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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.8