Wrong for you, right for me

by Giles Turnbull

I greatly respect Mark Pilgrim and have followed his writing for some years, but I take issue with his outburst on full screen editors over the weekend.

With these words:

Here's the basic problem: you're writing a text editor. Stop doing that. It's 2007. Saying to yourself "I'm gonna build my own text editor" is as silly as saying "I'm gonna build my own build system" or "I'm gonna build my own amusement park." Blackjack and hookers and all that. Writing a great text editor is insanely difficult. There is a certain class of software that sounds easy but is actually insanely difficult. I call it "garden path software."

… Mark seems to argue that writing a text editor in 2007 is essentially a waste of time, because it’s been done many times before and there are plenty of excellent editors around already.

Um - try telling that to Allan Odgaard, creator of TextMate. Does Mark think Allan’s been wasting his time? Many purchasers of TextMate would say otherwise.


2007-01-22 07:31:28
"telling that to Allan Odgaard, creator of TextMate."

Ah, but it is 2007, and TextMate already exists :-)

Linton Chiswick
2007-01-22 07:53:55
I once made a woman feint into her latte over the simple but perfect functionality of my desktop wiki. I was banned from the Villiers Street branch of Starbucks as a result. I've been allowed back in since. But only on the understanding I quit out of my Next Action lists before entering.
2007-01-22 07:54:38
Answer me this: while you were writing this in a full-text text editor, where did you get the quotes from Mark Pilgrim from? What about the URLs in your anchor links?
2007-01-22 07:56:03
@Tors: I wrote this post in TextMate, *precisely because* I was going to need to paste in quotes and URLs...
2007-01-22 09:03:41
For those who may not understand the random reference to blackjack and hookers, it's a line from Futurama:

"[after being kicked out of a theme park] Yeah... well, I'm gonna go build my own theme park! With blackjack and hookers! In fact, forget the park!"
- Bender

2007-01-22 10:00:26
Textmate can do full screen editing! Ok, it does need some help but it can be done:


2007-01-22 12:28:22
I have to agree with Mark, and I think anyone who uses Emacs on a regular basis probably feels the same way. Yes, TextMate was a waste of time. I've tried to switch to it, as I've tried to switch to virtually every other OS X native text-editor-of-the-week, because I used to feel slightly ashamed that I was still using the same old Unix text editor I picked up in college. But every time I do I find something lacking and go crawling back to my first love. It does take decades to get a text editor to the place where Emacs (and one or two others I won't name) is today, and it's a bad idea to start from scratch: if you're *serious* about editors, anything made in the last few years is just a wannabe toy. If you want full-screen, you can take a good editor and make it full-screen.

Mark Hunte
2007-01-22 15:59:08
Mikey-San over on Macosxhints has written a app that may help you with distractions.

The full thread is here. http://forums.macosxhints.com/showthread.php?t=66076

the latest build to date is here,http://forums.macosxhints.com/showpost.php?p=350309&postcount=70

2007-01-22 17:55:53
I don't want to get into the eternal mud slinging thaat is what text editor is better than another. But I would like to say I agree with Giles. I've not found the perfect text editor yet. I write a lot although I'm not a pro (site, newsletter, etc) and most of it I do in BBEDit. I've tried TextMate but went back to BBEedit after a while. I've also tried WriteRoom and various other apps too but have yet to find the perfect one for me. Scrivener looks interesting and I'll have a look. I thank you Giles for continuing to try new apps and telling us about them.
2007-01-23 01:14:09
Now hold on a minute! Y'all are missing the most amazing part of this blog! Giles lives in a TOWN WITHOUT A STARBUCKS! Unbelievable! I live in a tiny one-horse town in WV - the last place to see *anything* - and we have three of 'em. Giles, where do you live, Antarctica???
2007-01-23 02:17:54
@Sherm: Heh. I'm in the UK, which probably explains the lack of Starbuckken. :)
2007-01-23 04:26:00
Funny thing, I think only his third point is a valid one -:)
Yakov C
2007-01-30 22:59:05
1) I live in a COUNTRY without a Starbucks. (Israel)
2) http://ianhenderson.org/megazoomer.html . Now EVERY text editor is full screen -- including TextEdit.
2007-02-03 14:28:08
Here's a copy of the comment I left in response to Mark's WrongRoom Post

Your comments sound like someone who trying to convince himself of something. What do you really care? The people that have created these various products are experimenting with a new idea. It is how innovation in technology comes about to benefit humanity. But no one is asking you to adopt the applications into your life. As a matter of fact I don't really care how you file your stories or write your books. It's really non of my business. That is until you made a blanket insult about those of us who do like writing with an application offering a full screen mode.

I'm happy for you that you've written two books. I've written one and I get published monthly in print. After using BBEdit for writing for the last five years I was thrilled to find two tools which have helped me immensely. Both are well written and thought out products with a full screen feature that I find brilliant.

The ability to write comes from the individual. I could write a novella in this comments box if I had to, but I don't have to. And the newer editors with a full screen mode have made writing a lot easier on my eyes. So please use what you want to write with, but don't judge others for the tools they choose. You come off as pontificating and ignorant with little respect for your peers.

For those that are looking around at different products give MacJournal and Scrivener a try. Both are fantastic and very affordable.

2007-03-15 09:48:37
This is amusing for anyone who goes back a ways. Some years back, Jerry Pournelle was gushing about his "Writer's Really Incredible Text Editor", a CP/M product. (I told you this was years back...) More recently, in the MS-DOS days, users loved WordPerfect.

Why? Because you came up in a blank screen, and could simply start entering text. No menu bars. No status lines. No distractions. Just you and your text. (WP did have a row/column indicator, but you could turn that off.)

The presence of WriteRoom, DarkRoom (a .NET clone for WriteRoom for Windows), and JDarkRoom (a Java clone of WriteRoom) indicates the model is still valid for a lot of folks.

I think the big source of confusion is simply what people do in an editor. Folks using WriteRoom or similar products are writing prose. They want to get their text into a file with minimal distraction. Editing and formatting will come later.

I suspect most folks going "Huh?" at the concept of WriteRoom write code. Hey, folks? WriteRoom isn't for you. Writing code requires features WriteRoom doesn't have, and won't get, because that's not what it's for.

I collect text editors, and probably have a hundred for different platforms. There's no one-size-fits-all editor, and can't be. You simply have to try some and find a few that do what you want, the way you want it.

WriteRoom isn't for me, but I understand what makes it attractive, and I'm happy it exists.