Ode to TextEdit

I’m by no means an expert at any real programming languages. But I’ve been playing around with HTML and CSS for years, and always feel the most comfortable writing the related code out by hand in plain text. There are many specialized text editors out there, and I’ve tried a couple (from the Source mode of Claris Home Page on the old family computer, to vi in the terminal, to Coda), but I always go back to the simple text editor bundled with my Mac.

I remember keeping a copy of SimpleText on the floppy disk I had in grade school, so I could edit my homework in a familiar writing environment. Writing assignments were much simpler back then – no need for fancy fonts or formatting. Eventually, I started using Microsoft Word for documents that needed rich text, but kept SimpleText around for all my web work. I even kept a copy of SimpleText on my first college laptop and booted into Classic just to run it.

I knew about TextEdit in OS X, and how it was SimpleText’s successor, but I was initially turned off by its default setup with rulers and rich text. Once I figured out how to optimize it for plain text by default, I switched to it for almost everything. Today, I do all my web work, track my to-dos and lists (option-8: learn it, love it), and draft correspondences and ideas in TextEdit. I have folders and folders of plain text documents on my computer, and even built my first web app around a plain text file.

I’m not preaching the virtues of a simple text editor like TextEdit to everyone. For me, it’s exactly what I need: more GUI than a terminal window, but nothing extra; instantaneous load time from double-click to new document; spell-checking when I want it, and stability (it even autosaves in Leopard). For people who work closer with code, syntax highlighting and more powerful tools are of course necessary. But the bundled plain text editor will always be enough for me.