lefty on Jan 21, '05 09:57:35AM

How does jEdit (www.jedit.org) fit in with all of these other text editors? That's what I've been using and I am very happy with most of the features it offers. (I would like to see it handle large files better though.)

I would sure like to see a text editor shootout to compare features.



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