10 Versatile Text Editors for OS X

Whilst you may be content using a pen and paper, many Mac owners need something a little more powerful for writing text on their computer. Fortunately, a wide range of different tools exist, each with their own unique features (and price point). Whether you’re looking for a simple note taking application, need to write reams of code, or simply don’t require the long waiting times of Microsoft Word, there’s a text editor out there for you.




TextWrangler is a free version of BBEdit (see below). It offers a broad range of support for different programming languages, and fantastic find and replace functionality. A reliable and powerful tool, especially considering its freeware status.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later
Developer: Bare Bones




TextMate fits into the OS X user experience well, and is a highly regarded editor. It contains decent project management features, clipboard history, automatic bracket pairing, and can be expanded with plugins.

Price: $50
Requires: Mac OS 10.4.2 PPC/Intel
Developer: Macro Mates




BBEdit is one of the leading text editors for the Mac, and the price reflects that. It’s beyond the reach of a casual user, but offers a range of advanced functionality. Great for searching and replacing, organizing projects, working with remote servers, in-built code validation/standards checking, and highlighting any code you throw at it.

Price: $129 ($49 Educational)
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later
Developer: Bare Bones




SubEthaEdit is a powerful and lean text editor, reasonably priced, and offers unique collaboration features. Featuring command line integration, live HTML previews, and easy customization, it also integrates well with Coda.

Price: €29
Requires: OS X 10.4
Developer: Coding Monkeys

Carbon EMacs

Carbon EMacs


Carbon Emacs Package is a Mac-friendly distribution of the GNU Emacs text editor. It’s simple, extensible, and good for technically minded users who value the advanced features it offers. Not the most user friendly app, but worth bearing in mind. Also very similar is Aquamacs.

Price: Free (Open Source)
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 or later
Developer: Seiji Zenitani




Geared for web editing, skEdit is good for working with remote files, storing snippets, code completion, automatically tidying HTML, and Subversion integration. It’s also extensible via plugins.

Price: $34.95
Requires: Mac OS 10.4 or Later
Developer: SKTI

Coda and Espresso

Coda and Espresso

Coda / Espresso

After a quick Twitter poll, many AppStorm readers prefer to use a more full featured app for editing text (one also supporting FTP, CSS development, and live previewing). Both Coda and Espresso have been reviewed here, but they’re quite expensive and far, far more than a simple text editor. Worth looking into!

Price: $80-$99
Requires: Coda: OS X 10.4; Espresso: OS X 10.5 Leopard




Smultron is a Leopard-centric text editor, with lovely icons and a well designed interface. Code highlighting, system file management (with automatic authentication), and HTML previews make it an appealing free option.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X Leopard 10.5
Developer: Tuppis




Taking a different approach, WriteRoom offers little advanced functionality but a remarkably simple interface to minimize distractions. Definitely not for everyone, but it could be great if you’re looking for a simple tool. Check out our review for full details.

Price: $24.95
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later
Developer: Hog Bay Software




TextEdit is a simple, open source word processor and text editor. It offers very basic functionality, but is bundled for free with OS X (it’s already in your Applications folder!) Often great for quickly viewing a file, but it won’t satisfy many advanced requirements.

Price: Free
Requires: OS X (Any Version)
Developer: Apple


Whether you have a huge budget for a text editor or not a bean to spare, there should be a good option for you. It’s worth deciding how many of the additional features you really need, as I often find they get in the way when trying to write something simple.

It may be a good idea to combine a couple of the applications, WriteRoom and TextMate for instance, to provide a good mix between complicated code editing and a simple writing interface.

I’m interested to hear what you use, and whether you’d suggest any different applications (just don’t say VIM!).


Add Yours
  • I’m a TextMate kind of guy myself.

  • No MacVim? If you are going to include Emacs you got to include vim!


    • Agreed!!

      • Is the best for my needs…! I was looking as like Ultraedit32 Win, I recommend that url…

  • Notice I didn’t say VIM!

