BBEdit has always been the best text editor for HTML coding. That’s saying something – it’s always been and still is Mac-only. It’s solid, well-structured, and foregoes the typical bells and whistles of some of the more-bloated Web-editing products. BBEdit 8 has over 100 new enhancements and this review concentrates on just a few major additions.
Bare Bones has taken notice of recent improvements in the Mac OS as well as unreleased developments. The new Server Preview feature uses the Mac OS’s built-in server to render server-side code such as PHP and JSP. Even the spell-checker uses OS X’s version.
Version 8 has a slightly improved interface with some useful new features. One of the main additions is the ability to tab document pages within one window – saving valuable desktop space. Open documents can be organized and flipped through with the new Documents Drawer (pictured right). Similar to Safari’s tabbed menu bar, you can also use the Navigation bar to flip to and fro between open pages.
The company has also built the excellent third-party plug-in HTML Tidy directly into BBEdit. Accessible via the Tools menu, HTML Tidy checks code syntax for accessibility and standards-compliancy and helps to clean it up, warning you of errors and giving hints on how to fix them. Using BBEdit 8, you’ll have no excuse for scrappy, badly formed, inaccessible code. CSS 2.1 support is now included with an improved Tagmaker.
The new Text Factories feature is a great new add-on for busy Web coders. It lets you create and store complicated script commands using the built-in BBEdit or Unix commands and external scripts – invaluable for quickly changing web site specific code. It churns away in the background, so you can get on with other work, and can be set-up quickly and easily to process repetitive tasks for multiple documents. You can now even set-up several transformations in a certain order to process in the background.
Enhancements for improved productivity include better text manipulation and multi-file search-&-replace options. You can search across folders and files located in different places at the same time making it much more flexible. The improved Syntax checker verifies documents, can specifying which code chunks to ignore, or run a check on a part of a document.
Hardcore programmers will welcome support for Exuberant Ctags. A Ctag generates an index (or tag) file of language objects found in source files, allowing easy location by a text editor such as BBEdit. Other coding enhancements include Affrus support for debugging Perl scripts, integrated Perforce support for source control, and a raft of CVS improvements.
At just over £100 for a single-user licence, BBEdit is one of the cheapest Web-coding apps available. Although it can be used for tasks other than HTML coding, it’s worth having a copy just to make your Windows-using friends jealous.