Most of the text I edit is code. It’s just part of being a web developer. Sure, I do a little writing now and again for this here blog, but I usually do that in a web browser, so most of the time I spend in text editors is for code. But, I’m working on a pretty big documentation project for work, and I’m trying out Markdown for blog posts, so I’m spending more time in a plain vanilla text editor to do both.

These are the text editors I’ve come to know and love.


Everybody starts with Notepad. I think I wrote all of my HTML and fledgling Javascript in Notepad back in high school - Dreamweaver just felt unwieldy, and I didn’t know about any other options at the time.


It’s been a long time since I’ve used UltraEdit, but it was my go-to editor for most of college. I really only used it because I could open several files in tabs - pretty standard these days, but that was the first time I’d seen it. I don’t even know what else it was capable of, because I just used it as a basic text editor.

Zend Studio

Zend Studio has been my primary IDE since I started my current job two and a half years ago. I love it because of the code completion and debugging for PHP, but I wind up using it for just about any text I need to edit quickly while I’m working because it’s always open. I also use it on my MacBook if I’m doing stuff for work.


TextMate has been gaining ground in my workflow. It’s a pretty powerful little editor, but I barely take advantage of it. I use it all the time to edit plain text, but I almost never code in it - Zend is a far superior IDE for PHP, so it never made sense to use TextMate for it.

The real power in TextMate comes from its bundles. I just finished a project with Code Igniter (more on that in another post soon), and TextMate turned out to be a lot more useful thanks to the Code Igniter TextMate Bundle (for the record, I found a second bundle when trying to find the link to that one, but I haven’t tried it yet). I like Zend’s code completion, but I was able to develop in TextMate a lot quicker with the shortcuts provided by the bundle.

It also has a Markdown bundle, which adds some keyboard shortcuts, provides a quick cheat sheet, and makes it easy to preview while you’re writing. In fact, I’m writing this in TextMate right now.

Update: I love it even more now that I’ve watched this video about blogging in TextMate. You can post new entries and edit existing ones right in TextMate!


To be honest, I haven’t actually written anything in WriteRoom, except for the couple of times I’ve played with it to tweak the font and such. Basically, it gives you a solid black screen with a narrow column of simple green text and a blinking console cursor. The colors can be customized, of course, but the point is that it gives you a stripped down, no frills, typewriter-like interface where you can write without the distraction of menus, bouncing dock icons, or IM windows. It really makes me wish I had something to write, because it just compels me to spill everything into words on the screen. I thought I might start using it with Markdown to write blog posts and stuff, but that was before I found all the shortcuts in TextMate. Still, WriteRoom just begs to be used, and I wish I had more than two days left in my trial so I could see if I can’t find a use for it.