TextWrangler Just Might Be The Best Free Text Editor [Mac]

Justin Pot 27-03-2013

free text editorUse an advanced text editor on your Mac, free of charge. TextWrangler comes complete with code highlighting for most major languages and a whole lot more – and it’s free. If you even occasionally edit any kind of code – even just HTML – this is worth having around.


This is not a word processor – it offers no styling options whatsoever. This is a free text editor, meaning it handles only plain text . But TextEdit this is not. Text Wrangler provides a number of advanced options, many of which are useful for those who need to occasionally edit code.

If you’re a programmer you probably already have a favorite text editor. You know all about the advanced features they offer, and know exactly how to use them. Most people, however, don’t – and many are still using Microsoft Word to do things a text editor might be better suited for.

But if you’re quickly trying to edit a website built in HTML, a text editor will work better – the code coloring will help you learn what the code is doing. If you’re trying to figure out how to make a few changes to a WordPress template, a text editor is probably better. And if you’re trying to make quick changes to multiple text files simultaneously, a text editor is certainly better. There are times when you simply don’t want formatting, and you do want a program that’s aware code exists.

Learning To Wrangle

I’m not a coder, but I do write all of my articles in HTML because it saves me time while submitting them (also because I’m a freak, but mostly the time saving thing). TextWrangler helps with this because of its built-in highlighting:

free text editor


With this I can see what is and isn’t inside a given tag at a glance, making it far less likely for me to mess everything up by not closing one properly. This is by no means just for HTML, however – a wide variety of programming languages are supported.

As with most coder-oriented text editors, you’ll see the line numbers on the left.

It’s worth noting that you can use this free text editor to open an entire folder, as opposed to a single file. Do this and you’ll see the complete list of editable files in that folder on the left, in a panel:

best text editor


Simply click a document to switch from one to another.

Multi-File Search

Many programs offer find and replace, that supremely useful way to quickly edit the entirety of a document by replacing one word with another. TextWrangler takes this a step further, however, allowing you to find and replace text over not just one but many different documents in one fell swoop. Just click “Command”, “Shift” and “F” to get started:

free text editor

Once the search is done, you can easily replace every instance of a certain phrase with any other phrase – useful if you’re editing a larger project.


Many Tricks

Of course, these aren’t the only tricks TextWrangler offers. You can use the software to compare any two text documents, useful if you’re trying to figure out the difference between them. The default Mac spell checker is supported. Undo and Redo are unlimited. And you can save your finished files in a variety of formats – critical if you’re collaborating with a non-Mac user.

I can’t speak to some of the programming-specific features, so why not check out the TextWrangler tour provided by the designers. It outlines more than I can here.

Download TextWrangler

Ready to check this out? You can download TextWrangler from the Mac App Store, if you’re ready, or read more about TextWrangler at

Other TextEditors

We’ve outlined more than a few text editors here at MakeUseOf, so let’s go over them just to make sure you’re familar with your options.


Are you looking for another alternative free text editor for Mac? Check out Tincta, a slick new Mac editor Time To Try A Slick, New Text Editor Called Tincta [Mac] While you may already think you've found the text editor love of your life, you could hardly stand by it honourably without giving the competition a go. So, today we'll introduce you to a sleek... Read More , or any of these 3 text editors for OS X The Top 3 Free Coding Text Editors For Mac OS X Read More . You’ll be glad you did. Windows users should look into Notepad++, which has many users 3 Handy Built-In Notepad++ Features For Beginners [Windows] This summer, I’ve used Notepad++ for my internship quite a bit, so I can see why almost all developers and programmers I know actually prefer it, not to mention, the thousand of Notepad++ fans that... Read More .

Gedit, the default text editor for many Linux distros, is actually pretty freaking great gedit: One Of The Most Feature-Filled Plain Text Editors [Linux & Windows] When you think of plain text editors, the first thing that may pop into your head is Windows' Notepad application. It does exactly what its job description states - plain features for a plain text... Read More Sublime Text is cross platform and great for code editors Try Out Sublime Text 2 For Your Cross-Platform Code Editing Needs Sublime Text 2 is a cross-platform code editor I only recently heard about, and I have to say I'm really impressed despite the beta label. You can download the full app without paying a penny... Read More , if you want something that works the same on every system. And if you just want to write in a distraction-free environment, I highly recommend FocusWriter FocusWriter - Minimalist, Distraction-Free & Beautiful Text Editor Read More


Bottom line – if you’re a professional developer that edits code constantly, TextWrangler might not be for you. But if you’re one of those people who only occasionally needs to edit a bit of code, or likes having access to as many features as possible, you should probably at least look into BBEdit. Bare Bones, the company that makes both programs, considers BBEdit to be the full version of TextWrangler.

What’s your favorite Mac text editor? Let me know below, or just make fun of my lack of programming knowledge. I can handle it.

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  1. Trevor Haagsma
    April 9, 2013 at 3:46 am

    i have always wanted a notepad++ alternative for Mac now, thanks to make use of you have supplied me with that ability. thank you.

    • justinpot
      April 9, 2013 at 4:13 am

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! We appreciate that a lot.

  2. macwitty
    March 29, 2013 at 8:20 am

    Just one more thing ... one have to remember that TextWrangler in the AppStore is sandboxed. Yesterday a friend of mine had problem to edit a system file on her Mac - even as logged in as Admin was it impossible. I had no problem on any of ours to do the same - got an admin log in popup window in TextWrangler. Long story short - her problem went away after she had deleted the AppStore version and installed it from

    • justinpot
      March 29, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      Whoa. I had no idea. Thanks for pointing this out.

  3. Max
    March 27, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Don't forget MacVim!!! You can do whatever the hell you want with it!

    Oh, and Vico's pretty good too.

    • macwitty
      March 28, 2013 at 1:56 pm

      MacWim is not for Mac OS X 10.8 otherwise a good one
      Even if I prefer Textwrangler as a "simple" text editor. (Even if Coda is my app)