BareBones Software BBEdit 9

Let’s take a quick trip back to 1991.

BareBones Software BBEdit 9
  • BareBones Software BBEdit 9
  • BareBones Software BBEdit 9
  • BareBones Software BBEdit 9
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • Fast and efficient, non-modal search/find makes us grin manically, ability to edit in results windows

Cons

  • Can be complex to set up and tweak, text-completion is and sluggish, UI feels dated, no Windows version

Bottom Line

Overall, BBEdit 9 is an essential update for existing users, but, regretfully, there’s little truly remarkable here to stop Web designers and coders with itchy feet defecting to the likes of TextMate and Coda.

Would you buy this?

Let’s take a quick trip back to 1991. Photoshop was still on Version 1 and Windows 3.0 had only recently been belched out. In Mac-land, System 6 ruled the roost, and TeachText (SimpleText’s forerunner) was the editor of choice. Rumour has it that BBEdit evolved as a bare-bones editor to usurp TeachText and deal with Apple’s application’s inability to process files larger than 32KB.

Fast-forward 17 years and BBEdit can hardly be classified as bare-bones anymore. The feature-packed editor includes support for a huge array of programming languages, has absurdly long menus, and preferences that make your head swim.

However, in the area where it matters most — working with text — it’s still something of a champion. Eschewing page layout and text formatting, it’s carved a niche in the realms of tech-heavy Web design.

This new update isn’t as radical as those added for BBEdit 8, which ushered in major changes to the application’s interface, among other things. Instead, refinements and evolution are the order of the day. Several changes are likely to make seasoned BBEdit users exclaim, “about bloody time”, not least non-modal search and find windows.

You’re finally no longer forced into Copy/Find/Paste/Don’t Find/Copy/Find/Paste madness to set up multiple Find & Replace pairings. Now, the dialog happily works alongside your documents, meaning you’re never locked out — you can even run a bunch of searches and/or replacements simultaneously.

It’s this thinking that’s kept BBEdit relevant, rather than trying to distract users with gloss and arbitrary interface changes (take note, Adobe), and the workflow smoothing continues into results windows.

Now, rather than continually opening, editing and closing documents from results windows, you can edit and save directly within them. Again, this is a minor change, conceptually at least, but in terms of workflow, it’s almost magical and a huge timesaver.

Other small tweaks also prove handy, making the programme quicker to work with: a live character- and word-count display (which can be toggled between a selection and the entire document) is great, and Find Differences provides more usable results for file comparisons.

Elsewhere, the update is more hit-and-miss. The new Scratchpad provides a constantly saved space for dumping text and notes, and everything’s automatically retained after a relaunch.

That sounds great, but it’s unclear how practical users will find it — we forgot about it pretty quickly. Projects — the revamped File Groups — are somewhat useful for quick access to a project’s files and rifling through them, but it’s too easy to end up with loads of open files. And, sadly, the new text-completion feature feels inferior to that offered by BBEdit’s rivals, rarely offering what you want, but regularly displaying lots of things you don’t.

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