If you read my post about my search for a good email client for Mac, you know that I’m also looking for a good usenet client, as well as a text editor. This post is about the latter.
Sorry for the misleading title – there is no such thing as TextPad for Mac. I wish there was though, as I’m very much used to the program on Windows, and really miss it while typing this on a MacBook.
Back when I started writing HTML, I was happy with Windows’ own native text editor, Notepad. My friend John advised me to use TextPad, as it was so much better, he said. I refused, saying I didn’t need anything better than Notepad.
Then one day he just installed it on my pc without asking (!) and I decided to try it, even if only to stop John from nagging me about it. Soon enough I realised it really was better than Notepad (duh!), and I got hooked. Not a big problem, right? Sure. Until you buy a MacBook and discover there is no TextPad for Mac! Thanks a lot John! 😉
Looking for an alternative, I asked a Mac using friend for advice, and she said ‘TextWrangler‘. That’s the prog I’m typing this in, and initially it looked like it could do the same things as TextPad — I’d just have to remember new keyboard shortcuts. Now that I’m actually using it though, it looks like it doesn’t. Most of it is likely because I haven’t figured out how to use half the stuff that’s listed in the menu yet, but there’s one thing I’m pretty sure can’t be set, which annoys me already.
When I’m coding web pages, I like to minimize the amount of typing. So, if I’m writing a list of navigation links, I start like this:
<ul> <li><a href=""></a></li>
I then copy and paste that last line as many times as I need, say 8 times:
<ul> <li><a href=""></a></li> <li><a href=""></a></li> <li><a href=""></a></li> <li><a href=""></a></li> <li><a href=""></a></li> <li><a href=""></a></li> <li><a href=""></a></li> <li><a href=""></a></li> </ul>
Then I place the cursor inside the <a> element, and type the first linktext:
<ul> <li><a href="">Home</a></li> <li><a href=""></a></li> <li><a href=""></a></li> <li><a href=""></a></li> <li><a href=""></a></li> <li><a href=""></a></li> <li><a href=""></a></li> <li><a href=""></a></li> </ul>
While my cursor is behind the word ‘Home’, I want to go to the right spot to start typing the second link text. And that, is where TextPad does it right, and all the others do it wrong. How so?
Well, in TextWrangler, BBEdit, TextMate, TextEdit, jEdit, skEdit, Smultron, SubEthaEdit, Tag, and probably any other editor — but I couldn’t be bothered to continue testing — I need to navigate to the right place by moving the cursor one position down and several to the left. In TextPad, one press on the down arrow key brings me where I want to be: in the same spot as where I started typing in the previous line, regardless of how many characters I typed. Call me spoiled, but I want a text editor that behaves exactly like that.
I’m not the only one who swears by TextPad by the way, already back in 2004 Andy Clarke was worried how he could be living without TextPad, even though for different reasons. Several people advised him to use BBEdit, and perhaps it does what Andy wanted it for (haven’t tested all its features), but it doesn’t do the job for me.
I went as far as installing CrossOver Mac, a commercial version of Wine, to run TextPad even on my MacBook, but it’s not optimal, and I find myself using TextWrangler for anything that needs a quick edit or for blog posts like this, while firing up my XP box for serious work.
So, anyone know of a text editor for Mac that does what I described above plus of course preferably also the other TextPad features I use on a daily basis such as search & replace, macros, extension defined tag and text colouring, infinite undo, compare files, search in multiple unopened files, regular expressions, different character encodings and split views?
Update June 2008: the above described behaviour in TextPad is only apparent if you’ve set “constrain cursor to text” in the preferences, as Jason Penney discovered.