Before using TextMate I’d switched and swapped which editor I used regularly. Sometimes I’d settle for the bloated features of an IDE like Zend Studio, and other times just shoot for something simple and fast like Mac OS X’s TextEdit. I never really found the balance, and like most people I have spoken to, they and I found BBEdit to be too old (and too ugly) for any real productive use.
So why does TextMate appeal so much? I guess it’s attention to detail, and the developers ability to prioritize what features the user really wants. It includes all the basics you would expect of your average editor, code highlighting, auto indentation, some level of auto completion etc etc. However, it also adds to these, by including features like snippets, code block collapsing and a project file browser. These are features that won’t make the software bloated, but go a long way for increasing your productivity and appreciation of the simple added extras.
My favorite of the three features I mentioned above is snippets. This is one of TextMate’s features that I took some time to really get used to. I’m one of those people who tends to retype code over and over again, just because I don’t want remove my fingers from the keyboard to select and copy a block of code. Snippets allows me to assign a keyword to code that I regularly have to retype, then all I need to do is type this keyword and hit tab. The code magically appears and even lets you tab between input locations within it. This has been an amazing time saver, TextMate already has hundreds of snippets pre-bundled.
I’m also amazed by the rate and amount of updates that come out for the software. I subscribe to the bleeding edge releases, so I receive all the unofficial builds. Even so, I’ve found all the releases so far to be perfectly stable, and allow me to take advantage of features before their official release. TextMate includes it’s own auto-update feature, which is easily the best that I’ve seen. I hate auto updates, they’re annoying and always get in the way. TextMate’s is quite the opposite however, updates download quickly and unobtrusively, and everything is automated. It even removes your old copy, copies itself over to you applications directory and then restarts. This all happens in less that 15 seconds for me. Perfect.
TextMate does have a couple of features missing that I would really like to see included. CVS or Subversion support would be a great bonus, that would cut my checking in time down dramatically. Also, auto completion of code would be great for all the PHP work I do. This is lesser of a wish however, as I’m finding that I memorize far more functions by having to remember them and not rely on the prompt window to back me up! I’m sure that these features will come, but again they are lower down on the priority list as they are not so important for the masses.
If you are a Mac user and find BBEdit ugly and slow, give TextMate a shot. It has a free trial and is cheap (around â€šÃ‡Â¨39). I paid for a license within the first week of using it, it’s that good. They also just redesigned their website which now looks very polished compared with the old one. I’m looking forward to continued updates, and with version 1.5 just released, I’ve got a whole bunch of new features to test out!