capsule review

BBEdit 7.0

At a Glance
  • Bare Bones Software BBEdit 7.0

    Macworld Rating

BBEdit is unabashedly a geek's tool. Rather than narrow the text editor's appeal to Web-coding geeks, JavaScript geeks, Unix geeks, and programmer geeks, Bare Bones Software has always kept its flagship program blissfully unfocused, constantly adding features for users in various specialized areas. BBEdit 7.0 -- which offers improved Web-design, HTML-coding, text-processing, and software-development tools -- is no exception.

Web-Development Help

If there's any single area on which BBEdit 7.0's new features seem to focus, it's Web development. Perhaps the biggest change in this area is the addition of long-overdue support for multiple projects from within the program's Web-site-management tools. Now you can define the home folders of various projects from within BBEdit's HTML Web Sites preference pane, and BBEdit does a good job of using the location of the file you're currently editing to figure out what site you're working on.

The program's new Close Current Tag command is a productivity booster, once you've assigned a keyboard shortcut to it via the Set Menu Keys command. It automatically closes the currently open HTML tag, reducing the amount of typing your tired fingers have to do.

But one look at Macromedia's Dreamweaver MX (Reviews, October 2002) shows that BBEdit still has plenty of room for improvement in making life easier for coders. Dreamweaver MX's Code View provides floating contextual windows that prompt you with available tags, attributes, and even linked Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) styles, allowing you to generate code without much typing. BBEdit's Tag Maker command, which provides you with a window of appropriate tags or attributes, simply doesn't measure up.

Keeping Track

Perhaps the most intriguing addition in BBEdit 7.0 is support for CVS, or Concurrent Versions System, a Unix-based source-code- maintenance system included with Mac OS X. Programmers have long relied on such tools to keep track of different versions of program code and make sure two users aren't modifying the same file simultaneously. However, such a system can also be of use to people who develop Web sites or write long, complex documents.

BBEdit integrates support for CVS via a new menu, which allows you to switch quickly to various versions of your documents, add new versions of files and folders to the CVS repository, and compare the changes made to a document across different versions.

But BBEdit doesn't help you set up CVS -- you must initialize the program, import files into the repository, and initially check out each new CVS project from the Terminal application. Only then can you transition from the unfriendly (for some) realm of the Unix command line to BBEdit's menu-driven interface.

Text Powerhouse

Several features in BBEdit 7.0 will thrill people who massage text files of various shapes and sizes. Chief among them is the ability to select arbitrary rectangular areas of text by holding down the option key while dragging over the desired area. Microsoft Word has offered this feature for more than a decade, and while it may be a bit esoteric for some, it's invaluable for users who work with tabular data.

A trio of updated, included plug-ins -- Process Duplicate Lines, Process Lines Containing, and Sort Lines -- provide much-improved text handling, as well as the ability to sort files based on captured text of a regular expression.

BBEdit's new Paste Previous Clipboard command provides a sort of “Clipboard undo” -- a way to cycle backward through the Clipboard and previous Clipboards every time you invoke the command. And a new Auto-Complete Glossary command lets you insert long fragments of text easily

This upgrade also includes a host of smaller features that will appeal to various tribes of the BBEdit nation: the syntax-coloring feature now supports Microsoft's VBScript, the XHTML 1.1 specification is now supported, and Bare Bones has made several enhancements to the Shell Worksheets feature, which allows users to interact with the Unix command line from within a BBEdit document.

Macworld's Buying Advice

BBEdit continues to be a remarkably powerful text editor for a wide range of users, from Web designers to programmers. This update further improves the program's text-handling and Web-design capabilities while also offering version control via CVS. Most loyal BBEdit users will want this upgrade; people who have never used BBEdit and need serious text-manipulation power should definitely give it a try.

At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Powerful text-handling features
    • Productivity-boosting Web tools

    Cons

    • HTML-tag editing could be more accommodating
    • CVS tools require command-line setup
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