Post Bank Holiday delights

· technology ·

Apple and Bare Bones Software seem to have conspired to make the return to work after the Bank Holiday (UK only!) a bit more bearable: there's the new G5 iMac and BBEdit 8.0. My feelings are slightly mixed about the new iMac. I think I like it, but it doesn't grab me like the old flat-screen iMacs did. They immediately struck me as cute and cool, and whenever I see one 'in the flesh' I can't resist grabbing the screen and moving it around a bit. It's that kind of machine. I don't dislike the new design, but I agree with blech that there's too much blank space beneath the screen itself. I thought that there must be speakers there, but I see from the specs that they are mounted on the bottom edge and fire downwards to:

[...] bounce sound waves off your desk, counter or table into your ears.

You could have someone's eye out like that... If I was responsible for designing the new iMac — and it's a good thing for everyone that I'm not — I would be tempted to put something useful in that space, like a reasonably sized monochrome LCD display to display the currently playing track in iTunes. Still, the specs are pretty good, and a G5 in a 'home' Mac is a very nice thing to see.

BBEdit 8.0 is a pretty significant upgrade, with some major new features. Two things that caught my eye were the document drawer (so that you can open multiple documents in one window, and switch between them easily), and the Text Factory, which allows you to string together (and save) a collection of text processing commands, and apply them at will to a document. Another feature that works out very well in practice is a visual highlight for the line containing the cursor. This is surprisingly useful in a long document. I seem to use more text editors that I have hot dinners, but while all of them have some great qualities, none of them is ideal for all types of text file. I tend to use skEdit for HTML and PHP files (for its great tag completion capabilities and syntax highlighting, Vim for Perl scripts and LaTeX (great syntax highlighting and macros to help you edit and manipulate those kinds of files), and BBEdit for straight text files. Much as I love Vim (and I really do), there are times when the simpler and familiar Mac interface is easier to deal with. If you're writing prose which wraps over several lines, Vim's wonderful keyboard navigation becomes a bit sub-optimal, and it feels more natural to select and edit lines with the mouse. One attribute that both BBEdit an Vim share is the ability to tweak and customise the interface, keyboard shortcuts and macros to make the app behave exactly the way you want it to. That also means that you have to live with both an explore them thoroughly before you find their real power. I often see on various fora people discussing BBEdit and saying that SubEthaEdit (or some other text editor) 'is just as good and free'. For some people with fairly simple needs, that might be true^1^, but there's masses of hidden power and flexibility in BBEdit, that is difficult to find in other applications. Except for Vim. Which is free. Oh dear, I seem to have just destroyed my own argument...

^1^ And, of course, SubEthaEdit does unique things like collaborative editing over Rendezvous.