A few days ago I decided to start working on a school assignment; just some basic HTML stuff. My initial response to fire up Notepad++ proved useless, as I had moved to Mac OS X a few weeks ago. Unwilling to fire up my Windows emulation, I went looking for an alternative coding text editor.
To clarify, with code-writing applications, I mean (free) text editors that are willing to highlight your code – compilation and validation optional, but often included.
I discovered two things during that search. Firstly, Mac OS X has far less software alternatives than Windows, but second, nearly all of them are decent applications. Not having to sift through all that junk, I was quickly set up with a number of excellent coding text editor alternatives.
We’ll start out with a rather advanced application. If you want something lighter, check the application below, or scroll down to the bottom of the article for some additional recommendations.
Komodo Edit (based on Komodo IDE) is built on the Mozilla code base, and offers the same extendability. That’s right – you can download extensions for this one. Whatever the flavor, you’ll be able to fit Komodo Edit to your personal taste. Oh, and did I mention that it’s also available for Windows and Linux?
Komodo Edit offers syntax coloring and syntax validation, but the application also adds multi-language file support, autocomplete and Vi emulation to the package. If you’re a sucker for extra functionality, you’re right at home with Komodo Edit.
The coding text editor I ended up using is Smultron. Now mind, there’s a reason why I didn’t start the article with it. The developer, Peter Borg, has discontinued the work on the application. For now, you are still greeted by a near-blank page with a short explanation and the download links, but there is no guarantee of how long the application will remain available, or supported.
For now though, Smultron remains a great coding application. Comprehensive and accessible for beginners (like me), but also housing a number of tools for the more advanced user. Included are HTML, plist and XML validators, Java compilers, and several converters. Syntax highlighting is of course included for most popular (and unpopular) programming languages.
Vim is one of the older, and also more popular coding text editors in Linux. It’s open source and famous for being text-controllable. In other words, it hasn’t got a Graphical User Interface by default.
MacVim is a port of Vim to the Mac OS X platform. And yes, it does have a GUI (phew).
Since all the work on MacVim is done by ‘fans’, the application is usually a little behind on the official application. Just a little, though – MacVim tends to be quick on the ball, and is a rock solid text/coding application.
At the core, MacVim is very similar to the official application, save that it comes with OS X support, and a few added bonuses. It’s loaded with incredible features, but often needs a bit of trickery to get the most out of it. Learning to work with the application isn’t too hard, but its audience consists for the biggest part out of advanced users.
Also noteworthy is the license; MacVim is released as charity-ware. In other words, if you like the application, they encourage you to support needy children in Uganda.