TextMate, the myth

Source code editing and programming tools in general are one of those things I like to be up to date with, you never know when you’re going to find a killer tool which will boost your productivity.

For a couple of years I keep hearing about an awesome editor for Macs called TextMate. People even comment on forums and blogs that they are thinking to switch to Mac just to use it.

Well, I switched to Mac a few weeks ago and one of the first things I installed was this TextMate editor. Given all the hype around it I thought it was going to be my new favourite editor. However there is a lot of myth around this software. For the last year I’ve been using Eclipse on Windows as my heavy work IDE with Notepad++ as casual editor for quick operations. Now on the Mac Eclipse runs quite slowly so I’ve been using TextMate a lot in the last days and while it’s a great replacement for Notepad++ it doesn’t come close to a real IDE. The Bundles are nice and expose a lot of possibilities but they are useless to work on a big project.

When you have to deal with a few hundreds library files (Zend Framework, Doctrine, Pear…) plus another few hundreds of the project then there is nothing else to do that to use a real IDE with professional tools like integrated debugger, a real code parser, a code explorer and powerful refactoring tools (at least a good find and replace dialog with regular expression support). Then there are some extras like bracket pairing, code versioning, code formatting and smart indentation.

Sure some of you could argue that TextMate’s power is on its snippets/bundles customization but lets be serious. I don’t mind writing function or class constructs continuously, it can get tedious but what really hurts your performance is having to leave the file your are editing because you don’t remember the exact spelling of an obscure method from a rarely used class, or you can’t recall what was the order of the arguments for that function that you checked just two hours ago.

Given that Eclipse is running like a dog on my system I’ve searched for an alternative and to my surprise I’ve found a killer one. ActiveState’s Komodo IDE, which I had trialed a few months ago in Windows but didn’t really paid attention to it. It’s dialogs are a bit buggy, the default colour schemes are quite ugly, it takes ages to load, is very expensive and it’s not the easiest to configure to a point where it’s useable but… it’s really customizable and has a ton of features out of the box. Moreover there is Komodo Edit which is free but doesn’t have an integrated debugger, so I’m going to settle on it and will keep Eclipse for remote debugging. Let’s see if ActiveState drops the price so it can get more popular. By the way, it also has support for code snippets and macros which can make most of the stuff that TextMate’s bundles can do.

So right now, I’m using Komodo IDE and TextMate. When the trial periods of both are over I’ll have a combination of Komodo Edit, Eclipse and Smultron for the fast editing.

PS: Excuse the lack of links… google is your friend