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BBEdit 6.0

Thursday 14th December, 2000

Let’s face it, for something as apparently simple as a text editor, BBEdit is light years ahead of the competition. If you’re a serious HTML user or Mac programmer, then you’re already using BBEdit. Even its competitors have got in on the act: Macromedia’s Dreamweaver comes with it pre-bundled, and out of the box it integrates tightly with Canto Cumulus, Metrowerks CodeWarrior, MacPerl, THINK Toolbox Assistant, MPW 411 reference and Toolserver, SourceServer, and the VOODOO Version Control System.

BBEdit is a very powerful text editor. It isn’t encumbered by SimpleText’s document size limit, and it’s designed to be used in cross-platform programming and HTML editing environments. It’s not a replacement for a compiler or a WYSIWYG Web design package, but it does the text editing job of both those environments better than any dedicated tool.

BBEdit’s trick has always been to improve on features that users need. For example, you can edit files up to 2Gb in size (and if you’ve ever tried search and replace on data exported from an SQL database, you’ll know what a godsend that is); it supports DOS and Unix files seamlessly; it has immensely powerful regular-expression-based search and replace (grep); it has multiple undos; it can automatically clean up text - re-wrapping, detabbing and entabbing; the list goes on.

For those who already use BBEdit, version 6.0 includes a number of truly useful improvements. BBEdit now supports multi-byte text; Unicode (UTF-8 and UTF-16) files, as well as a font menu in the editing window when required. There are also multiple clipboards for cut and paste. HTML users now have access to better syntax-colouring, so attribute names, values and processing directives can be coloured.

Syntax colouring is also developer-extensible, so you can write your own plug-ins to do the job in your own idiosyncratic way. Support (and syntax checking) is now included for HTML 4.01 and XHTML 10 and WML 1.1, and syntax colouring works for PHP3, XHTML and XML. For those who code their pages entirely in BBEdit, the colour palettes now include alternative VisiBone 2 arrangements and, although Table Builder has been dropped from version 6.0, you can use the one from version 5. Other refinements include file filtering for batch searches (which are now projector-aware), navigation and Appearance Manager support, one-button browser previews, better use of contextual menus for HTML markup, improved search and error results listings, file groups for managing multiple documents - still the list goes on.

There is, however, one really important new feature that should find fans in both the programming and HTML camps. In version 6.0, BBEdit is fully AppleScript-aware. This means you can write AppleScripts and have them attached to existing elements within the user interface. To get it to work, simply create a compiled script with a handler of the form MenuSelect (menuName, itemName), name it with the appropriate menu name (for example “Search‚Äö√Ѭ¢Find…”), then drop it into the Menu Scripts folder. Because your script runs before the built-in command, you can decide whether to override the command, or run your script and then perform the command afterwards. Being recordable means that it’s quite easy to get the hang of how to write scripts for BBEdit. There is a small caveat: the object model that BBEdit uses has changed since the previous version (‘document’ and ‘window’ are now distinct), so if you’re already using scripts, they may require a small re-write.

Finding something to whinge about with BBEdit 6.0 is a tough call. A definite contender is that it’s not Carbonised, so won’t run natively on Mac OS X, but that fell by the wayside when we learned it will be fully-Carbonised by the time Apple ships the final version of Mac OS X, as a free upgrade to registered BBEdit 6.0 users.

Bare Bones has provided online help and full text manual using Apple’s HTML Help tool, and this supplements the complete 320-page paper manual. Software vendors which charge more for their product and which don’t ship with ‘old fashioned’ manuals, take note.


Popular cross-platform text editor gets multiple clipboards and AppleScript-aware.

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Rating 5
Manufacturer Bare Bones Software
Pros Multi-file search ˜ HTML tools ˜ Tag maker
Cons Not yet Carbonised for OS X (free upgrade imminent)
Price 99
Originally Published MacUser, Volume: 16, Issue: 23, p34