  • I’m lucky to get coda from the beginning. it was only $79. And don’t need all of thoose apps. Coda is more than enough… :D

  • No NeoOffice? It’s basically a free (and better) alternative to MS Word, it’s got a clean interface, lots of flexibility, and can save/open multiple file types. Highly recommend it!

    • Look at the apps, notice text editors are not the same as word processors.
      text editors do only plain text editing , word processors do things like page layout editing, rich text formatting…

  • coda is brilliant. will make using a pc that much m ore difficult

  • Nothing beats TextMate in my opinion. Works great for coding and just jotting ideas down quickly (I don’t use a proper word processor).

  • VooDoo Pad (+ lite version)

  • Having worked with several heavy-weight IDEs in my time as a Java developer I’m more than happy with TextMate these days. On the command-line I’m still stuck with my pal vim, after all these years.

  • Instead of recommending Carbon Emacs, why not recommend Emacs.app? Its source base is now merged with official GNU Emacs. http://emacs-app.sourceforge.net/

  • I can’t believe you didn’t feature Smultron. It’s free and quite awesome. I seldom feel the need for anything else.

    • I think you should take a good look at the post again. I’m sure you’ll find Smultron in there.

    • Smultron can become extremely slow with large text files. (10k lines)
      Plus, when lines are so long that they spread over several lines in the editor, an offset between lines and line numbers appears. That is a very serious bug.

      This is for version 3.6b1. Version 4 is no longer free, apparently. 3.6b1 is the latest free version I’ve found.

  • TextWrangler is where its at.

  • Tried some of them, but still sticking with Coda, serves me well. I guess in a way when you’ve already shelled out 99 bucks you’d better make that money’s worth. :)

  • I have test Coda , Espresso, TextMatte, for fast working and Keystroke.
    Espresso is the favorite but have lite bugs, we need waiting and absolute favorite is Text Mate. I have lite customizing and now is very hard fast

  • What about TACO?

  • I finally purchased Coda last night. I’ll use it as much as I can! =P

  • I’ve yet to find a text editor that works better for me than TextMate. I’ve used it for years to write code, and have used it for things my kludgy IDEs at work aren’t very good at, like writing repetitive code. Its customizable bundles make it able to do a lot of work for you.

  • This is kind of a open-ended post. After reading through the list, it’s apparent that when you say “text editor” you really meant a coding app that isn’t WYSIWYG. I don’t know anyone who would use any of these apps for every-day office word processing – which is “text editing” in its most simple and most used form.

    However, if we’re talking about coding for apps and Web pages, then these apps are probably a LOT more popular. Coda in particular is excellent, as is BBEdit, etc.

    For the other type of text editing, I like iWork’s Pages – much nicer/simpler than MS Word, and doesn’t take 3 weeks to launch like Word does (why does MS feel the need to “optimize my font menu” EVERY STINKING TIME I launch the app???)

    • Lol, I know, I hate when Word does that! At my office I have to use it occasionally, thankfully not that often.

      For code editors, I really dig TextMate and Coda, but currently trying out Espresso, which is promising I must say.

    • Yup, text editor… quite a common term in computing… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Text_editor as opposed to a word processor http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_processor for composition and formatting of rich text and graphics into documents i.e. like Pages or MS Word etc

  • Coda is legit! :) Well worth the investment. -mig

  • I´m fully happy with my TextMate but thanks for the list :)

  • I personally like TextEdit. It’s fast and full of features.

  • Coda is a perfect example of a well-design Mac application.

  • Smultron is also compatible with Tiger !

  • Aptana not up there it’s not that great but it’s ok. Coda is the best though

  • Glad you included skEdit, majority of people have never heard of it! I love it and I’ve tried Coda/Textmate, always come back to skEdit

  • for simple and small projects I use Coda, while for the rest I use TextMate.. the only off that Coda has is no code folding..

  • I’m with Tom on my choice – skEdit all the way. It might not look as polished as the others, but code completion and an on-save webkit preview window it such a time saver.

    Also I don’t think that Apples TextEdit is open-source.

  • I am using CotEditor – great for editing source code, different encodings etc.


