TextMate: Power Editing for the Mac


It’s been covered here on TAB before, but not enough praise can be given to my text editor of choice, TextMate, which garners much appeal for its built-in extensibility thanks to Ruby. With that flexibility, though, comes a small feeling of overwhelming panic, like being five miles out in the ocean with nothing but a pair of water wings. Trying to wade through all its features without any guidance beyond developer Allan Odgaard’s in-program documentation is meshuga.

Fortunately for all of us, James Edward Gray II’s book TextMate: Power Editing for the Mac does a bang-up job of making even the most advanced TextMate functions accessible. Gray begins with simple topics like navigating the editing window, creating projects, and easy keystrokes — copy, paste, select all, etc. He wisely instructs his readers early in the book to learn keystrokes for as many commands as possible, but, at the same time, not to fill their memory with the lesser used ones at the expense of the others. Depending on the bundles one has active, TextMate could have as many as several hundred keystroke sequences available at any given time.

Before long, Gray moves into automation: what TextMate does best. Beginning with an introduction to some of the built-in bundles and how to use them, he soon shows us how to define snippets: blocks of text or programming code or bloggery that are automatically inserted whenever a given trigger is activated, like a built-in version of TextExpander, only more powerful.

From there, Gray does an excellent job of leading into macros, bundle editing, the built-in support tools, calling UNIX commands and Ruby scripts, and theme customization. TextMate doesn’t have a bundle for groff? Gray will show you how to build one.

While TextMate: Power Editing for the Mac doesn’t cover every aspect of TextMate, for less than 200 pages it is extremely efficient in providing readers with everything they need to know to accomplish approximately 99 percent of the tasks that TextMate can perform. The other one percent? You’ll just have to ask around on the TextMate community forum.

The old vi versus emacs text editor holy wars are still alive on the Mac in the form of BBEdit versus TextMate, and while TextMate has been called “emacs meets the Mac,” I was a staunch vim user until I met TextMate. I still keep vim around, but it’s collecting a lot of dust — especially since I read Gray’s excellent book that helped me develop all the snippets and keystroke preferences I needed in TextMate.

TextMate: Power Editing for the Mac retails for $29.95 USD / $41.95 CDN / £20.99 GBP / €29,00 EUR.?


Billy Halsey

TextMate is extremely flexible in letting you specify your own key bindings. I haven’t tried setting it to a pure vi/Vim binding (TextMate wouldn’t support command vs. insertion mode, so that’s a big reason why it wouldn’t work), but I have seen an Input Manager that allows you to enter text into any Cocoa-based edit box with vi key bindings. Between the two, you might accomplish just enough emulation to fake it… ;-)

I’d love to know whether that works for you if you try it. Please email me or comment here again and let me know how it goes! Thanks. :)


Are you able to achieve the same key bindings in TextMate as in VIM? I’ve on vim for 8 years and go nuts when it’s not around.

Billy Halsey

@J.D. — Yes, SubEthaEdit is also a worthy contender in that editor holy war, and I used it for a while before switching to TextMate. The power of SEE is in collaboration through the built-in Bonjour capabilities. Ultimately, I found I didn’t need that but I did need the power that TextMate provides. Thanks for mentioning SEE; I’d forgotten to add it to the list!

@Tenders — If you’ve tried extending TextMate before, I think you’ll find this book to make the task much easier. If not, you won’t know what you’re “missing,” but who cares, right?


Thanks for the link. I’d seen that book before, but forgotten about it. I’d also toss SubEthaEdit into your editor war. ;-)

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