The Top 3 Free Coding Text Editors For Mac OS X

Simon Slangen 22-12-2009

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.

Komodo Edit

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.

The Top 3 Free Coding Text Editors For Mac OS X Screen shot 2009 12 21 at 19


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.

Other mentionworthy coding text editor alternatives are jEdit [Broken URL Removed] and Aquamacs. What do you use to write your code? Let us know your preferred applications in the comments!

Related topics: HTML, Programming, Text Editor.

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  1. Hamilcar
    January 21, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    I prefer JEdit!

  2. MacUser
    January 10, 2010 at 2:56 am

    I agree that you should rename your blog title to "What I Think Are the Top 3 Text Editors for MacOS X." TextWrangler is the Number 1 "free" one for me.

  3. gt3
    December 27, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Where's textmate? This article should have been titled "My top 3 text editors for OS X" not *THE* top 3 text editors

    • gt3
      December 27, 2009 at 11:47 am

      and since when do vim users need a GUI? It's like putting training wheels on Evil Knievel's motorcycle

      • deska
        December 29, 2009 at 9:57 am

        That, good sir or madam, is the best comment EVER. And, if this Simon fellow cared to open the Terminal, he would see that vim is already there. So it's like putting training wheels on the training wheels. Or on his head.

  4. Max Evans
    December 25, 2009 at 9:56 am

    As part of Xcode they have an app call Dashcode that is for widgets but it does HTML syntax. I found it when I was learning HTML coding and clicked on a .html file and it opened Dashcode. It was pretty cool for a complete beginner. (Notice I said complete beginner so take this comment for what it is worth. It was much prettier than Xcode.)

  5. Corey
    December 23, 2009 at 7:05 am

    Smultron is no longer being developed.

    Anyone know of a code editor that supports AutoIT commands? (

  6. Geo
    December 23, 2009 at 2:25 am

    I also add one point for TextWrangler.

    - Still supported and developped
    - Command line integration

  7. Matt
    December 22, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    Depending on *what* you're editing, the editors in Eclipse (java/javascript/html/xml/php), MonoDevelop (C#) and Xcode (Objective-C) are all good free code editors. None are great general text editors but include better refactoring and workflow integration.

  8. Paf
    December 22, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Also textwrangler.

  9. Philip Davis
    December 22, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Another good one (free) is TextWrangler from Bare Bones Software. It is a small version of the powerful bbEdit software.

    • Aibek
      December 26, 2009 at 11:15 pm

      TextWrangler looks pretty good,thanks for suggestion.