  • Ok, but the most powerful editor ever created VIM (or MacVim) which also happens to be open source and free is not even mentioned ?

  • Take a look at CotEditor


  • textmate is great. good share

  • It’s something that I need for completing layouts in some magazines I prepare for our customers.

  • Someone just recommended AquaMacs to me. I really like it so far because it’s UI is more eye pleasing than TextWrangler, Smultron, and jEdit combined. Give it a try http://aquamacs.org/

  • Know that this is an older post but thought it was worth a mention that UltraEdit has just been released today as a full Mac application. It is not just ported but written with Mac users and the interface in mind. Price is not bad at 69. I have been beta testing and although haven’t used it a lot do like it as it also allows you to use regular expression.

  • textmate is the best!

  • My choice for lightweight Word replacement is Bean. It may soon get tabbed document interface, which would make it unique in Mac environment.

    Another KISS-type editor is OmmWriter.

  • Coming from the windows realm, I heavily relied upon IDM’s UltraEdit. It has a good feature set. Now that I am transitioning to the Mac, I was really looking for a replacement. Thankfully, though, IDM has released a version of UltraEdit for mac. Now my familiarity will not go to waste and I won’t lose any time in learning a new app’s nuances.

  • I use Smultron for many years now and wouldn’t switch to any other editor.

  • Smultron is developed by Peter Borg http://www.peterborgapps.com/ and is not (anymore) freeware — costs $4.99 on Mac AppStore.

    While Smultron had been on a hiatus, an alternative named Fraise was actively developed. Though, now Smultron is back and Fraise’s development has stopped. Fraise is still available for free: http://www.fraiseapp.com/?lng=en

  • It’s not exactly a word processor, nor a pure ‘text editor’, but I couldn’t work without TextSoap: http://www.unmarked.com/textsoap/

  • Been using Komodo Edit for Mac for some time. Started to crash so judging from here it seems I should try either TextMate or Coda. Thanks

  • There is an open free office package that can be used in OSx
    OpenOffice contains Text-editor, SpreadSheet, Presentation and everything.
    I have OSx Tiger and it function perfect!

    Free and compatible with major office programs

    • As stated previously, this article is about text editors which are generally used for web and software development. OpenOffice Writer is a word processor and formats documents for rich text formats such as odt and doc.

  • What about gedit? http://projects.gnome.org/gedit/ ? It’s nice and slick in it osx native package.

    • I recommend gedit too. I use it all of the time now.
      I primarily use Linux, and cant bear to live without my linux + gnome apps. This makes using OSX at work, reasonable.

  • Mmmmm, I like TexMate, TextWrangler, and I’m now enjoying jEdit, very powerfiul. Oh & Coda rocks too….

    • ok textmate

  • i have used two of the above but if i had to choose one then TextMate beats all. TextWrangler and TextEdit are also powerful. Nice collection!!

  • My favorite is Sublime Text 2.

    • I’m glad someone recommended this! I’ve been using Sublime Text 2 for the past few months and have moved away from TextMate. Both are very good editors though, and I couldn’t say that either was better than the other.

  • Looking for free, easy to use text editor? I say Xcode or Dashcode does all I need. It comes with the mac osx developer tools cd or you could download it from Apple.

  • thank you. textwrangler does it for me. hard to find the perfect mac app :( so much too chose.

  • I like BBEdit, the best! I am using it coding PHP, CSS, HTML, works well.

  • Rattling nice style and design and excellent content material, absolutely absolutely nothing else all of us require: D.

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  • +1 vim

  • textmate is now FREE!!! https://github.com/textmate/textmate

  • No macvim = this list is incomplete…


  • Try “Sublime Text 2 ”

    really awesome :)


  • If emacs is mentioned, you have to list MacVim (http://code.google.com/p/macvim/)!
    I personally like the nice and clean interface of Tincta (http://mr-fridge.de/software/tincta/index.php)

  • Is there a mac text editor with variable highlighting like we have in notepad++. In notepad++, I can select a text/pattern and set its background as style 1 (using style configurator). I need a text editor for mac that has this ability. Pls let me know which one has this. Thanks.