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Textmate - first impressions

I never thought in my days using Dreamweaver, that I’d be excited about a new text editor coming to OS X. However, I’ve been looking forward to trying out Textmate, as some very bold claims were being made about it. These claims irked me a bit, as it seemed to ignore some very good text editors already available, such as skEdit, SubEthaEdit and, of course, BBEdit. I use all 3, with the emphasis on skEdit (especially for writing css).

So, today Textmate is out, and a surprising number of people have written to me, asking me what I think of it. I found this a little odd, maybe everyone knows I’m a new software junkie, willing to try out every new release of anything. Anyway, I thought I would post my initial thoughts here. This will be slightly unfair, as I’ll be comparing it to other editors that have time to mature and develop.

First, starting with the positive, What I like:

  • Project view in a drawer. This is something I would like skEdit to adopt, particularly the function buttons at the bottom of the drawer giving access to things like adding new folders. my only complaint here is that the text looks slightly cramped compared to other drawer displays.
  • ‘Folding’: Tags or css rules can be collapsed and expanded to hide them. This is something I can imagine myself using quite a bit.
  • Clipboard history: A nice idea, and works similar to Quicksilver’s function with the same name

What I don’t:

  • Preferences: Or rather the lack of them. Settings are meant to stick, but thats not a behaviour I’m comfortable with. The first thing I do when first open any new app is look though the preferences and see what’s available.
  • Fonts: Despite the fact that a standard system font panel is included as a menu item, only fixed width fonts are supported. I’m one of those bad people who like to code in Lucida Grande, and it looked awful. Apparently, support for non fixed-width fonts is not planned in the future either. If this is case, the font panel should be removed.
  • The icon. I feel bad for picking on BBEdit 8.
  • I didn’t find the snippets function as easy to use as skEdit. I prefer setting key combos to trigger my snippets.

Features I missed from other Text Editors (with the proviso that I may have missed these somehere):

  • Code hinting was the thing that turned me onto skEdit. It speeds up coding so much, I’m not sure I could go back to not using it.
  • No code navigation. BBEdit, SubEthaEdit and skEdit all provide a single menu for jumping to a particular tag or css rule.
  • Images aren’t previewed when selecting them in the project view, but you get garbled code instead. It should either preview them or not display anything at all.

So will it replace skEdit as my main development tool? No, but, I get the impression that Textmate is aimed at serious programmers, people who deal with ruby/perl and the like, not those like me who just want to bash out HTML and CSS. skEdit is still the right tool for me, but I’ll keep an eye on Textmate.

skEdit

I’ve just been trying out a piece of Mac OS X shareware that will be of interest to anyone who hand codes HTML and CSS. Although Dreamweaver 2004 finally allows code-hinting in CSS, it runs SO slow on my mac – I just can’t bear it. Until a G5 becomes a possibility, I’ve been using BBEdit and Transmit to do the same job, but I’ve missed the advantage of code hinting.

Just out of interest I did a search for ‘OSX’ and ‘code-hinting’ and found something called skEdit, a cocoa text editor created by an 18 yr old student in Cleveland. The more I use it, the more I love it. Here’s why:

  • Code Hinting! Unlike Dreamweaver, the code hinting is persitent. When I’ve gone back and deleted a line, the hinting box doesn’t reappear unless I start a new line. Not here, its there whenever you need it. It automatically creates closing tags, and when using code-hinting in css, it automatically adds the semi-colon after each line.
  • Also like Dreamweaver, it has a useful snippets panel, where you can keep pieces of code you want to reuse. Unlike DW, it allows you to choose a point in the snippet where the insertion point goes, or how the snippet will wrap around a selected text. All labour saving stuff.
  • There is a site view on the left, which gives really fast switching between documents. Rather than having umpteen documents open, I can switch between pages with a single click. The site view shows your site with a folder-tree style, so its easy to see everything.
  • It has built-in FTP, but this is fairly basic. It seems that this feature has just been added, and that it will improve in future releases.

I’ve only been using it for a day, so these are just the things I’ve discovered so far. It may not have the full gamut of BBEdits features, but then again this only costs $20! That’s a mere £12 of your British pounds! It does so much more than I’ve mentioned, take a look. A look at the guys site will show you that he cares about web standards too.

Downsides? I have to be blunt, its interface and application icons are pretty ugly. This an area where guys like Panic get it so right – the icons and interface have an OS X feel that makes using the software a pleasure. Also, it would be good if it gets FTP and savable favourites like Transmit.


Despite the cosmetics, its quickly taken over as my main coding application.