July 26, 2021

BBEdit 14 iconBBEdit 14 icon

BBEdit 14 Protects You From “Untitled Text” Infestation

I promised myself that I wouldn’t update to the next version of BBEdit based on my experience with BBEdit 13. BBEdit 13: It Sucks a Little is what I had to say about it.

BBEdit got upgraded to version 14 and in spite of my best intentions I couldn’t resist1. I ponied up the upgrade price and proceeded to test it out.

I am not a coder. My perspective on BBEdit is that of a person who uses it to write. Blog posts, books, articles and doodles in text is what I use it for. If you are a coder, my comments on BBEdit are not going to be relevant to you.

As usual, BBEdit does a great job of documenting everything that has changed in their release notes. Go through that to get the complete picture.

Notes

BBEdit NotesBBEdit Notes

The biggest feature in this version is Notes.

The reactions on Twitter to this new feature:

Looking over BBEdit’s list of new features in 14, and that new Notes functionality - worth the upgrade cost just for that (dang, it’s like they know their user base!). I’ll be cracking open the ol’ wallet today.

Another one:

I also use Drafts, and I’m really looking forward to checking out this new Notes thingie in BBEdit 14. (I have slightly less than 305 untitled documents, but will probably benefit greatly.)

This was funny:

BBedit like: We learnt a lot of you use unsaved untitled texts as notices, so we built this as a new feature! Me: I DON’T HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT! Also Me:

Scary. 300+:

Just wanted to express my appreciation for the new @bbedit 14 notes feature. It will come in very handy, as one can see from the screen cap below with my 300+ untitled text documents.

I don’t know what these people are on about. I use the Scratchpad for random notes. The same Scratchpad for everything. If it results in something useful, I save the relevant content in a new document. I don’t have a single “untitled text” document hanging around. An unsaved document? What are you smoking, mate? Why would you do that? Save the damn file, put it where it belongs and move on to the next thing. I am realizing that mine is a minority opinion. BBEdit users do this all the time. The stability of BBEdit ensures that even if you quit the program, the documents you have unsaved show up in the next restart. You can have a bunch of these “untitled text” documents hanging around forever. The thought of it makes me break into hives2.

Notes is a way for BBEdit to provide a solution to this particular behavior. I am not sure it is going to work. BBEdit lets you have collections, folders really, and introduces organization to the collection of unsaved notes. I am not sure that these users are looking for organization. They would be improved by some. BBEdit provides that now. It is an interesting implementation of a feature which will benefit BBEdit users, if they use it.

I assigned a keyboard command to the New Note command (⌃⌥⌘N). It takes the first line of the note as the filename, giving you an idea of what the content is. Doesn’t need you to save anything or do anything extra. You can make a new note from the contents of your clipboard or from a selection of text in any program. Useful feature when you are doing research, collecting information. The notes are in a proprietary package in the BBEdit Application Support folder. You can see inside the package and find your notes. The file names don’t mean much, but the plain text files are available if you want to get at them.

The notes show up in the Open File by Name (⌘D) command, you can search for individual files if you have a large collection of these notes. Search is by filename, not content.

I use Projects in BBEdit. I assign folders of text files to a project and I can manage those folders in BBEdit. I create, edit, rename, move and delete these documents in the sidebar and that is the organization I am used to. I can have collections of documents in these projects depending on what particular writing project I am engrossed in at that moment. It works. The Notes function is a replication of that functionality in a new window. Unsure how useful this is going to be, but I am trying it out.

LSP and Anaconda

These are two new features geared for coders. LSP might let me use linters and there are good ones for Markdown syntax and general writing. I am going to explore adding those to BBEdit. But these are not critical to my life.

Clipboard Window

BBEdit 14 has brought back the Clipboard Window. Accessible from Edit>Show Clipboard, this gives you access to the many clips you have generated across an editing session. Unfortunately, these don’t last across restarts. I rely on Alfred for that feature and this new addition doesn’t add much to the workflow for me. Alfred lets me have unlimited clipboards from all the applications which use the system clipboard.

Application Icon

BBEdit Legacy IconBBEdit Legacy Icon

You get to choose BBEdit’s application icon. You can choose between Default, Classic, Legacy, or for the people who are incredibly resistant to change, the TextWrangler icon.

