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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

BBEdit 12: Here’s to a million more

Note: This story has not been updated since 2021.

No longer do I need to go to Excel just to format tab-delimited text.

Have I written more than a million words in Bare Bones Software’s BBEdit? I probably passed that mark a while ago, but who’s counting? It’s been my primary writing tool for the last 20-plus years, and it’s still going strong. Today marks the arrival of version 12, with a bunch of new features and changes—Bare Bones Software says more than a hundred of them. “Almost every line of code has been touched,” according to BBEdit author Rich Siegel.

In keeping with the style of the times, BBEdit now uses a dark theme—light text on a dark background—by default. These kids today, with their dark themes! Fortunately, old complainers like me can switch back to the light theme or build a custom theme of their own. (I’ve been using a slightly modified set of text colors in BBEdit for ages now.)

I do a lot of text and data formatting in BBEdit, and one of the great additions in this version is a Columns editing command, that enables quick processing of comma- and tab-delimited text ranges—you can cut, copy, delete, and rearrange columns. You might think that sounds like an esoteric feature, but I’ve probably pasted a tab-delimited text block from BBEdit into Microsoft Excel purely for column management hundreds of times at this point. Now I don’t have to. (Though I’d love it if BBEdit would add support for even more functions on columnar data, like sorting and maybe even styling.)

Back at IDG, I built an AppleScript script that I’d pass around inside a BBEdit package that would take a Markdown file and format in some very particular ways for the quirks of our content-management system and site design. Embedded in that script, as well, were a bunch of text replacements based on our house style—replacing “web site” with “website”, for example. BBEdit 12 includes a feature like that, too—it’s a tool called Canonize that batch searches-and-replaces text strings.

With this version I’ve also embraced the concept of auto-insertion of delimiters, such as parentheses and brackets, that are used in both programming and text-markup languages. It took some time, but I’m gradually getting used to having my pairs of characters auto-complete, and I can also select some text and type one character to have the entire selection surrounded by the paired characters.

Basically, it’s the BBEdit upgrade I’d expect—one that adds a raft of new features, bug fixes, and under-the-hood changes to lay the groundwork for future features and compatibility with future versions of macOS. Existing users can upgrade from BBEdit 11 for $30, or from an earlier version for $40. If you’ve never bought BBEdit, it’s $50—cheap! I remember when BBEdit cost more than a hundred bucks. But then, I’ve been using it for two decades and millions of words.

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