BBEdit Just Keeps Getting Better

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #362

Bare Bones Software’s venerable Mac text editor, BBEdit, has been under constant development since 1992 and just keeps getting better and better, with the latest release, BBEdit 13, adding several extremely useful new features.

I’ve told you before that I prefer to write in plain text and only apply formatting (i.e. use a word processor or page layout program) after I’ve finished most of the writing and rewriting. And while I love Ulysses and use it regularly, I still use BBEdit almost as often.

BBEdit Does Things Other Apps Don’t…

Why? Well, while Ulysses is great at letting me compose text, it’s not really designed for sophisticated text manipulation and searches. For example, BBEdit has included powerful GREP searches for as long as I can remember. (GREP stands for Globally search a Regular Expression and Print, or Global Regular Expression Parser, depending upon who you ask.)

Ulysses offers a decent enough search and replace function, but when things get complicated, I turn to BBEdit and craft a GREP query. For example, I often need to change a bunch of consecutive spaces to a single Tab character. Word processors (and Ulysses) offer no easy way to search for multiple spaces in a row and replace them; in BBEdit, I just type a space followed by a + (“ +”) for the Search pattern and “/t” for the Replace pattern.

In English that would read: “Find every Space character repeated one or more times and replace it with one Tab character.”

In the past, I would have to search the web for the proper GREP syntax and then fine-tune it by trial-and-error. But BBEdit 13 adds two new features that make using GREP almost as easy as using Search & Replace in other apps.

BBEdit 13 Offers More to Love

The first is a GREP Cheat Sheet button in the Find (and Replace) dialogs. Click it and a list of common GREP commands appears with examples and a description.

The GREP Cheat Sheet and Pattern Playground make creating powerful GREP searches easier than ever.
The GREP Cheat Sheet (foreground) and Pattern Playground (background) make powerful GREP searches easier than ever before.

Click the appropriate command in the list—which includes options for finding only capital letters; lowercase letters; numbers from 0-9; any digit; characters repeated X number of times, characters at the beginning (or end) of a line (or a word), and many others—and the correct command magically appears in the Find or Replace field.

The second cool new thing is an interactive GREP Pattern Playground, which makes it easier to fine-tune your GREP search or replace patterns without affecting the underlying document.

There’s much more to like in BBEdit 13, but the new GREP Cheat Sheet and Pattern Playground knocked my socks off.

30-Day Free Trial With a Twist

Don’t take my word for it. Grab the fully functional 30-day trial (with a twist), that twist being that after 30 days you can continue to use BBEdit’s powerful editing capabilities (but not its advanced features) for free.

You can’t beat that.

If you need powerful GREP searches and much more in a text editor, you’ll love  BBEdit 13.

One last thing: I understand BBEdit is also a fabulous tool for programmers. Sadly, that’s all I can tell you since I don’t do code (or Windows™). 😛

...and that’s all he wrote.

BBEdit 13. Bare Bones Software. $49.99.

4 thoughts on “BBEdit Just Keeps Getting Better

  • George R.R. Martin famously uses WordStar on DOS for a distraction-free (no spelling/grammar checker, no GUI, no apps, no internet) writing environment; but it still didn’t help him finish Song of Ice and Fire, unfortunately.

  • Is there still a free version of BBEdit or has it been discontinued?

    If I’m going to worry about regular expressions and grep-style search and replace, I might as well fire up emacs or vim… and save $50.

    Two key features for me for text editing are 1) dark mode and 2) distraction-free (no windows, no menu bar, only you and your text) mode; does BBEdit support those features?

    Also is there an iOS version? I used to use WriteRoom for distraction-free editing on iOS but it seems to have been discontinued.

    1. Oh I missed the “can” part of this sentence:

      > after 30 days you can continue to use BBEdit’s powerful editing capabilities (but not its advanced features) for free.

      Oh that’s not bad actually.

      1. As for dark mode and distraction-free, I don’t think it has either (but I could be wrong… they’re not features I ordinarily use). And no iOS version that I know of.

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