BBEdit 13 review: A lucky number indeed for revered macOS text editor

The leading professional text editor for macOS.

bbedit 13 mac icon
Bare Bones Software

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At a Glance

Pop quiz for longtime Mac users: How many applications currently installed on your system have been there for close to 30 years? If you have a list, it’s likely to be short. But there’s a good chance BBEdit will be on it.

The venerable BBEdit is a text editor that has long held a place of honor among wordsmiths and coders, and with good reason. Although few will ever take advantage of everything it offers, we’re all better for having such a gleefully comprehensive arsenal of features at our fingertips.

Catching up

Before jumping into BBEdit 13, let’s recap what was new with version 12, a significant overhaul launched in late 2017. That release was the first to run entirely as a 64-bit application, allowing BBEdit to not only open larger text files than ever before, but also process them faster and more efficiently.

Subsequent updates added built-in support for Apple’s new Swift coding language, menu command shortcuts, and a super fun Lorem Ipsum generator that spits out dummy text in not one but three flavors: Standard, Startup, and personal favorite Bacon, which creates words, sentences, or paragraphs with a meat-centric flair.

bbedit 13 dark color scheme Bare Bones Software

The BBEdit Dark scheme is a great companion for macOS system-wide Dark Mode, but you can tweak individual colors and save as a custom theme as well.

After tweaking nearly every line of code for the previous version, what could possibly be left to do? As it turns out, quite a lot. Sporting over 100 new features, BBEdit 13 fully embraces Dark Mode, adopting system-wide appearance or manual switching between Light and Dark at the click of a button. The new BBEdit Dark scheme nicely complements Dark Mode, but you can always customize specific elements to the desired color, as well as apply lighter schemes while the overall UI remains dimmed.

BBEdit 13 is a must-have upgrade for non-coders like me. Although dependent upon this software for years to modify or clean up lengthy text documents with the exceptionally robust find and replace functionality, I’ve historically shied away from advanced tools I knew little about, like Grep—until now.

Pattern playtime

A command-line utility for extracting matching lines from plain-text data using regular expressions, Grep has long been a powerful feature in BBEdit. However, unless you live and breathe code, using it required something of a steep learning curve. Thankfully, BBEdit 13 makes embracing Grep a whole lot easier in several ways.

bbedit 13 grep cheat sheet Bare Bones Software

Can’t remember a particular Grep pattern? BBEdit 13 now includes a cheat sheet that makes it easy to look up and insert more than 40 of the most common patterns.

First is Pattern Playground, a new Search menu command providing an interactive way to become familiar with how Grep patterns work on a document before actually applying them. Here you can search using preconfigured Grep patterns, add and manage your own saved entries, or browse from a history of previous items. This feature greatly reduces the amount of trial and error required when creating patterns.

There’s also Grep Cheat Sheet, a shortcut menu containing more than 40 of the most commonly used patterns which can be quickly inserted to create a query preview. Once the search and replace patterns work the way you want, clicking Use for Find transfers them straight to the Find window, ready to apply. Although my brain will probably never be wired for anything more than casual Grep, I found this a fantastic addition which allowed me to experiment and learn a bit more about how it all works.

Best of all, Grep pattern shortcut buttons now appear in the Find window as well, which has also been enhanced with live search results. Type a search query, and results appear highlighted throughout your document. Live search doesn’t work for previewing replacement text, something I’d love to see added in a future update. (And how about a mobile version of the app?)

bbedit 13 find replace with live search Bare Bones Software

Live search makes it a snap to highlight results quickly even in large files but stops short of previewing replacement text.

BBEdit 13 arrives not a moment too soon. Users of the company’s free, discontinued TextWrangler have discovered the 32-bit application no longer runs after updating to macOS Catalina. Thankfully, BBEdit comes to the rescue with a generous 30-day evaluation period, after which most advanced features are disabled, but everything else continues working free of charge. That’s the kind of classy, user-friendly policy which has rewarded Bare Bones Software with a loyal following for nearly three decades.

Bottom line

If you work with text in any way, your arsenal of Mac apps will never be complete without BBEdit 13, an exceptional upgrade that proves the number 13 doesn’t always have to be unlucky.

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At a Glance
  • BBEdit 13 is the leading professional text editor for macOS, offering writers, software developers, and web authors a comprehensive set of tools for editing, searching, and manipulating text and source code.

    Pros

    • First-class text editor for macOS, now with Dark Mode
    • Pattern Playground, Grep Cheat Sheet make regular expressions easier
    • Most features remain unlocked after 30-day evaluation, free of charge

    Cons

    • Live search doesn’t work for previewing replacement text
    • No iOS equivalent
    • Not compatible with macOS versions before 10.14.2
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