Review: BBEdit 4.0.4
As a programmer, a webmaster and an genuine power user, I can honestly say that I have encountered few programs as valuable as BBEdit. Beyond its speed and flexibility lies an extremely well designed user interface. For the modest user, BBEdit offers a host of features without a steep learning curve. For the power user, it enables complete customization and total control over every intricate feature. Simply stated, BBEdit is one of those rare programs that is hard to improve upon.
What Exactly Is It?
BBEdit is a text editor. It’s not a word processor; keep that in mind. BBEdit was originally created for programmers who were dissatisfied with the editing capabilities of integrated programming environments such as Symantec’s Think C. Yet BBEdit has grown from the modest programmer’s tool it once was. Although many still use it as an alternative editor, webmasters all over have discovered its value as an HTML tool. Personally, I have found it useful for batch text processing as well. I’ve even used BBEdit to recover data from corrupted files. In short, BBEdit is enormously helpful for executing a variety of tasks.
Webmasters - You’ve Gotta Check This Out
As the webmaster for a handful of sites, ATPM included, I have found BBEdit to be an indispensable tool. I generate, edit and manage sites using only BBEdit. Its powerful Extension facility, made available early in version 3.0, prompted people to write HTML markup extensions. Bare Bones realized their utility and incorporated them into version 4.0. Now, BBEdit is a full-fledged HTML editor. Its floating window provides a host of HTML features. Among these are: generation of HTML code for almost any situation; HTML syntax checking; and a text spelling checker that ignores HTML tags. These features are incredibly useful for managing online publications such as ATPM.
Furthermore, BBEdit has syntax coloring. The user defines words that will appear in different colors. Reading HTML tags that are highlighted by color is far less strenuous on the eyes. BBEdit’s preview facility is also excellent. It allows the user to choose a browser, such as Netscape or Internet Explorer, and preview HTML code with the chosen browser by pressing three keys on the keyboard (Command-Control-P). This feat- ure significantly reduces HTML authoring time.
BBEdit provides an Internet menu, which allows the user to define and launch FTP client, mail client, web browser, NCSA client and other applications from within BBEdit by the click- ing a button. Webmasters will appreciate BBEdit’s ability to create projects composed groups of files and directories. This architecture provides a pictorial view of a site’s hierarchy and easy access to any number of embedded files.
Although these features alone make BBEdit an attractive package for webmasters, its true strength is text manipulat- ion. One example is BBEdit’s ability to translate text into an HTML table. Additionally, BBEdit offers one of the best search and replace facilities I have encountered. Multiple files can be searched and replaced in one command, nested folders can be included in the search, searches can include control characters (such as r for a carriage return or t for a tab) as fast as snapping you fingers. Two files can even be compared and BBEdit will generate a list of differences. This feature is incredibly useful! In addition, macros can be setup in a user friendly, point and click manner. Macros can be assigned keystroke shortcuts and/or set to repeat a designated number of times. Best of all, BBEdit offers unlimited undos and redos. Are you getting the picture yet?
As if all of this wasn’t enough, with BBEdit, a webmaster can work on a web site remotely. BBEdit has an integrated FTP facility that allows the user to FTP an HTML file directly to a remote location. Changes can be made, and upon saving, BBEdit will automatically upload the new file version via FTP. This prevents synchronization problems from occurring between local and remote copies of a site. Files can be opened off of an FTP site as well. While it’s a little on the slow side when compared to Anarchie or Fetch, the overall time-efficiency of this feature balances the scales.
It’s impossible to discuss all of BBEdit’s features. I’ve focused on the HTML suite because those are the features with which I am most familiar. There are a number of other extensions included with BBEdit that process text in other useful ways. For programmers, BBEdit provides an excellent alternative to integrated editors. It is fast, provides split scroll, line numbering, a function pop-up menu and syntax coloring. BBEdit handles code formatting issues easily. It can indent or unindent, comment or uncomment large chunks of code, and it facilitates project management. BBEdit reads CodeWarrior and Symantec projects without a hitch.
Additionally, BBEdit is fully scriptable using AppleScript and/or Userland Frontier. There is a BBEdit Startup Items folder into which any file or application can be placed. Upon launching BBEdit, all files within the Startup Items folder will be processed in the appropriate manner. Possible uses for this feature might be to automatically launch a web browser previewing HTML or load Metrowerks CodeWarrior for working on C++ projects.
Yes, there’s more. BBEdit uses the Claris XTND system and thus opens a wide array of file formats. However, should you need to “rip” the data fork out of a file for some reason, BBEdit will enable you to open any file and view the data fork as raw text. This is incredibly useful for recovering text from damaged files, or ripping text out of a file you can’t otherwise read. Of course, BBEdit can deal with text originating from DOS, UNIX and Macintosh environments and can convert from one to another easily. As one might expect, BBEdit never complains about the size of a file, it simply speeds ahead regardless of how large a file it is processing.
This review really wouldn’t be complete without mentioning BBEdit’s incredible speed. While many of our readers might not consider speed to be a noteworthy trait for a text editor, I could easily find programs that deal with text in a drudgingly slow manner (Microsoft Word 6.0 comes to mind). BBEdit’s speed is apparent in every task it achieves, from scrolling, to searching and replacing, to formatting HTML to executing macros, BBEdit is the fastest text editor on the face of the planet, and without question the fastest HTML editor in the universe. While there may be flashier web authoring environments like PageMill or FrontPage, BBEdit runs circles around these packages and retains modesty in doing so. BBEdit doesn’t have a lot of flare or fancy and useless features. It’s a functional piece of software that performs every task it should, and it performs those tasks at the speed of light.
Nothing to Lose
BBEdit does an awful lot, and I’ve really only scratched the surface. If this review isn’t enough to convince you to go out and buy BBEdit right now, it should be enough to convince you to download the free demo from the Bare Bones web site http://www.barebones.com. Try it for a few weeks. I’m sure you’ll agree, BBEdit a fantastic piece of software.