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The Buckblog

assorted ramblings by Jamis Buck

Text Editing Dilemma

10 April 2005 — 2-minute read

So, I’m facing something of a dilemma. Almost a crisis. I’m on a Mac, and I need a text editor.

Wait, I know, many of you reading this will eagerly submit TextMate or BBEdit to my attention. Or even Vim.

Well, I’ve been using vim, almost forever. It’s definitely my editor of choice. But I like to use gvim because I can have multiple editor windows open without having to have multiple terminals open. (Yah, I know about screen, but it’s not as nice as having multiple independent windows.) Vim on Mac works very well from a terminal-but gvim is not quite as well polished. It is definitely a second or third-class citizen of the OSX desktop, with very minimal integration with the UI. I’ve been able to work around or overlook most of the issues for a while, but things are coming to a head, and I’m aching for something that fits in more naturally.

So, I downloaded TextMate, which is free to play with for 30 days. I’ve been using it for about 4 days now, and it is definitely a step upward in the OS-integration department. A nice UI, and all that. But I am really missing:

  • split windows, so you can view multiple parts of a document simultaneously
  • vim’s ”.” operator, so you can easily perform the last action repeatedly, without having to go through creating a macro for it
  • the “J” command, to join the next line with the current line
  • the syntax highlighting definition language seems somewhat weaker than vim’s. I’ll admit I’m not proficient in it, but I wasn’t able to find a way to highlight heredocs, for instance.
  • the black-background for (at least) Ruby files is not very appealing to me. Personal preference, I’ll admit, but I couldn’t see any way to change the colors…
  • other issues, too, but they’re probably too nitpicky to mention

Much of what I’m feeling is just “switching pains”, I know. I’d feel some of the same no matter what editor I switched to, no matter how powerful. But at this point, I would gladly pay the $50 for TextMate-gladly!-if it was simply Vim with the TextMate UI.

I’m going to continue evaluating TextMate—4 days is hardly a fair evaluation of any text editor worth its salt, especially one that has come as far as TextMate in so short a time. I know that the author of TextMate is still working hard on it, and there are lots of improvements in the works. I just had to take a moment from editing text to whine about the unfair state of my sad existence. ;)

Reader Comments

Hi Jamis, Im a VIM addict as well... Im mostly having one single terminal open and multiple buffers in the same vim instance, but im looking for the same alternative you are preaching for :) I know that this is an pretty old post, but what was you result? Are you still using VIM in the terminal or did you come up with another alternative?
Dan, I have pretty much moved to "TextMate": (as mentioned "here":, although I still use vim for quick edits, or when I'm not editing locally. There are still plenty of things that I miss about vim, but TM is a very nice editor and I found that once I got past the urge to navigate via @hjkl@, things went quite smoothly.
I think Vim 7.0 will have a lot of the GUI/Textmate features you'll be looking for including tabbed graphical windows etc. I just heard of what 7.0 will have and I can't wait
Hey Jamis, thanks for the advice on Vim + Ruby on your other post =]. Alex, I can't wait till Vim 7.0 either =P. I really want to make the jump to Textmate. I just got a Powerbook, probably because of all those videos of Rails. Ah, I have the trial version, I just can't bring myself to use it. I think I'm too attached to Vim. I really like GVim's appearance on OS X. I might be the only one, I like the minimalistic style. Here's a screenshot of my desktop: