capsule review

Smultron is a capable and inexpensive text editor

At a Glance
  • Peter Borg Smultron 4

    Macworld Rating

If you need a text or code editor, you can go all the way and use Bare Bones Software’s BBEdit, with its huge number of features, or even its free sibling, TextWrangler, which offers many of BBEdit’s basic text-editing features. Or you can look for simplicity with an app like Peter Borg’s Smultron (Mac App Store link). This inexpensive text editor offers many of the features that developers need, such as syntax coloring, the ability to comment text, text snippets for commonly used tags and bits, and auto-complete. But it’s also a lightweight text editor for anyone who composes text, be it technical, fiction, homework, or anything else.

A true text editor (as opposed to a word processor), Smultron works with plain text only—no bold, italic, or underlined text; no images or graphics; and no RTF export. However, when using Smultron to write in HTML or Markdown, the Preview window lets you view how that code will be rendered, including formatting.

Smultron offers a Lion-style full-screen mode, although unlike most other editors, you can still opt to see Smultron’s toolbar at the top of the screen, as well as a footer below the document section that displays word and character counts. You can also adjust the width of the text section when in full-screen mode. As with many text editors, this full-screen view is presumably for distraction-free writing, but while you can change the color of the document background, you can’t change the linen background to either side of the document.

A useful feature is a Documents palette. This small, floating window shows all the documents currently open in Smultron, letting you switch between documents by clicking one. You can also open documents by dropping them on this palette. However every document sits in its own, separate, window—an approach that’s much messier than using tabs or a sidebar to group multiple documents in a single window, as you could do in Smultron 3. Having every document in a separate window is confusing, and, frankly, feels quite 20th-century.

New in Smultron 4 is iCloud support, which lets you access the same Smultron documents on all your Macs and keeps document changes in sync. (There's currently no iOS version of Smultron.)

Smultron is a capable, inexpensive, and easy-to-use text editor, though it suffers a bit when you have multiple files open simultaneously. If you want an iCloud-enabled program for basic coding or writing simple documents, Smultron is a good choice, although the program should look to its predecessor for inspiration when it comes to working with multiple files.

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At a Glance
  • Peter Borg Smultron 4

    Macworld Rating
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