What’s the Best Text Editor for Mac?

Written by MacHighway Team on July 11, 2019

best text editor for mac

So, you’re just getting started with coding, you know your basics, and now you’re trying to choose one of the more important tools you will use: your text editor.

However, as anyone who’s done some Googling knows, there are quite possibly thousands of choices for what text editor to use (and they all seem good).

Such choices might seem like a good thing, but in actuality, it can be crippling. Which one’s the best? Which one has the nicest features, the most usable UI?

Slow down. We know it’s difficult to pick the best text editor for Mac, which is why we’ve compiled our guide to the best possible text editors out there.

So whether you’re building a new video game or a personal website, armed with this knowledge, you’ll be programming-ready in no time.

How Do We Choose the Best Text Editor for Mac?

When you’re evaluating any program, a person needs to consider what’s important to them.

What one person values won’t always be a good feature for another person. For example, Person A might think that usability and ease of navigation makes or breaks a text editor, while Person B only cares about the ability to edit multiple lines at a time.

That’s why we didn’t want to just choose one singular text editor. Instead, we’ve included a few different ones with a few different perks.

Here are the criteria we use to evaluate text editors:

  • Usability (how easy is it to use and install?)
  • Features (does it have a suite of great, useful features?)
  • Overall impression (what extra stuff makes the text editor great?)

Without further ado, let’s talk about the best text editor for Mac.

Overall Choice: Atom

Atom is a text editor created by GitHub, which makes it a tool of developers, by developers, for developers. Even despite this, it’s usable for the average person just looking to write the next great American novel as well.

In particular, Atom stands out due to its rich feature base and customization. The editor boasts a lightning-fast file switcher interface for ease of multitasking as well as great points like multiline editing and a collaborative Google Docs-based tool called TeleType for working on documents together in real-time.

In the usability department, Atom also excels. On its face, the editor is fairly simple and easy to start with, but behind the curtains, there’s a ton of things to customize to your specifications.

For instance, take the packages feature which allows you to add community-created functions to Atom like themes, translation plugins, and export tools.

This seems like a fairly overwhelmingly positive review, so there must be some caveats. Atom, like any other application, suffers from a few negative points, especially in regard to performance.

If you’re looking for a work-horse with unflinching performance, Atom might not be your pick. However, if you’re looking for an incredibly feature-rich, deeply customizable, and developer-supported program, Atom is the best text editor for Mac (and for you).

Performance Award: Sublime Text

Sublime Text offers many of the same perks as Atom, though it’s considerably less user-friendly. This can be a make-or-break for some people, which is why it’s difficult to place the editor in the “best text editor for Mac” category.

However, it’s difficult to knock Sublime Text too much because of the sheer power it gives to its developers.

Unlike Atom, Sublime Text’s preferences exist only in code (in a JSON file). This means a code-savvy developer could change every single thing about Sublime Text if they wanted to, making it a strong performer in the right hands.

This, of course, can be a downside for some. If you’re a new coder expecting to pop open a Preferences menu and change some things, you’ll probably be shocked by the JSON file opening up.

When an experienced developer steps up, though, there’s nothing they can’t do with Sublime Text.

Mac Familiarity: BBEdit

Anyone who’s been around for long enough knows BBEdit, which was probably the best text editor for Mac when it hit the scene.

BBEdit doesn’t necessarily offer a lot of the same modernized thrills as Sublime Text or Atom, but it does offer a very comfortable user experience, especially for people who use Mac and Apple products exclusively.

This is because it was one of the original text editors for Mac. It was designed to be usable by that crowd and to feel like it’s part of the Mac experience. If you want straightforward, easily customizable preferences, BBEdit might be the right choice.

Because it has been around for so long, too, BBEdit is a workhorse, rarely (if ever) crashing and performing in even the most strained of setups. If you never want to lose your work to an unprecedented application close, look no further.

What it has in rock-solid performance and Mac-feel, though, it lacks in competitive features. BBEdit has many of the features of Atom and Sublime Text, but they are somewhat more outdated and can be frustrating for people coming from modern applications.

However, for a new, Mac-familiar developer, BBEdit might just feel like the coding home they never had.

Honorable Mentions

Here are some other great programs that weren’t the best text editor for Mac (but are pretty darn close).

  • TextWrangler: an offshoot of BBEdit; it doesn’t feature the same stability but makes up for it in a richer suite of features
  • TextMate: some editors believe in complexity, but TextMate takes a page out of a different book, offering a simple, powerful editor
  • Brackets: Adobe’s component tool offers some nice cross-platform usability with other Adobe applications while still being a solid program on its own

So there you have it: the best text editor for Mac, divided into some solid categories for your choice.

Now What?

Now that you know the best text editor for Mac, you’re ready to start coding away.

Want more content like this? Check out some of our other Mac-specific content (like some of the best free HTML editors), or contact us with questions or concerns.