Finding the right text editor

In 1995, when I first started writing HTML, I was using a very old Mac. Fortunately, there was a good shareware HTML editor available for even the most antiquated Macs — BBEdit. I stuck with BBEdit through two Mac upgrades. I loved BBEdit and didn’t think an HTML editor could get any better. I stuck with it through two Mac upgrades. In fact, BBEdit was part of the reason I stuck with Mac.

Then I started my own company. And then I had business partners. My business partners were no fan of Macs, as business machines, but especially as servers. was written in Lasso at the time. Lasso, up until about the time of this partnership, was exclusively Mac and Filemaker. That isn’t exactly a robust combination, especially in 1998/98.

So my partners bought me an NT Workstation. Lasso for Windows had just been released, so I gave it a try.

I couldn’t even get the ODBC connection to work correctly.

A new visual editor (I forget the name now) for ASP had just came out, so I got my partners to buy it for me — $500. I was going to become an ASP programmer.

Well, ASP and visual design didn’t really work at the time. I couldn’t build an app to do what I wanted it to do in such a confined environment, and I didn’t have time to learn raw ASP — I had a deadline. My new partners wanted a site for their new business by Monday. I promised I could do it, starting on the previous Monday.

So, Friday roles around, and I haven’t even built the home page yet.

And I remembered ColdFusion, a programming language two friends had been touting over Lasso for months.

Well, in the age of dial up, I wasn’t about to download the server and IDE, so I called Allaire and explained my plight. Here’s what Allaire support did: They sent to me via express overnight mail the installation demo disk for CF.

After a week of struggling with other options, I built this site in CF in less than 48 hours (note is going away forever pretty soon). If you could see my code, it is primitive and sloppy (embarrassing to me now, really — like an essay I wrote in junior high), but it still works and the site has never crashed because of the code.

Allaire, along with the CF server, sent me a demo copy of an IDE they called ColdFusion Studio. We now know Studio as HomeSite.

Studio/HomeSite was a revelation to me. Compared to BBEdit, HomeSite much cleaner, faster, easier to use. It has more options for snippets, shortcuts and building a custom coding environment. Code resuse is hugely important to programmers, and HomeSite has let me develop and save a large repository of widgets I’ve built for myself. Over the years, with the help of HomeSite, I have been able to develop a methodology that allows me to build Cold Fusion apps rapidly (this stuff is like riding a bike: over the past few days, I’ve written a large batch of CFML, and I’ve been able to move rapidly because of HomeSite and experience).

One reason I bought a MacBook was the fact I could install Windows and keep my CF development environment in tact, while returning to my Mac roots and enjoying all the pleasures of OS X.

But on the Mac side, I need a text editor. I need it primarily to mark up my blog posts, such as this one. My first instinct was to download BBEdit. My old tool has not changed much since I last used it. It still requires too many steps for simple market up, like an HREF. Worse, the Lite (free) version is no longer available.

I was having a hard time swallowing the $99 price tag.

So a friend recommended TextMate. I downloaded it and found it would be too much work to learn and customize.

Today, I downloaded Eclipse. This is an interesting project — entirely open source and there is plug in support for various languages, including HTML and CFML.

I’m writing this post on Eclipse. So far, it’s no HomeSite. I could never mark up an application in Eclipse as quickly as I can in HS. And it’s going take a little time to customize it and get it up to BBEdit’s level of functionality. But here’s the big advantage: It works and it’s free. I think I’ll uninstall BBEdit.

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