Textastic: The iOS Code Editor to Beat, Now on the Mac

If you’ve ever written or edited code from your iPhone or iPad, chances are you’ve used Textastic, or at the very least heard of it. Textastic is a popular text editor for iOS that brings the best of code editing to Apple’s mobile platform in an app that is reminiscent of TextMate. With its built-in FTP integration, it’s one of the best ways to write or edit code on the go, and is the way I personally publish to my Kirby-powered blog from my iPhone.

Alexander Blach, the developer behind Textastic, has now brought the venerable code editor to the Mac, and it’s currently in the App Store for the low price of $2.99. I knew I had to try it out as soon as I saw it available, and I’ve come away impressed. Here’s why.

Code Editing for Everyone

Plain text writing apps, such as iA Writer and Byword, are far from the most expensive apps in the App Store, and won’t run you more than $5-$10 even if they’re not on sale. Coding apps are a totally different story. BBEdit costs $49.99 (a step down from its older price of $129), TextMate costs €39 (around $52), and Chocolat, one of the newer kids on the block, costs $49. Sublime Text, the venerable cross-platform code editor that everyone seems to be using these days, tops out the bunch at $70.

For someone wanting to get started with coding, those prices are rather inapproachable. Now, there’s another option: Textastic. At just $2.99 (the current launch price; after that, it’ll be $5.99), it’s an iOS priced code editor with features to play with the big boys.

Code completion? Check.

Textastic is  a great text and code editor, and you couldn’t ask for a more smooth experience. It launches fast, handles text just like you’d expect in a modern OS X app, includes Find/Search/Replace, works with Dictation and Dictionary, syncs with iCloud, and more. It includes code completion that works very well, at least for the web languages I tested it with. It’ll even add the extras to your code that it expects you to use (say, adding an “id=” section when you add a div), which you can fill in by tabbing between the sections, something that’ll be familiar if you’ve used Textastic on iOS. And, you can start out new documents with pre-made templates that’ll make it easy to start, say, writing a new HTML document.

Code Completion, taken to the next level

The Editing Extras

Textastic gives you more than just plain text editing and code completion. It includes a very nice symbol navigation that works great, giving you an easy way to jump around in your code. It worked great in every file I tested, even letting you jump between sections in a Markdown document as easily as you could in a CSS file. Then, in the toolbar, you’ll also find format and encoding options, as well as built-in line and column counts in the bottom toolbar (though sadly not word/character counts).

Symbol navigation and themes sweeten the deal

Textastic isn’t the most focused on keyboard shortcuts, which is frustrating coming from Sublime Text, though it does offer a few editing extras as you can see in the menu. Hopefully more keyboard shortcuts will be added in the future; they’d be especially handy for accessing the symbol navigation and encoding/code format options on the bottom toolbar.

A limited set of extra keyboard shortcuts

There are a limited set of preferences in Textastic, including a number of high-quality themes, ones you’ll immediately recognize if you already use Sublime Text. You’ll also find options to change your font and font size, as well as options to turn off line numbers, change the indention, and more. If you want a streamlined writing app, you can turn off the status bar in the bottom and the line numbers on the left, and it’ll be almost as clean of a writing experience as Byword.

Nice Markdown editing is the cherry on top

The Rest That’s Yet to Come

On its own, Textastic for Mac is already off to a great start, but it also has companion iOS apps already in use by thousands of coders. Today, Textastic doesn’t integrate with them, but the developer promises an update that’ll bring iCloud sync to the iOS apps, giving you a dead-simple way to edit the code you wrote on the go from your Mac — or vise versa.

Then, you can make Textastic what you want it to be, by adding your own TextMate-compatible themes and syntax, as well as your own file templates to Textastic. There’s also the promise of more features going forward from the active forum, including tabbed browsing, built-in file browsing, and more.

The one main thing I’m missing in Textastic is built-in FTP support. If the Mac had that — as the iOS apps do — then it’d be the cheapest and easiest way to edit files on your site from your Mac. As is, you’ll still need to keep you favorite FTP tool around to upload your files.

Why Choose Textastic?

If you’re already using Textastic on your iOS device, getting Textastic for your Mac is a no-brainer at its current price, since it’ll get iCloud integration with the iOS versions soon. And it’s nice enough you might even end up switching to it by default.

If you already have a code editor you love today, then you might not want to switch, since Textastic is very basic today. It’s fast and lightweight, though, and works great, so if you’re willing to try something new it’s definitely a great option to try out. It’s not the new Sublime Text, but then, it’s nice to have something so stripped-down and lean, too.

For Mac users without a favorite code editor, especially those that don’t want to spend much, there is one other code editor that is easily the biggest competition to Textastic for Mac-only users: Bare Bones Software’s TextWrangler, the free sidekick to BBEdit. It’s the code editor most Mac users would recommend if you’re looking for a free way to get started. But, Textastic already is easier to get started with, feels more polished, and supports code completion, something TextWrangler doesn’t include. Just that’s enough to recommend Textastic over it, especially as cheap as Textastic is.

Textastic is a great code editor for the Mac, one we can’t wait to see how it continues to progress going forward!


Summary

A promising new code editor for the Mac, Textastic brings speed and a cheap price tag to an acclaimed iOS code editor that's brand new to the Mac. If it just added the built-in FTP support that Textastic for iOS includes, we'd be using it daily already.

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  • David

    (First, a quibble: “it’s” is not the possessive form of “it,” “its” is.)

    If you’re a dedicated Web developer, I highly recommend checking out the completely-free Netbeans (netbeans.org). Although it requires the presently-unfashionable Java to run, it is an incredible piece of software that also happens to be cross-platform. And 100% FREE. It may lack some of the prettiness of Cocoa native apps, but it is powerful, flexible, and extensible.

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      Oy, I did miss one of those. Sorry!

    • kettu

      Even though comparing Netbeans and lightweight text/code editors may not be fair… I love a good IDE, and Netbeans must be one of the best. Refactoring, incredibly good code completion, intelligently showing you problems before you even try to compile, fixing imports for you semi-automatically… just to name some of my favorite features. Fantastic programming environment, makes a coder happy!

      But yes! There’s room for lightweight “let’s throw together couple lines of [your favorite language]“-editors like Textastic too! Just not very good java completion out-of-the-box if you come from Netbeans.

      • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

        True enough. I think it’s in its own category compared to IDEs. I like its simplicity, something you don’t see that often.

  • rhet

    Definitely won’t replace my primary Code Editor in near future as some main features are still inferior when compared to other code editors
    But who knows. Surprise us, would you? As you did with the iPad version :)

  • Sigilist

    Sound article, but…

    In a cross-platform world, thinking outside of the Apple boxed world, $2.99 may be an eye-catcher to some, but not to serious web programmers. And why pay even that price when free is better. I see nothing here that Komodo Edit can’t do. And if truly serious, one steps up Komodo IDE, though the price will stop the heart of some. In addition, Dreamweaver for its price is almost as shocking, but it cannot be beat for being apple to also cut and paste content and work in WYSIWYG that is fully automatic for content “publishing”; uploading code is not “publishing.”

    And David, thank you for the mention of NetBeans; hadn’t heard of it before but am always curious about one-package true cross-platform applications. I’ll give it a peek even though for coding I likely won’t switch from using Komodo Edit and Dreamweaver in my as-needed approach to coding… and publishing content.

  • Clay

    Textmate 2 is open source and under active development — and is fantastic. It’s definitely worth a look before paying for anything at all: https://github.com/textmate/textmate

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      Don’t you still need a license to use it?

      • Clay

        Nope, I don’t think so. Mine is ‘unregistered,’ though I’ve been using it for months. I have a TextMate 1 license, but it never prompted me to apply it to the TM2 download.

      • Wiehann

        No, don’t need a license anymore.

  • Matthew Janssen

    Corrections:
    -Paragraph 4, last sentence: ‘it’s an iOS priced code editors with features…’ – ‘editors’ shouldn’t be plural.
    -Para 5, sentence 4: ‘…add the extras to you[r] code that it expects…’ – ‘you’ should be ‘your’.
    -Para 6, sentence 2: ‘…easy way to jump around in you[r] code.’ – ‘you’ should be ‘your’.
    -Para 14, second to last sentence: ‘…more polished, and support[s] code completion…’ – ‘support’ should be ‘supports’.

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      Woah … thanks for the corrections. Sorry about that! Turns out, spellcheck doesn’t work in Textastic :/

  • Nemesit

    Or use textmate 2 vim, emacs, sublimetext while the last one isn’t free it has no real limit on the demo version. On OSX nothing beats textmate if you prefer GUI editors.
    Judging by the ios version i would say that textastic has a bright future, but for now it is probably too basic for real development tasks

  • http://palobo.tumblr.com Pedro Lobo

    I think that most are missing the point here. Yes, it’s not as powerful or full featured as most other editors out there. But when it matures a little more I’m sure it will be a perfect fit for most humble needs and with iCloud sync it will be awesome.

    As for the comparisons, I cannot help but feel that people are too quick to judge and dismiss an app based on comparisons with apps that have a couple of years development on top of them. I’ve used Komodo edit when it came first came out and it wasn’t all that shiny. Netbeans, yeah, used that too and while great, was also plagued but bugs and slow performance. Remember that these are apps developed by large companies and not independent developers.

    So why not support the independent developer… It’s not that expensive. I bought a copy even though I already own Chocolat. Will it replace Chocolat, probably not yet but sometime down the road… Who knows…

  • http://pixelvibe.com Nikos Kapatos

    For 3$ you get a text editor with code completion that works, is fast, has some nice features with more coming (soon I hope).

    Seriously. For 3$. You get almost half of the pricy text editors (not ide like netbeans etc).

    No reason to complain.

  • Beatrix Willius

    Sigh….

    I want a Download for testing and not “Download on Mac Ap Store”. When a manual is mentioned then I want a manual and not a one-entry-faq.

  • http://trlstudios.com Evan Terrell

    By far, the best code editor I have EVER used is Coda 2. I use it every day, all day long. I even have Coda for the iPad. Absolutely FANTASTIC piece of software. Panic really makes some amazing software.

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      Now I do like Diet Coda on the iPad…

    • http://www.albertkinng.com Albert Kinng

      Espresso is by far better than Coda 2 IMHO just with the tags alone Coda can even get close. Check it out!

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