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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

BBEdit 13 arrives, with new grep features and dark mode support

Note: This story has not been updated since 2021.

Bare Bones Software released BBEdit 13.0 on Thursday. I spend more time in BBEdit than any other Mac app, as it’s my writing and text munging tool of choice. This update adds a whole bunch of pattern-matching search-and-replace (or grep) features that I’m excited to put into use.

Grep searching apparently has gotten BBEdit creator Rich Siegel’s attention, because there’s a whole lot more of it in BBEdit 13. The Find window has gained the ability, previously available in the Live Search sheet, to automatically highlight all matching items in the active document window. Live Search has added the ability to use grep patterns. There’s a new grep cheat sheet right in the Find window, which should be helpful for people who are just getting into regular expressions—and even experienced grep users forget the right syntax for a particular pattern.

BBEdit 13 pattern tool
The Pattern Playground lets you debug grep statements before putting them into action.

Most interesting is the new Pattern Playground feature, which acts like a test lab when you’re building a grep pattern. You can enter in patterns and instantly see what they match in a test file or any currently open document. It also displays what’s captured by each group in a complex expression, and will provide a live preview of replacement patterns. Once you’ve perfected your pattern, you can save it to the saved patterns library or just click Use for Find to have the perfected pattern entered in the Find window. There are standalone apps and websites that do this, but I usually don’t bother with them and just keep hacking away in the Find window within BBEdit. Now this feature’s right inside of BBEdit, and I expect to use it a lot.

There are a bunch of other features, of course. BBEdit can dynamically switch between light and dark themes, offers a direct link to the company’s famously detailed change notes from right within the app’s Help menu, and added a new Apply Text Transform feature to automate simple batch text transformation tasks. There’s also a new Find and Select All command that will, based on your current search settings, select all matches in a document—and if you type when those items are all selected, what you type will replace all the selected instances.

Finally, a word about pricing and compatibility. BBEdit 13.0’s paid version costs $50, and users from previous paid versions can upgrade for $30 (from the previous version) or $40 (from older versions). The last paid update to BBEdit was two years ago, and the previous one to that was five years ago. Users of BBEdit on the Mac App Store won’t have to pay to get the update; on the Mac App Store, BBEdit’s premium features are a subscription for $40/year or $4/month and get access to all updates forever.

What’s all this about a “paid version” and “premium features”? The fact is, BBEdit’s actually a free app now, dating back to when the company put its old free BBEdit spin-off, TextWrangler, out to pasture. (This is especially relevant with the impending release of macOS Catalina, which will kill off support for 32-bit apps like TextWrangler.) You can use most of the features of BBEdit without paying anything. Bare Bones reserves some newer and pro-level features for users who have paid, but it’s an enormously useful tool without paying a cent.

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