What Is the Allure of BBEdit?

Remember the following truism:

The best text editor is the one you know how to use.

I like BBEdit. I prefer Sublime Text and VSCode. I like Obsidian for my writing and note-taking. Why do I keep upgrading BBEdit?

In no particular order, these are my reasons for having BBEdit installed and current on my machines:

  • BBEdit is solid software. I cannot remember the last time I had a crash in BBEdit.
  • BBEdit deals with huge files without any problems. I can throw any size file at it, and it doesn’t balk.
  • This is deep software which does a whole host of things which even after almost two decades of using it, surprises me. Cat For Stitching Files Together
  • BBEdit has excellent support. An active forum, a responsive technical support group, a fantastic manual, and an active developer, all add to the pleasure of using this product.
  • It is gloriously old-school. It looks old-school. It gives you the opportunity to use a decades old application icon.

Why do I prefer Sublime Text, VSCode and Obsidian over BBEdit?

The plug-in ecosystem built around the competition blows BBEdit away. Look at Foam | A personal knowledge management and sharing system for VSCode.

Look at the following screen shots of a CSS file in both BBEdit and VSCode.

BBEdit CSSBBEdit CSS

VSCode CSSVSCode CSS

Which do you prefer?

Look at this Markdown Editing Plugin for Sublime Text. Nothing comparable exists on BBEdit.

The problem is that plugins/packages were an afterthought in the design of BBEdit. It was introduced as a competitive reaction and not integral to the product design. A lot of features of BBEdit are just that, reaction to competition, added on to the product without it being a part of the infrastructure and it shows. For instance, Go>Commands… (⇧⌘U), why does it show documents? It is meant to be commands. Compare that with the Sublime Text command palette.

BBEdit Command PaletteBBEdit Command Palette

Sublime Text Command PaletteSublime Text Command Palette

Which makes sense to you?

The Open File by Name command (⌘D). Why is it by file name? The quick open commands in Sublime Text and VSCode lets me search by file name and content.

This is Dr. Drang on his Blogging package:

One of the things I don’t like about BBEdit’s package system is that scripts and text filters from the same package don’t appear together. Scripts are in the scripts menu (or palette), and text filters are in the Text▸Apply Text Filter menu (or palette). But Keyboard Maestro can handle that.

To make his package useful, he has to introduce another tool, Keyboard Maestro to the task. This is what happens when you hack in a feature which wasn’t something that you designed your product for.

Don’t tell me that this is what happens when you have old software. Emacs and VIM are both older and they don’t have the same problems with their plugin infrastructure.

When I work in Sublime Text, VSCode, or Obsidian, I get the feeling that I am on the cutting edge of text editing. I don’t get that feeling in BBEdit. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Being old and staid, BBEdit has a certain security to it. But I am acutely aware that I am missing the new shiny. You can discount the new features if you don’t know about them. However, it becomes difficult to do when you are exposed to them.

Periodically I have the desire to go all-in on BBEdit. I know I could do all my work in it. But then I realize that it doesn’t do the things my other editors do and I am not sure I want to give those up.

The reality is that BBEdit is perfectly usable for someone like me who writes in Markdown. Using Markdown Service Tools - BrettTerpstra.com or Zettt/km-markdown-library: Markdown library for Keyboard Maestro., makes it possible to live in BBEdit and Markdown.

The competition however does a lot more.

I upgrade to the latest version of BBEdit because it is my back up text editor. I will come back to it and live in it, if I ever need to. That security is what I am paying for. I hope I never have to use it, but that is the reasoning behind me upgrading.

Conclusion

Once in a while, I find myself writing without a clear idea of where I am going. This post is an example of that. Sorry.

I like BBEdit. I like the competition more. I hope BBEdit users use the Notes feature. It is nice. I am going to stick to projects.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

Note: A few other reviews which are not as ambivalent as mine.

I found the following funny:

Dave Pell - @davepell: I don’t really need any of the @bbedit updates, but after all these years of happy usage, I buy every update. Old fogies of the internet unite! https://www.barebones.com

You might find this useful:

Script to Save all Untitled Text Documents as Notes


  1. I might have an addiction to text editors↩︎

  2. But that might be a function of my OCD.↩︎


macOS bbedit


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