Anyone who’s been using a Mac for a few months has probably noticed that there is a glut of text editors available for the OS X platform. If you’re in the web/design category, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the similar situation of too many FTP client options. […]

Anyone who’s been using a Mac for a few months has probably noticed that there is a glut of text editors available for the OS X platform. If you’re in the web/design category, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the similar situation of too many FTP client options. What gives?

I’ll take the latter issue first. The funny thing is, 4 years (or so) ago when I got back on the Mac side of things, finding a decent FTP client was next to impossible. Interarchy, Fetch, RBrowser and Cyberduck seemed to be the viable solutions. Then Transmit (from Panic) came out and the show was over (as far as I’m concerned). But in recent months – maybe the last year – it’s crazy how many FTP options are available to us. Yummy FTP, Captain FTP, and Forklift come immediately to mind. (There are plenty more though…)

Having options is great and all, but how many do we need? Is one really that much better than the other? The core functionality is all essentially the same, so I guess pick the best UI and plunk down your card to make a purchase.

Worse yet is the Text Editor scene. My favorite couple are TextMate (de facto winner in this space?) and SubEthaEdit – I tell you because I can see you care. But then there’s an endless line of other options here – xPad, TextEdit, TextWrangler, Mori, Jedit, Smultron, to name a few. The list goes on… I understand where apps such as WriteRoom offer something slightly different. But geez, it’s still just a text editor that’s aimed at the more easily distracted – hey look, squirrels!!!

But what is it about FTP apps and Text Editors that seemingly attract developers – the experienced and green alike? Every developer’s gotta practice on some project, and [guru] Scott Stevenson has a great tutorial on CocoaDevCentral for creating your own Text Editor (the tutorials here are hands-down, some of the best you’ll find on the web). So I get that – it’s an easy jumping-off point where you can get your feet wet and work your way up. But what drives every developer and their mother to try to sell their code as if it were so earth shatteringly different from the next 5, 10, 15 competing apps?

My intent is not to blast these developers – heaven knows I’m no application coder! I’m just trying to wrap my brain around the reasoning behind everyone trying to sell more or less the same program. (I understand that everyone wants to make a buck, but still!) I invite any coders – especially of Text Editors or FTP Clients – to either sound off in the comment here, or better yet, contact me directly (nick[dot]appleblog[at]gmail[dot]com) and lets get a conversation going on this topic.

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  1. Josh Pigford Tuesday, June 19, 2007

    So very very true. I’d be interested in hearing some input from the developers of these apps.

  2. Nick Santilli Tuesday, June 19, 2007

    And that’s my main reason for this post – not to blast developers in any way at all. I just want to know if there’s more motivation behind the scenes – or more features that are not communicated as well that are lost on me/the general population.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been with Transmit and SubEthaEdit from the beginning, and I’ve never had a reason to switch.

  4. Because anything you didn’t write yourself sucks. Hubris is a core characteristic of any good developer. (I think Larry Wall was the first person to say this.)

  5. The funny thing is that Coda, the new product from Panic is a combo text editor and ftp client, combining the best of Transmit and SubEthaEdit.

    But back to your question of why? Although I’m no developer myself, I think it’s because there’s still room for improvement in the basic UI and workflow of things. And Coda proves that.

  6. On Windows I use PHP Designer 2007 for PHP development. Can someone recommend a PHP IDE for OS X that has autocompletion?

  7. As good as TextMate is, it’s hardly the “de facto winner”. It gets many things right and also a lot of things wrong (enough that I don’t use it as my primary editor, even though I bought a license). As for the big selection, there’s really only a handful of serious contenders in the commercial space. Others are either niche players or are focused on other tasks (e.g. Mori isn’t really a text editor and no one serious about doing web/development work would use TextEdit for very long). But the big selection is a good indicator that the development community (the primary audience for these apps) is healthy and growing on OS X. It also shows that none of these apps are so good that they’ve been able to force others completely out of the market.

  8. #6 – If you’re going to be doing mostly PHP, Panic’s Coda is a good choice. But if you want something more versatile with deeper functionality, all the top text editors offer PHP syntax coloring and auto-completion (although it’s not true “smart code-completion” like you might get in a dedicated IDE).

    Have a look at TextMate, BBEdit, and SubEthaEdit. These might not integrate with PHP as closely as a real IDE, but they’ve got a lot of power to do some serious text manipulation with just about any language.

  9. Nick Santilli Tuesday, June 19, 2007

    Akuza – great comments. That’s really the angle I was looking for. A thriving dev community IS a great thing, and I’m glad we have one. We all gotta crawl before we can walk, eh?


  10. Why Text Editors & FTP Clients? Tuesday, June 19, 2007

    [...] Why Text Editors & FTP Clients? [...]

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