BBEdit: Three Decades of Blistering Speed
Jeff Eaton profile photo
Updated December 04, 2019

BBEdit: Three Decades of Blistering Speed

Score 10 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
Review Source

Overall Satisfaction with BBEdit

Our team is roughly 75% software developers; even strategists and architects need to be savvy enough to dip into the source code on occasion. Although full-fledged IDEs are common on the team, BBEdit is a popular swiss army knife that proves its worth as a code editor and a general-purpose text editing tool. When it comes time to process raw data files before they're imported into a database, BBEdit and its fast, scriptable text manipulation features can shave off days of troubleshooting and tool-tweaking.
  • Multi-file search and replace features that rival the most powerful UNIX command-line tools.
  • Source control and compiler integration for software developers.
  • Scripting and macro features that speed repetitive work.
  • It integrates with browsers for HTML preview, but it's a shame it can't do the same for markdown files.
  • BBEdit has literally saved product launches by speeding the process of scrubbing and prepping large-scale data imports.
  • It's eliminated hours per week of waiting for "full-featured" IDEs.
As a pure software IDE, BBEdit is showing its age. It's got things like syntax highlighting, source control support, and integration with command-line compilers… but popular features like automated refactoring and debugger integration have left it behind. On the other hand, you'll be able to launch BBEdit, grep through your codebase, fix a bug, and check in your changes before those other IDEs have finished opening a project. It's hard to overstate what a difference that speed makes; I often find myself keeping BBEdit open in the background for quick tasks even when I'm using other IDEs.

For the data manipulation and text processing tasks where it really excels, I'm not aware of any alternatives. It's possible to build similar functionality with custom shell scripts, open-source command-line tools, and so on… but in the meantime, BBEdit is here, its engine rumbling and ready to go.
I've been using BBEdit — no joke — for nearly three decades now. Believe it or not, I'm still getting "upgrade pricing" 13 versions later. Bare Bones' support has always been stellar, and pricing continues to be affordable compared to similar tools.

Do you think BBEdit delivers good value for the price?

Yes

Are you happy with BBEdit's feature set?

Yes

Did BBEdit live up to sales and marketing promises?

Yes

Did implementation of BBEdit go as expected?

Yes

Would you buy BBEdit again?

Yes

BBEdit was born in the memory-starved days of the early 90s when monitors were black and white and some computers still shipped with a megabyte of RAM. Feature-rich IDEs like Komodo, WebStorm, and even VisualStudio IDE can bring more advanced features like debugger integration and automatic refactoring, but none can rival BBEdit's raw speed. Often, I'll launch BBEdit, open a multi-megabyte codebase, searched for the relevant function calls, and fixed a bug before the "full-featured" alternatives have even finished indexing the same code.

For anyone who works with large data files (tab or comma-separated data, JSON or XML, etc), BBEdit excels at the ugly work of scrubbing and formatting data before it's fed into an automated import or migration process. It puts a clean interface on top of powerful GREP tools, including the ability to save and recall common patterns; it lets me select "columns" of data in raw text files and manipulate them like a spreadsheet; it can call out to shell scripts and command-line utilities to augment its own built-in scripting and automation tools; it has canned tools for managing capitalization, line prefixes and suffixes, stripping and mapping high ASCII characters, removing Unicode "junk" characters, and more. And that's just scratching the surface.

BBEdit Support

ProsCons
Quick Resolution
Good followup
Knowledgeable team
Problems get solved
No escalation required
Immediate help available
Support understands my problem
Support cares about my success
Quick Initial Response
None
No - Bare Bones Software's "standard" level of support is already good — I've never felt the need for anything above and beyond their normal responsive service.
Yes - I ran into a fairly extreme edge case trying to combine complex search-and-replace functionality with an external script to do additional processing on large data files. I wasn't sure if I'd encountered a bug or just hit the limits of the product's features, but support explained the details of the feature I was using, and helped me work around the limitation.

Later, additional functionality was added to BBEdit making the workaround unnecessary. Can't beat that!
It's hard to pin down a specific incident — I've been using BBEdit long enough that a lot of the challenges I encountered were more than a decade ago; it's been problem-free for me longer than many competing programs have even existed. One case that stands out, though, was transitioning from a Mac App Store purchase to a direct purchase from Bare Bones. Because "full" BBEdit offers tools that directly integrate with the file system and other OS features, the Mac App Store version is missing a few key capabilities. I contacted Bare Bones asking about a "sidegrade" to the non-sandboxed version and it was done within fifteen minutes.