TextWrangler: now free, and better than ever

by Giles Turnbull

Related link: http://www.barebones.com/products/textwrangler/index.shtml

This announcement by BareBones might be somewhat eclipsed by all the new Apple stuff, but I think it's important and potentially invaluable to a lot of Mac users.

As of now, TextWrangler has been updated to version 2.0, with a bunch of fantastic new features that have only appeared before in BBEdit 8.0.

And it's now free.

Yes, you read that right. You can now grab a copy of TextWrangler for nothing.

So is this a return to the old BBEdit/BBEdit Lite days of old?

Well, not quite, although you could be forgiven for thinking that way. I had a lengthy telephone conversation with BareBones CEO Rich Siegel some weeks ago, and made a passing comment about how BBEdit Lite was renamed TextWrangler. Rich jumped in to correct me.

TextWrangler was a whole new application, he said. The code in TW was all new; it simply couldn't be described as BBEdit Lite with a new wrapping.

And just take a look at it now; version 2 includes the documents drawer, the shebang menu item, more syntax coloring, SFTP support, and the ability to run Text Factories.

It might be more useful to note what TextWrangler doesn't do. It can't create Text Factories; you still need to have a copy of BBEdit to do that. There's no Markup menu item in TextWrangler, which means none of the HTML tools found in BBEdit. Also, you can't preview HTML documents within TextWrangler. Only BBEdit supports Perforce SCM, CVS, Shell worksheets, and File Groups.

Just as BBEdit Lite did before, TextWrangler now offers a subset of the features found in BBEdit.

That subset, however, is still a very powerful and useful text editor. One could argue that the things offered by BBEdit, such as HTML and CSS tools and support for version control systems, emphasize its suitability as a coding and markup environment. TextWrangler, however, is there for other kinds of text editing.

One thing I find curious is that BareBones does not appear to be shouting the "free" aspect of this release from the rooftops. The official web page has a big TextWrangler logo, but the fact that the software is free isn't mentioned until half-way down, in normal, unhighlighted text. C'mon guys, this is something to celebrate! Shout about it a little!

What about the folks who shelled out $49 for TextWrangler while it was a commercial app? BareBones cares about them, too. It's sending every one of them a $49 credit voucher, for use on any BareBones product.

BareBones addresses these and several other salient comments in a very pithy FAQ, interesting for existing users and newcomers alike.

So I'll end this post with a quick word to those newcomers, to all the people who might be tempted to buy a Mac mini to match their iPod, and make the switch from Windows. To you guys, I say download TextWrangler. You have nothing to lose, even if you can't see a need for having a text editor installed. And when the day comes for you to hack some code for the first time, or zap some gremlins from a huge formatted file someone sent you by email, or write that novel that's been lurking in your brain for years, you'll be pleased it's there.

Has BareBones done the right thing?