I've been reviewing (and praising) BBEdit, the superb text editor from Bare Bones Software, in Macworld since 2008, and the application itself has been available since 1992, long predating OS X. Looking back, I realized something: BBEdit looks almost unchanged for many years. That's a key to its success — longtime users never lose their investments in familiarity and muscle memory, but BBEdit keeps getting better.
The latest incarnation, BBEdit 11, continues this tradition, by modernizing key systems under the hood, and adding a select few features that make its core mission — expert text editing and manipulation for coders and authors alike — easier and more productive.
It's inevitable that with an application as old as BBEdit, parts of its code base will grow old and require modernization, and one of the goals of BBEdit 11 was to revamp the program to strengthen and prepare it for future improvements. In California, we do this to our buildings; it's called "seismic retrofitting." In BBEdit's case, three important parts of the program were extensively rewritten: Find Differences, Syntax Coloring, and Clippings.
Find Differences lets you compare different versions of a documet, either stored locally or managed in a version control system. In previous versions, BBEdit used three windows to show the current file, the previous file, and a list of differences. This worked fine as long as you didn't open any other documents, but if you did, you could quickly get confused by the multiple windows on screen. BBEdit 11 corrals the three windows into a single window with three panes, and both the current file and the previous file are fully editable. Plus, a new sidebar lets you compare different folders containing text files and easily copy files from one folder to the other.
The improvements in syntax coloring will appeal mainly to coders — the feature displays different parts of code in specific colors to make the code easier to read. A new set of color schemes should please both the dark-text-on-light-background and the reverse crowds, and now you can also change syntax coloring options for individual languages. By default, BBEdit doesn't include syntax coloring for Apple's Swift language (which is still somewhat of a moving target), but a community member created a coloring module and made it available on Github.
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