The long road to Saskatoon

by Giles Turnbull

A couple of days ago, the small group who had been working on Saskatoon, a fork of the open source Smultron text editor, announced that they'd decided to take it no further:

The Saskatoon project has stalled out. Despite the lack of a usable binary we have decided to release the source at this time, in the hopes that it will be useful either to Peter Borg (the developer of Smultron, which forms the basis for Saskatoon), or to developers working on a future fork of Smultron.

I asked the group leader, Paul Bissex, if he'd mind sharing with the rest of us why the project came to an end, and he was happy to oblige.

First off, I asked: If I remember rightly, the aim was to make a really good programmer's editor for OS X.

PB: The three key criteria were: Really Good, Open Source, and Cocoa. Smultron met those, but since everybody has a different idea of "really good" I naturally had things I wanted to add, particularly text munging via shell scripts.

What's stopped you? Is it just because there's Never Enough Time (that's my problem in life) or was there more to it?

PB: That was most of it. I posted some thoughts about it. I went from being self-employed to a very intense (but cool) full-time job in January. I lacked the Cocoa chops to really lead the project authoritatively, and even though a half-dozen people signed on we never got real momentum. If I were to boil it down to a technical reason, I'd say that it was my lack of sophistication with regard to source code management. I set up a subversion repository and Trac server for the project, and all that was great, but I didn't know enough to create a branch when one developer boldly took up one of my ideas to replace a central part of the app. The replacement code's performance never came up to snuff, but I hadn't left us any easy way to back out his changes to give us a usable binary.

The other factor for me is that web programming continues to be the thing that interests me most. So now I'm fishing around for a good web framework project to join.

What would you say is the best programmer's editor available right now; or, what editor are you using?

PB: It's funny -- I've been using TextWrangler a lot. In the shell, emacs. I think BBEdit may still the be best editor available for OS X, but it's showing its age and is too expensive. Smultron has now added ODB Editor support, which was one of my wish-list items for Saskatoon. I find TextMate very appealing and am about to give it another try. Damn... now you're making me want to work on Saskatoon again.

So there you have it; my thanks to Paul for talking so willingly and openly. If the thought of Saskatoon withering away bothers you, now's your chance to pick up the source that's been produced to date, and run with it. Now there's a chance you don't get every day.

Or do you think we have plenty of editors already?


2005-07-21 00:30:03
Personally, I don't like BBEdit. It's just too big and cumbersome, as well as being too expensive.

There's a lot to be said for skEdit, though.

It's got a few bugs, but it's fast, light and has some nice features...

2005-07-21 11:04:48
Editors - and collaborative editing
I recently downloaded SubEthaEdit, which I haven't used for a long time. It'll do most of what most editors will do - and some that some won't. And, of course, it can do collaborative editing.

Interestingly, if current plans hold there will be a bounty offered for anyone who can write an open source clone of it: