TextMate as Xcode editor replacement?

December 17, 2006

I’ve been writing code in TextMate the past two days, trying to see if it could replace Xcode as my primary editor for Objective-C. I’ve always heard good things about TextMate, and since it’s been getting a lot of publicity lately I decided to give it a shot. I wasn’t expecting too much from it; I don’t have any real complaints about Xcode’s editor, and I figured trying to separate the editor from Xcode would introduce a lot of extra work whenever I want to start a build or start a debugging session.

Despite this, I haven’t had too many problems. There’s no getting around using Xcode, but TextMate does do a decent job of replacing the just the editor portion. You can manage the two in different ways; I prefer to use TextMate’s tabbed project mode for all the source files in the project, although you can also set TextMate as Xcode’s external editor, which opens a new editor each time you click a file in Xcode’s project window. For the actual build process you can save everything and switch over to Xcode’s build window, or use the tools from TextMate’s Xcode bundle. I find myself doing a little of both, depending on the situation.

I expect to go back to Xcode’s editor sooner or later. There are just too many small things I miss when I’m using TextMate, and although it’s a good source code editor, it doesn’t really have any one big draw to keep me using it (especially with Xcode 3.0 on the way). There’s no reason not to give it a try though; it’s probably the best alternative out there if you don’t want to use the built in editor.

Marc Charbonneau is a mobile software engineer in Portland, OR. Want to reply to this article? Get in touch on Twitter @mbcharbonneau.