BBEdit has long been known as the preeminent HTML and text editor for Mac.
Many of us were introduced to the program in its lite version, which, alas,
is no longer available. I started using the professional version when it
came bundled with Dreamweaver. Unfortunately, this lasted for only two versions
of the program and then was discontinued.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with BBEdit, let me first briefly describe
some of the myriad functions it can accomplish. Then I will point out the
new features that should intrigue veterans and neophytes alike.
Text Editor or Word Processor?
If you already have a word processor such as Microsoft Word or AppleWorks,
you may wonder why you need a text editor. These are two quite different
beasts, however, and perform very different tasks.
Most of you know that you can format your text with headings, styles, boxes,
and other layout features in a word processor. These programs are proprietary,
though, and add lots of metadata that make their documents impossible to
open in most other applications unless converters are available.
BBEdit can come to the rescue here. It will open any file from any program
and allow you to extract the usable portions of text from the gibberish and
metadata. Better still, if you have a document that suddenly won’t
open even in its native program because it has become corrupted, you can
use BBEdit to pull out the relevant text and paste it into a new document.
A Swiss Army Knife
What else can BBEdit do? Its features include support for the following:
Web Development: BBEdit is considered the best Mac HTML editor
out there, and its features include a complete set of HTML and CSS
tools, built in FTP
and SFTP, integration with Dreamweaver, a palette for entering
special HTML character entities, Web-safe color palette, color syntax
related languages, and page previewing.
Search: its search features include GREP (Global Regular Expression
Parser) style pattern-based searches and multi-file search and replace.
Text Handling: An integrated spell checker, display of tab
stops, line numbers, Unicode support, invisible characters, and the new
(more about that later) all make working with text a snap.
Programming: Syntax coloring provides support for over 20 programming
languages, comprehensive AppleScript support, integration with the
Mac OS X Perl environment,
Python, and Unix shell scripts, shell worksheets for storing
and executing shell command lines, and command line tools.
Extensibility: Through use of plug-ins and glossaries, you
can make BBedit even more useful. For instance, there is a PHP glossary
code snippets for over 6000 functions, control structures,
etc. It is based on PHP 5, but includes all functions for versions
3 and 4. (See the reference
links at the end of the article to find out where you can
get this glossary.)
Cool New Features
Now that I have you excited about what you can do with BBEdit, let's look
at some of the coolest new features Barebones added to this powerhouse.
Appearance improvements: The new version takes better advantage
of the aqua interface.
Current line highlighting: This is very useful for keeping your place when
you’re moving among multiple documents.
Text Transformation and Text Factories: BBEdit has always been strong in
its search and replace, regular expression matching, and file filtering.
In the past, such “text transformations” had to be done on one
document, with only one operation, at a time. Now, with “Text Factories”,
you can apply a series of transformations on any number of documents.
Furthermore, you can perform these operations in the background.
The new Document Drawer is opened and closed by clicking on
an icon at the top right of any open document window. It shows all open
you to easily switch among them. BBEdit has thus moved
from a single-document to multiple-document per window model.
Additional Source Control Management: In addition to CVS, there
is integration with the Perforce software configuration management
Customizable workspaces: Perhaps you want to have one set of palettes and
tools open when you’re developing a Web page, and you want another
set when you’re programming in C++. You can save
custom workspaces for various tasks.
Web Editing Features
My personal bias is towards the wonderful HTML editing features.
Starting a new document is as easy as filling in the new HTML
box. As you can see in the image, there is popup menu to choose
Unicode, the correct doctype, language, and other code as required
when creating a
document that conforms to Web Standards.
Some of my other favorite new Web development tools include
CSS 2.1 support: There is now support for CSS 2.1 and various
media such as Braille, handheld, screen, and print.
A built-in HTML Tidy tool will clean up and check syntax on
your XHTML or HTML document.
Preview Server: BBEdit takes advantage of the Mac OS X Apache installation—and
whatever other servers you have installed-- to preview
PHP, JSP or other dynamic pages without the need to specify the URL in
For those who seek “infinity and beyond”, there is an almost
unlimited capacity to configure BBEdit’s preferences to work your way.
These are just some of the preferences you’ll be able to set:
HTML Websites: This category allows you to set up as many Web
sites as you need.
Menu keys allow you to set up keystrokes for your frequently
The HTML Colors preference allows you to choose your colors
(whether Web-safe or the Apple Picker), layout, and color swatch size.
Application preferences give you access to Mac OS X services
and such functions as the ability to allow BBEdit to translate QuickTime
documents or refrain
from translating PDF.
The Documents preference has checkboxes for configuring the new “Document
Mac OS X Requirements
BBEdit 8 no longer runs in OS 9, and indeed
you must have Panther, Mac OS X 10.3.5, as
The full retail price of BBEdit is $199, and
there is an upgrade price of $49 from version
6.5. There are
several other ways to get your hands on a copy
for less than the full retail
price, however. If you have a copy of BBEdit
that came with Dreamweaver 1.0 or
you qualify for the $59 upgrade fee. If you
are lucky enough to still have a free copy
you can purchase
Finally, you can cross upgrade from Adobe GoLive
and Dreamweaver 3 and above for $129.
BBEdit has been called "a remarkably powerful text editor for a wide
range of users, from Web designers to programmers." If you have been
using earlier versions, you’ll surely want to upgrade to take advantage
of over 100 new features.