15 March 2006, mid-morning

A few days shy of it’s license running out—again—I decided to buy TextMate. This was probably the third or forth time I gave the editor a shot. Buying a TextMate license at this point puts me about as far from the cutting edge as you can possibly get; most everyone and their mother decided TextMate was cool well over a year ago. Me, i’m just a little slow I suppose.

The first time I tried TextMate out was back when it first launched (to much hype and fanfare). I think people were really hoping for something new after using BBEdit for so long. As I recall, back then, running TextMate would produce a single window you could type text into. The application felt very terse. There were no preferences, so it wasn’t even clear what the program could do. Compared to BBEdit, which has something like 58 pages of preferences, TextMate seemed lacking. I probably used TextMate for all of 15 minutes, and then went back to BBEdit. I think the 1.0 application was a lot like vi. You get a sense that there is more to the application than is being let on, but you just don’t see what the fuss is all about. (I use vim at work. It’s awesome.)

I think all the features I like about TextMate now existed way back when, but perhaps not with the same polish they do today. If I had expended a bit more effort when it came out, I may have switched quite some time ago.

Both Textwrangler and BBEdit have pretty horrible support for working with a lot of documents. (When I was in University, the version of BBEdit I used would open each document in its own window, and that was that.) TextMate on the other hand has some excellent support for working with multiple files. Working on a project with lots of files spread out in multiple directories is a breeze with TextMate. I noticed how useful this feature is while reading through the Prototype source code, and while mucking around with a Rails project. This would have been beyond useful when I was working on my compiler. (Behold the horror that was compilers!)

TextMate is also impressive because it is so scriptable. Do you write screenplays? I don’t, but I was surprised to learn that there is a bundle (a plug-in) that makes writing screenplays a breeze. Be sure to check the videos out. TextMate has some pretty impressive LaTeX support. Again, be sure to see the videos of the LaTeX macros in action. There are countless bundles in TextMate that add all sorts of functionality out of the box, and you can extend them yourself if you are so inclined.

You can read all about what has changed in TextMate since it’s creation at the TextMate website. TextMate is worth checking out if you have a Mac and work with text a lot.

Update: Allan Odgaard, the man behind TextMate, writes about his passionate users. There are lots of cool links in the article.



  1. Yeah, I love TextMate. I don’t even code and it’s my favorite app. No question.

  2. I think your screen writing bundle is the coolest thing I have seen done with Textmate precisely because you aren’t a coder, and it has absolutely nothing to do with programming.

  3. emacs;;

  4. I recently made the switch myself, coming from years of using emacs. I love the project management, mainly—feeling like I was losing track of all the pieces of my documents was driving me nuts. It took a little work, but TextMate integrates nicely with R and SWeave, the tools I use to build LaTeX documents. I’m really loving it now.

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