BBEdit 10 Awfully Close to Perfect

The latest version of Bare Bones Software's text editor offers revamped HTML tools and UI.

For many people, being in "real IT" means that you ignore the word processor in your corporate-issue office suite in favor of a text editor. After all, a text editor, if only at its simplest (vi, anyone?), is likely to be on almost any system one has to deal with. But when you write code for a living, sometimes you want more than the operating system's text editor, with its minimalist feature support. When a full-blown IDE is more headache than one needs, an intelligent text editor fills the gap nicely. Bare Bones Software's BBEdit is a perfect example of the genre.

BBEdit may be the Swiss Army knife/Leatherman of developer tools for the Mac platform. That's because it can parse a wide range of languages right out of the box, providing function, navigation and syntax coloring as well as language-specific behavior.

Click here to view eWEEK Labs' images of BBEdit 10 in action.

Although the ability to interpret the assembly language of the Motorola 68000 processor might simply be there for historical reasons, more conventional languages such as HTML and SQL are child's play for BBEdit. Even my attempts to muddle some otherwise relatively well-formed HTML and SQL code failed to throw the software. BBEdit also supports syntax-aware formatting for common scripting languages, including Perl, PHP, Python and Ruby on Rails.

The user interface in the latest release, BBEdit 10, has been reworked a bit, with lists of recently used documents and new project management features, including the ability to save windows displaying multiple documents as a project. Project packages now by default include a dedicated scratchpad and Unix shell worksheet, providing a convenient place for project notes in code and human language.

For those not familiar with the idea of a shell worksheet, this is a BBEdit feature that was introduced roughly a decade ago, which is in turn based on the user interface of the old Macintosh Programmer's Workshop. In many respects, it's a mashup of a terminal window and a text document. The worksheet metaphor allows users to run command strings-at least, those that don't require interactivity-from within an editable environment.

The HTML markup tools have also been overhauled in BBEdit 10 to now allow the use of any available attribute when creating or editing an element or an element's attributes. The application presents valid "completions" for the valid attributes of the element. The preview window can now be modified with adjustable Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and reviewing templates, for working with partial page content.

This release of BBEdit adds a bit more support for cloud-based configuration of the software. Application support data can now be maintained in a Dropbox folder, allowing users to share supporting files between machines running BBEdit-subject, of course, to the terms of the license. (In the case of a single-user license for BBEdit, that would mean one office computer plus one at home.)