TextEdit replacement on the mac?
April 11, 2018 5:50 PM   Subscribe

I use TextEdit a ridiculous amount because it feels "built in" and I'm superstitious. I regularly have like 60 windows open. But, eventually it crashes.

When it crashes, the application plus the OS recovers all the open windows, even the unsaved ones, but it's a pain to move everything around and recover my state.

Is there a different rtf editor that I can use that is very lightweight and fast, plays nice with the mac OS in terms of recovering state in the event of a crash, and is also very stable?

I do prefer rtf over plain text. Opening new documents has to be fast, as above, and each document needs to open in its own window.
posted by zeek321 to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by zippy at 5:57 PM on April 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

Maybe Sublime Text
posted by ShooBoo at 5:59 PM on April 11, 2018 [3 favorites]


alternatively: emacs?

high learning curve for either but if you like built-in, stable, and lightweight, you'll love 'em.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 6:02 PM on April 11, 2018

I feel like if you really wanted vim or emacs and would be happy with all that entails, you'd know that and have done so already.

So BBEdit is probably your first choice, maybe sublime text second. I like BBEdit, but then again I inherited it through the now-deprecated TextWrangler, and Sublime text does have some slick features.

It may matter what your actual use case is. Other than having lots of open windows and files, what are you doing? Writing a novel, 40 parallel tweets, coding 10 projects in 5 langues, coding one project in one language, writing essays, writing up research, writing ad copy... the point is there's lots of different uses for text, and people often gravitate toward tools based on their needs.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:13 PM on April 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Also it's a pain to move everything around and recover my state suggests that you’d also benefit from a window layout manager.
posted by zippy at 6:31 PM on April 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Neither Sublime Text nor Vim nor emacs are RTF editors, though.
posted by lhauser at 7:07 PM on April 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've been using Typora for new documents. It's based on Pandoc, not RTF, so the documents are very lightweight and good-looking, but not directly compatible with RTF.
posted by Phssthpok at 7:16 PM on April 11, 2018

Notational Velocity and nvALT are excellent for this, but they're very much plain text with the sparsest of features--nvALT offers bold and italics, bullet points, and that may be it--so in terms of formatting you're quite limited. But I've never lost a file in the past decade of using them, and can only remember it crashing once or twice. Also, it's easy to get the hang of--you'll know after a day or two of use whether it's right for you. There aren't hidden features, and the learning curve is about ten minutes of use plus however long it takes for you to acclimate to a new thing.
posted by tapir-whorf at 9:02 PM on April 11, 2018

tapir-whorf's suggestion of Notational Velocity or nvALT is great, if you're okay with plain text. It's like a file system manager and a plain text editor in one. Simple, usable, excellent searchability. I use it for almost everything.

I also love Writeroom, if you want to be able to open .rtf and .txt both. Unlike most text editors, you can switch between a variety of viewing themes (customizing font, colour, and spacing for each) without affecting the file itself. It makes the editing experience a lot more pleasant!
posted by fire, water, earth, air at 9:46 PM on April 11, 2018

BBEdit, much as I love it and use it more than any other application on my Mac, isn't an RTF editor either.
posted by roosterboy at 11:59 PM on April 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I quit with BBEdit years ago; I found the support horrible and the behavior, well, dated -- and it absolutely failed in the "long term stability" department.

TextMate was the new hotness for a long time, and I still use it for some things out of comfort, but it's basically on life support. Most of the enthusiasm for editors on OS X has moved to Sublime Text, linked above. It has the advantage of being available on Windows, too, which is nice.

That said, I *mostly* use emacs these days, but sometimes Sublime gets fired up too.

Notational Velo / nvAlt are fun, too; the latter is just a fork of main NV with support for Markdown. However, they're more for notes than serious editing. I've quit using nvAlt entirely in favor of the deft mode in emacs, which is basically a workalike.
posted by uberchet at 6:35 AM on April 12, 2018

I'm a big fan of NValt, but AFAIK, there's no way to display more than one file at a time. I'm also a fan of BBEdit, but it's decidedly plain text. As is TextMate, and most of the other editors mentioned here.

NValt and some of the other apps mentioned here have built-in support for Markdown, and I've found writing in Markdown to be a huge benefit. It took about a week for it to become second nature to me. Just something to consider.

I don't want to be the guy who answers a question by saying you're asking the wrong question, but I am curious what the situation is that requires having 60 docs open at once. There might be other ways to solve that problem.

With that in mind, you might want to look at Scrivener. While it's not designed to have dozens of doc windows open at once, it does give you a corkboard for displaying a bunch of snippets at once. This would also require a learning curve, since it's structured around complex multi-file projects, rather than a bunch of independent files.

Finally, I'll mention Nisus. This is a power-user wordprocessor that's been around on the Mac forever (seriously, I think it's been around since the late 80s). The interface is dated, but the company is still supporting it. I think RTF is its native file format.
posted by adamrice at 7:36 AM on April 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I regularly have like 60 windows open... I do prefer rtf over plain text. Opening new documents has to be fast, as above, and each document needs to open in its own window.

I'm not completely up on Mac text editors, but I'd suggest that just about anything that meets your requirements is going to be heavier than the built-in TextEdit editor, and will crash much sooner than after opening 60 windows. Editors with tabbed interfaces can handle having 60+ open documents because they don't keep all 60 documents in memory (along with the associated window UI) at once in order to display their UI.
posted by Aleyn at 1:16 PM on April 12, 2018

I wonder whether you could make Google docs work for you for this. It auto saves and can have many tabs/browser windows open at once. For even simpler writing, maybe Google Keep?
posted by Salamandrous at 2:57 AM on April 18, 2018

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