jb… a weblog by Jonathan Buys

Why BBEdit?

I’m not a “developer” per se, but in my role as a devops engineer I frequently need to write code. That code can either be configuration code like .yaml or .json files, or shell scripts, or occasionally an entire application in Python. I spend a lot of time in the terminal, but I spend an equal amount of time in my text editor. My main requirements for a text editor is that it be equally fast and powerful, but not try to do much more than just be a text editor. I have my terminal a quick command-tab away, so its very easy to jump back and forth, I don’t need a terminal built into my text editor. I also need my text editor to be completely accurate. What I see has to be what is written to the file, no “hidden syntax”. That’s why I prefer BBEdit. BBEdit has powerful text editing features, but it’s not overwhelming. It’s not trying to be your entire operating system.

In fact, BBEdit fits perfectly in the macOS environment. I used to be a dedicated vim user, but over time the context switching between the different macOS applications and vim became distracting. One of the great things about macOS is that once you learn the basic keyboard combos they apply almost everywhere, unless the application you are using is not a good Mac citizen. Vim has it’s own set of keyboard combos, endlessly configurable and expandable. I started forgetting my own shortcuts. BBEdit uses the macOS standard keyboard combos, many inherited from emacs, so if you learn how to navigate text in TextEdit you can apply those same shortcuts to BBEdit.

But, BBEdit is also powerful. You can include custom text snippets for autocompletion, run scripts to manipulate text, and use regular expressions for detailed search and replace operations. With the latest release you can also setup a language server for more powerful syntax checking and completion. BBEdit has been in active development for 30 years, and in that time the developer, Rich Siegel has continuously improved it and kept it up to date with the ever-changing architectures of macOS. BBEdit feels just as much at home on my M1 MacBook Pro as it did on the Macintosh of the 90’s.

BBEdit hits the right balance of power and simplicity for my workflow. It’s fast, reliable, and fits perfectly in the Mac environment. For as long as Rich is developing it, BBEdit will be in my Dock. I don’t know what will happen when he decides to retire, but I’m hoping that decision is many, many years away.

macos, bbedit, programming