TextMate, Sublime Text 2 or Coda 2–Which is Your Favorite?

by Matt Montaruli on August 16, 2012

What’s your favorite text editor?

Ones choice in text editor is a very personal one, and people seem to get quite opinionated over which text editor is better.

I believe the reason this is such a debatable topic is because developers form the bulk of their workflow around their text editor of choice, so in the end, ones own preferences lie in how they’ve set up their customized workflow. Switching to a different editor will as a result feel almost alien to them.

Below I present the Pros and Cons of these three text editors and present my opinion on which I believe is best.

TextMate

TextMate is a much loved and often used text editor for developers using a Mac, especially Rails developers.

Pros

  • Bracket completion and auto-indenting are my favorite features. I find they save countless seconds per line and have become something I heavily rely upon.
  • Snippets make it very easy to insert chunks of code templates with only a few keystrokes
  • Bundles make this text editor easily extensible
  • Coding in general feels very natural as the editor auto-formats your code without you needing to think about it

Cons

  • UI and functionality are starting to become outdated, as other editors are catching up
  • No fullscreen support
  • Only available on the Mac. If you develop in multiple environments, you’ll need to get used to a separate text editor for Windows or Linux.

Verdict

TextMate is a fine text editor and useful for pretty much anything–front-end development, back-end development and even word processing. Beware, however that this editor is starting to look dated.

Sublime Text 2

Sublime Text 2 is a newer entrant in the text editor space and is available on both Mac and Windows platforms. It has many similar benefits to that of TextMate and many people are falling in love with it quickly.

Pros

  • Beautiful, modern interface, especially the tabs and file directory
  • Fullscreen support
  • Very extensible, especially via Package Control
  • Available on both Mac and Windows
  • Auto-suggest feature–the app presents a small pop-up of different tags or variables it predicts you may be typing
  • User-specific and language-specific customizations

Cons

  • Version 2 is still in Beta
  • Full license costs $59, which is more expensive than TextMate
  • No HTML bracket completion
  • The app icon is kind of ugly…just a personal pet peeve

Verdict

ST2 feels like a modernized version of TextMate. It covers just as much ground as TextMate does in the front-end, back-end and word processing categories (although is missing HTML bracket completion, which is a letdown). I’d even say it is more extensible (and easier to add extensions) than TextMate via Package Control.

Coda 2

Coda 2 is more of an IDE than a text editor. It includes CSS and FTP management tools and allows useful live previews of the site you are working on.

Diet Coda for the iPad is also great for quick live server edits or serving as an air display.

Pros

  • Very easy to manage projects–presents you with a project management screen when opening, allowing you to select the appropriate project you’d like to work on and add FTP settings
  • Easy to review individual site elements and styles through its in-editor style inspector
  • Live preview to test out your HTML and CSS code
  • Auto-formats HTML and CSS
  • For me, the killer feature is the ability to upload files directly from the app, instead of having to resort to a separate FTP app. Upon saving the file, Coda “marks” that file for publishing, so once you’ve completed your work, you can publish all of your changed files with the click of a button. Coda links the directories your files live in with respect to your remote server, so it knows exactly where to upload your changes.

Cons

  • Isn’t as extensible as TextMate or Sublime Text
  • More of a front-end IDE only. Any back-end coding is better off being completed in the aforementioned two text editors.
  • Most expensive–full license costs $99

Verdict

Coda 2 is really growing on me for front-end coding. HTML, CSS and JavaScript coding is a breeze in Coda and uploading any changes to a client’s site is a snap.

For the back-end, however, Coda proves of little use. The FTP feature is less useful for back-end heavy development as the latter projects can often be deployed via other means.

(Disclaimer: I code my back-end in Rails. PHP developers may have a different experience with Coda)

Who Wins?

Each editor seems to have their strong points–Coda is probably my favorite front-end only editor, whereas TextMate is a joy to use as an all-purpose editor. That said, I’m beginning to favor ST2 over TextMate for Rails projects where I am using HAML.

Feature-by-feature, I favor ST2 over the other two, especially with the ease of extendability via Package Control, the beautiful UI and frequent updates.

With my opinion out of the way, let us know in the comments below which text editor you prefer.