I’m a firm believer in using the right tool for the job. Right now I spend most of my time coding in either Sublime Text 2, Textmate, or Visual Studio 2010. There’s a lot of things I like about each of these editors but there is one that I find myself using more and more, however, I’m not ready to make a verdict yet. Before we get going, I know that reviewing and comparing text editors or any tool can be a bit like comparing sports teams. Everyone has their favorite and the differences can be superficial and highly personal so with that in mind, here’s my take on a couple of the more popular tools of the trade.
TextMate was originally released in 2004 and quickly gained popularity because of it’s flexibility and the ability to customize and add to it’s built in macros, themes, language support and snippets as well as it’s built in tools for project management. Many viewed it as welcome change to the long dominate BBEdit. In 2006, version 1.5 was released and it was awarded the “ Apple Design Award for Best Developer Tool” at Apple’s WWDC. While technically not a full blown IDE, TextMate’s rich supply of language specific bundles and integrated FTP and version control tools allow it to provide a lot of the functionality of an IDE while remaining very resource light. (Source:Wikipedia)
The best feature of TextMate is definitely the vast array of language specific bundles and themes which allow you use one tool to develop across many languages. Adding a bundle gives you a tools specific to the language you are working in while maintaining the ability to use a single set of keyboard shortcuts in a familiar setting. Recently, I started learning XML and have been building schemas and DTDs for our Web Service’s class. Now, most text editors will handle coding in XML easily enough, but when it comes time to validate against your schema or DTD they leave you high and dry (Sublime Text 2 loses some marks here). You either need to find an XML specific IDE or find an online validator. Unless, of course, you use TextMate and visit http://ditchnet.org/xmlmate/. No more clumsy online validators for you!
Validating XML is of course just one small example of the flexibilty of TextMate as a substitute for an IDE. The community building bundles for TextMate is so good, in fact, that pretty much every text editor released since (Coda 2, Sublime Text 2) has offered support for TM bundles.
So is TextMate my favorite text editor? Well, it used to be. The problem lies in the fact that I’m not comparing Sublime Text 2 with TextMate 2. The developers have been promising a new version of TextMate since 2009 and last fall released the TextMate 2 code as an open source project on GitHub. This was taken as a sign by many that TextMate development has officially entered the land of vaporware. In all honesty, while I still love TM, it does feel slightly long in the tooth and there are some really neat features in Sublime Text 2 that I really appreciate that just aren’t available in TextMate and probably never will be.
I’m still in the early days of using Sublime Text 2 so stay tuned for the review and my final verdict on which text editor reigns supreme.