Bare Bones Software BBEdit 9 review

Can the king of Mac text editors cling onto its throne? Read on to find out…

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Our Verdict

Great for programmers and improved for writers, but web designers new to Macs should look elsewhere

For

  • Unsurpassed search capabilities
  • Enhanced project features
  • Excellent code-folding
  • Generally fast and efficient

Against

  • Inconsistent auto-complete
  • Starting to feel dated

Although it long ago ditched its original aim of being a bare-bones text editor, BBEdit – which has been around in some form or other for 17 years – is still championed as an ideal product for Mac users seeking speed and efficiency when writing, programming or hacking together websites.

Version 9 enjoys a raft of refinements and a handful of new features. One of these is so major (and, frankly, so long overdue) that it immediately comes to the fore: non-modal windows for searching.

If you're scratching your head, you've clearly not used BBEdit, but believe us, this feature made us whoop with delight.

Essential upgrade

Essentially, it makes the search window dialogs independent, like standard floating windows, meaning you can work searches and edit your document at once, or perform multiple searches simultaneously without being locked out of your document. Coupled with BBEdit's already excellent search capabilities, this new feature alone makes the upgrade essential for existing users.

Elsewhere, workflow has also been smoothed and the ability to edit in browser and results windows is welcome. Sadly, we were less impressed with the text-completion, which seems awkward and less accurate than similar features in BBEdit's contemporaries. However, the fact that it offers words rather than just code might tempt writers, and BBEdit's new document stats, providing live word, character and line counts, certainly will.

Whether web designers will stick with BBEdit remains to be seen. For this task, we'd likely recommend TextMate or Coda, against either of which BBEdit feels like it's playing catch-up. But for programmers and longtime users, this upgrade amounts to a no-brainer, especially at the low price.