BBEdit 5.0

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Ask Web-site designers what programs they use, and you'll get many answers. But the end of the reply is always the same: "Oh, and BBEdit." Bare Bones Software's BBEdit, which started life as a text editor for programmers, has become the de facto standard for editing HTML code on the Mac.

BBEdit 5.0, the latest version of the software, adds a Web Safe Colors palette, two new tagging functions, and a handful of minor improvements to existing features. The enhancements are nice, but none are must-haves. BBEdit remains an important tool for Web developers, but the new release offers less than you might expect from a major version-number upgrade.

Adobe PageMill, GoLive CyberStudio, and other Web authoring programs let you build pages using the same kind of WYSIWYG interface you find in a page-layout program. In BBEdit, you build pages by writing HTML code. This may prove daunting for users accustomed to WYSIWYG tools, but direct HTML coding gives you tremendous power over the appearance of pages.

BBEdit's new context-sensitive tagging tools, Tag Maker and Edit Tag, are primarily useful for HTML novices. Tag Maker lists the HTML tags and attributes that are valid in the cursor's current position. For example, if you're editing the document's header section, Tag Maker displays the tags you can use there. The Edit Tag tool opens a window showing all permitted attributes for a selected tag.

The new version also features an HTML-syntax checker that inspects your document for errors, using specifications set in official HTML standards. This function can be frustrating to use, though, because most Web pages do not have 100 percent valid HTML. For example, GoLive CyberStudio adds program-specific tags for internal display purposes. If you then check the page's syntax with BBEdit, the syntax checker reports those tags as errors. It also reports common browser-specific tags (such as Netscape's <layer> tag) as errors, along with such attributes as name on the <img> tag. The latter is not standard HTML, but JavaScript image rollovers require it.

The typical page will generate so many errors that you'll be tempted to stop using the syntax checker entirely. Bare Bones should consider adding a parser to account for these common HTML variations. On the positive side, the upgrade fixes a bug in BBEdit 4 that caused the syntax checker to claim that JavaScripts contained invalid HTML. However, there's still no syntax checking for JavaScript or style sheets, another much-needed feature.

BBEdit 5.0 has a few bugs of its own. When you check the syntax of a buggy HTML file, clicking on one of the messages in the error window should take you to the problem line of code. However, if the page has soft-wrapping turned on, you are sent to a different line altogether. Also, Edit Tag adds certain attributes to HTML tags when they're not requested, and it sometimes doesn't use default attributes correctly. Bare Bones has acknowledged these and other problems and is working on a bug-fix.

If you develop Web pages and you don't have BBEdit, get version 5.0. But if you already own BBEdit 4.5, there's no compelling reason to upgrade.


4.0 mice
PROS: Speedy, powerful HTML editor. CONS: Some bugs; a few enhancements don't justify a major version-number change. COMPANY: Bare Bones Software (781/687-0700, ). LIST PRICE: $119.

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