BBEdit 9.02 [Mac] full review

For the company’s 15th anniversary, Bare Bones Software has produced BBEdit 9, a major release to its venerable text editor that will thrill long-time users and will likely garner new converts. At the same time that the program makes several leaps ahead, however, it could still use some further tweaks, especially for cutting-edge Web developers.

Find it, change it

BBEdit 9 boasts more than 120 new features and fixes compared to BBEdit 8.5. Many of those are, of course, relatively minor. But several will be of interest to anyone who uses the program, from newbies to the oldest pros.

Find-and-replace is one of the most-used features in any text editor, and here BBEdit 9 breaks dramatically from its previous versions. In those older versions, the search dialog box was modal, meaning you had to dismiss the search dialog before continuing your work. In the new BBEdit, the search windows for both Find and Multi-File Search are modeless, meaning you can move freely back and forth between an open document and the search window, without closing the latter.

The Find and Multi-File Search dialog boxes are now modeless, so you can edit your text with the search window still open.

For some time now, BBEdit has had a Find All search that produced a two-paned results window: On top you’d see a list of the search hits; clicking on one of those hits displayed it in context in the bottom pane. In this version, that bottom pane’s text contents are fully editable; you no longer have to open separate editing windows. These editable text views also show up when you browse disks and check syntax. It’s convenient, saves time, and reduces window clutter.

The history of your search-and-replace operations is now preserved, even when you quit the program. And with Find Differences, it’s now possible to move edits character by character from one version of a file to another.

The new Scratchpad makes it easy to transform and edit text without opening a new document window. This is perfect for those situations when you want to copy and paste blocks of text, modify them a bit, and then paste the changed text back to a document. And BBEdit 9 adds a new Append Selection To Scratchpad command to Mac OS X’s Services menu, so you can send text to BBEdit’s Scratchpad from any program that supports Services. BBEdit automatically saves the contents of the Scratchpad, even between program launches.

Among other nice new features: Projects replace File Groups as a way of collecting related files. Project windows have an editing pane; to work on a file in the project, you can simply select it from the Project list and start editing, without having to open a separate window. BBEdit can now use your MobileMe account to synchronize its Application Support folder between machines, so your preferences, scripts, and clippings are available and updated on all your Macs. And if you’ve ever wanted to share your syntax-colored code (perhaps for instructional use), you can now do it by saving your document as an RTF file.

All these positive changes come at a price; old-school BBEdit users will need to retrain themselves, because keyboard equivalents and even expected behaviours have changed.

The Find and Multi-File Search dialog boxes are now modeless, so you can edit your text with the search window still open.

NEXT: Hits and misses for coders

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