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The MacOSX war of text editors

Date: 01/02/2013, 12:56

Category: technology

Revision: 1

MacOSX has a huge variety of editors. I will do a little review of the ones I’ve actually used over the years. Some I’ve bought, some of them I’ve used for their trial period. Some I liked and some I did not. Lets start…

Programming Editors

VIM and MacVIM

MacVIM is a gVIM spin-off for MacOSX. I use the command line VIM editor. VIM is probably the most widely used UNIX editor ever made. VIM sits quietly in almost all major GNU/Linux distributions and UNIX derivatives, such as MacOSX.

For most users MacVIM will have a big learning curve but it will pay back. I’m not an expert by any means. VIM has a unique set of features, probably most plug-ins than any other browser, supports all programming languages in some way and has a very specific mode of operation. The post you’re reading right now was written on VIM/MacVIM.

The features I like most is the split-screen and short-cut mapping. This editor has so many features that it’s impossible to name them all. It’s an editor for the ultimate geek, matched maybe only by Emacs.

ATTENTION ATTENTION: Emacs is an operating system disguised as an editor. Old geeky jokes are hard to beat ;-)


Probably the most famous editor for MacOSX along with BBEdit is TextMate. Recently turned open source, TextMate is easy, straight forward has a huge community and big variety of plug-ins. It’s way easier than VIM, feels a bit more natural on the GUI. This is a very good programming editor. I used it for a short period of time for blogging and it was good. I still use it today to write LaTeX documents and some CSS/HTML. TextMate would make a fine editor for a programming beginner or for an expert. If you’re a programmer familiar with the cli, I’d say better take a look at VIM instead.

Other famous mac programming editors, which I used very little or never, but you might want to take a sneak peek are:

Text Editing Editors

NOTE: The above editors could be easily used as text editors, but since we’re trying to support Apple’s crippled finances, well…


The build-in macosx editor is awesome in my humble opinion. It supports spelling, supports RTF formatting and the interface is so simple that I love it. All you have to do is adjust the fonts in a size that you like. Most users won’t need more from a text editor. It’s simplicity is amazing.


Pages is the text document editor, from Apple’s office suite called iWork. I switched from MS Office to iWork as soon as iWork was available. From the first version, I loved the simplicity compared to MS Word, although the lack of some features might annoy advanced MS Office users.

It’s official, Microsoft Office is by far and large the best office suite out there and it has a price-tag to remind you that. But Pages is a really beautiful and full featured document editor with many easy to use templates, fancy graphic features and so on. It’s way easier to use compared to MS Word and with the introduction of iCloud by Apple, sharing documents with iOs devices became not just easy but natural. There’s a “Pages” application for the iOs too, in case you need to edit your documents on the iPhone or iPad.


Evernote is an on-line service for keeping notes synchronized across many devices and accessible via internet.

Has mobile clients for all mobile OSes, the web UI is really good and the application works great as a text editor. It’s like TextEdit + Sync.

I use it to keep large notes and synchronize notes. I keep on mostly class notes on Evernote or notes that I need to access from anywhere. There’s a paid service too, if you need extra space. Works fine with applications like penultimate which could turn handy to different kind of users.


I don’t remember how I came across ommWriter. I did not buy the iPad version, just the Mac version. I must say that it’s an awesome application if you are a writer or even a blogger. It’s my editor of choice when I need to write text without links, etc. Most blog posts concerning thoughts or opinions are firstly written with ommWriter and then edited using VIM.

ommWriter is a simple, elegant, distraction-free text editor. I love the colors and the sounds. You can choose from a small variety. If you’re a sort of romantic English writer you might enjoy the cursive font a lot. It’s awesome for writing poetry!

This editor tries to create a pleasant writing experience and achieves it incredibly well. If you ask me it’s worth every penny, especially if you spent too much time in writing articles - or anything else - and make money out of it.

ia Writer

iA Writer is the most famous commercial text editor application on the Mac platform right now. There’s a limited time price tag offer of 4.99 EUR in the App store. If you write in markdown and you want a distraction free editor buy this one.

This application is simple and beautiful. It lacks the visuals and sounds of oomWriter. Instead it has:

Points one and two, should and probably will be adopted by any commercial text-related OSX application in the next months. The choice of supporting a mark up language like markdown was a very smart choice. It’s a non-trivial feature which for sure attracted many professional or amateur bloggers. After all HTML sucks for content right? ;-)


These are some of the editors I came across over the years. All the above editors are really good. Programming and blog-posting are time-consuming tasks and the right tool for the job might help you save some - or if properly used a lot of - time.

In order to get the most out of an editor, you must to learn to use it. Some editors (like say VIM or EMACS) will have a huge learning curve. Other choices showed above will have a smaller, faster learning curve but still, before you can really get to know them it will take a while. You’ll have to learn shortcuts, personalize them and maybe write some automation tools to enhance your work-flow.

My advice is whatever you choose stick with it. Don’t change between them every now and then, won’t help.