Is Textmate for me?
December 21, 2011 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Those of you who are devotees of Textmate, I'd like you to convince me to switch.

Background: I started out as a hardcore Emacs guy, but heavy use brought on early warning signs of RSI. So I've learned (and learned to love) vi keybindings as well. Since vi doesn't have soft line wrapping with indent, which is kind of a deal breaker for me, I'm now running a bastardized setup of Emacs and viper-mode so I get all the goodness (and, yes, bloat too) of Emacs with none of the stress to my forearms. But it feels like the ultimate in Rube Goldberg setups.

And lately, the Mac nerds can't shut up about Textmate. I'm intrigued, and want to know if there are reasons for me to switch. Those of you who love it, can you tell me why?

I do a little C coding, HTML and CSS, but the vast majority of what I use text editors for is writing in (Multi)Markdown. I do a lot of notetaking and outlining this way, so having soft line-wrapping with indent is, as I said, a necessity to keep things readable. I love me some syntax highlighting, but don't need it.

As to keybindings, I'll only give up on home-row navigation with some pretty good reasons to do so. Googling tells me that the vi bundles for Textmate aren't very good, so I'm guessing I'd be stuck with arrow keys. Do the advantages outweigh the speed hit? Are the bundles as full of awesome as so many claim?
posted by middleclasstool to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
YMMV, but I found my RSI wore off significantly when I started remapping Caps Lock to Control (std feature on OS X: settings-keyboard-special keys). This makes plenty of sense when one thinks that emacs was originally developed with Sun keyboards that had the ctrl key there.
posted by knz at 9:11 AM on December 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Call me old school, but I only ever tried TextMate for Ruby, and happily went back to BBEdit when I was done with that project.
posted by Mad_Carew at 9:21 AM on December 21, 2011

Response by poster: I've done the remapping thing, and it helped but didn't eliminate the problem, unfortunately. I have a few bad typing habits that may have exacerbated things a bit.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:59 AM on December 21, 2011

I only use TextMate for one off file editing (normally I use an IDE) so I'm not really qualified to convince anyone of anything, but keep in mind TextMate 2 Alpha was just released. It's still really rough (it's an alpha after all) but it fixes/improves upon a lot of what the community has been asking for for eons.
posted by cgg at 10:02 AM on December 21, 2011

Best answer: I am no expert on it, but I played around with Sublime Text. It's cool and shiny, and has a vi mode (Vintage) which after some setup works well for my vi-accustomed fingers. (Like, I haven't really found myself offended or frustrated by anything, except that you can't :q to close a file.) Of course, I'm not really a vi superman, but if you're even considering using textmate you probably aren't either. It's probably worth looking to see if Sublime Text does what you need for Markdown.
posted by vogon_poet at 10:06 AM on December 21, 2011

The main reason to switch from Emacs is to use an editor that was developed after the invention of the GUI. Emacs' mouse, scrollbar, menu support is still terrible, and always will be, because that's how it's designed. It's an incredibly capable editor but it's still a curses program at heart. (The main reason to stick with emacs is if you're wedded to a bunch of emacs lisp packages.)

On the Mac there are three major options: Sublime Text, TextMate, and BBEdit/TextWrangler. Of the three I prefer Sublime, but I haven't tried TextMate 2 alpha yet. I believe all support vi navigation. I've yet to find good MarkDown integration for Sublime Text; next on my list is to try marked, a preview app that runs as a standalone program independent of any text edtior.
posted by Nelson at 10:18 AM on December 21, 2011

I really adore Textmate, but it's hardly new (over 7 years old) and everyone's going nuts about Sublime Text at the moment. I've done a couple of projects in it, but it didn't seem as natural as TextMate to me.

Try this TextMate basics tutorial, and watch some tutorials on Youtube.

If you find the right bundle which clicks with the way you work, then yes, they can be excellent. I do most of my (simple) Markdown writing in IA Writer, so I'm not very qualified to talk about that in TM.
posted by Magnakai at 10:38 AM on December 21, 2011

Not about the Textmate, but in my mid twenties I began to show RSI troubles, switched the dvorak keyboard layout and everything cleared up. And I now type much more than I did back then.
posted by bswinburn at 10:38 AM on December 21, 2011

Best answer: Another nod to sublime. That is what all the cool kids (including me) are raving about now.
posted by dgran at 10:40 AM on December 21, 2011

Best answer: I am not at all a text maven, and do not know much about much, but following this question, its answers, and a few weeks of mucking around, I am a very very happy (paid and registered) Sublime user.
posted by Shepherd at 10:50 AM on December 21, 2011

BTW the development of EMACS predates Sun, but the keyboard of the time had the Ctrl key close to where it is is on most keyboards nowdays.

I use BBEdit whenever possible, but it is imperfect. Hilarious that a vi emulator would not emulate :q - or Esc :wq ;)
posted by zomg at 3:11 PM on December 21, 2011

I picked TextMate when I switched to OS X and haven't really tried anything else. Took a stab at vi(m), but I guess I'm not "hardcore" enough for that. Before you buy, wait to see how the along-waited TMv2 turns out. (Public alpha now.) tm2tips tumbler.
posted by Brian Puccio at 4:04 PM on December 21, 2011

Since you're already familiar with vi keybindings, why not try Vim (already available via Terminal, or MacVim if you want a nicely polished app)? There's a load of former TextMate users switching to it, hence loads of blog posts and screen-cast how-tos. Here's a post covering soft-wrap & indent. Your learning curve will be less than most, and not having to use the mouse has got to be good news regarding RSI. There's also a great community, hence syntax highlighting for multimarkdown is available on GitHub.
posted by dirm at 6:01 PM on December 21, 2011

Response by poster: dirm, that wrap/indent solution was promising but unfortunately isn't quite good enough. It only indents a fixed amount, so if I've got a bulleted list nested two or three levels deep in Markdown (which often happens), it doesn't indent to the same extent. Breakindent looks like a possible solution, and I am stunned that a text editor so heavily favored by coders hasn't incorporated such a feature, which appears to have been proposed over five years ago.

It's a shame, because the lack of that one feature is literally the only thing that keeps me from using vim and throwing everything else aside. Maybe I'm picky, but I've just got to have it, and I can't believe I'm the only one.

I may have to give Sublime a look. I have to use Windows as well for work, and the fact that there's a Windows version is even better than I'd hoped for.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:26 PM on December 21, 2011

Response by poster: Sublime + vintage mode gives me precisely what I've wanted, with near zero fiddling. Plus a Windows version for work, even a portabilized version for a thumb drive. Beautiful, thank you so much.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:50 AM on December 22, 2011

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