one, more than any I’ve ever used, that I could not do without. And no, I’m not talking about Mac OS X, though that’s up there—if I had to switch to Linux or Windows for a day or two, I wouldn’t like it, but I could take it. No, that’s not what I’m talking about.
What I absolutely could never lose is TextMate. I spend the bulk of my day using it; it just stays open all the time, like my mail client and browser. It is central to everything I do, and hands down my favorite piece of software. It’s paid for itself a hundred times over.
“Wait a second,” I hear you say. “This is just a text editor, right? Why are you so fired up about a text editor?”
See, but it’s not just a text editor. It bills itself as “the missing editor,” and they’re totally right; it’s everything I never knew I needed in a text editor, but now that I have it, I won’t give it up for love or money. I do not exaggerate when I say that like the iPad, TextMate was magical and revolutionary—it totally changed the face of that part of the software industry. It was so far ahead of its time, in fact, that no one since has made a text editor that measures up, let alone surpasses it, though many have tried. What’s really amazing about it, though, is that this software is over six years old. The last major update it got was in 2006. For six years, no one has come close to making something I’d consider switching to.* Six years? That is simply unheard of in software.
“Ooookay,” you say, while subtly edging away. “So you like it a lot. Then why consider switching?”
Well, after that last major update (from 1.0.2 to 1.5, in January 2006), the author decided to do a complete rewrite of the application, and announced that he would release that rewrite as TextMate 2.0. But months, then years went by without any word of a new version, to a growing sense of unease among its loyal user base. People started wondering whether it was destined to become abandonware, whether they’d have to start looking for a new editing solution, since it was a matter of time before an OS update rendered it useless.
Every so often you’d see the odd forum post or hear from someone who knew someone that no, it was still in development, but not close enough to a releasable state to put a firm date on it. But that was hardly reassuring, and I had this growing dread in the pit of my stomach that I would eventually have to switch to some comparatively inferior product just because it was actively developed and kept up with the latest Mac OS X releases. So I searched for alternatives, tried out a few, but until the recent release of Chocolat, itself still in alpha, I didn’t see anything that was promising enough to consider seriously.
So imagine my cautious excitement at the announcement a few months ago that there would be a public alpha of TM 2.0 before the end of 2011. Cautious because I was wondering what they could possibly have added in that five years that would make the wait worthwhile. I figured it’d be more efficient and responsive, generally faster, but without a ton of new features, since the original product had been in my mind so good to begin with. I was fully prepared to think, “I waited six years for this?!”
But what do I know? Obviously I don’t have the foresight of TM’s authors, because it’s looking like TextMate 2.0 is going to be pretty awesome. This program is a Unix geek’s wet dream. Easy to use, but powerful and almost infinitely customizable. I can hardly wait until the official release, but until then, I think I’ll play a bit with the alpha.