I'm a "vi" kind of guy. Whether it's writing scripts or posts for this web site, vi is my tool of choice
Part of that is quite utilitarian. Vi is always available, except on Windows, of course, but I don't write posts on Windows and certainly don't do any Windows scripting. Everywhere else, I can count on vi.
But it is also force of habit. I'm used to vi, can do what I want to do quickly and efficiently, so why use anything else? Why indeed. I'm not about to switch.
Yet for the purposes of this review, I'm actually using Smultron, a Mac OS X editor.
The first thing I wanted to check out was search and replace. This is usually where editors fail to impress me. Vi has wonderful search and replace features. For example, when writing posts like this, I may paste in a list of web site references:
and so on. I want to change them into hyperlinks, so in vi I'd simply do:
That may look awful to the uninitiated, but it really breaks down very simply. See Vi Primer for a quick introduction.
So how would you do that in Smultron? Well.. I don't know. I don't think you can. The search and replace supposedly recognizes regular expressions, so you can say that the "find" part matches ".*", but there's no apparent way to refer to what was matched. It isn't \1 or $1, and Smultron's "Help" link is entirely mute on this subject.
Worse, Smultron is worried that you might have made a mistake: when you execute a search and replace Smultron asks if you are sure. I couldn't find anything in Preferences to turn that nag off.
More maddening is the "Undo" feature. If you mistakenly replaced more than you wanted to in selected text, you have to re-select the changed text before you can undo it!
Smultron does have a "Close Tag" feature (command T) that works well for typing in html documents like this. I also like that it displays line numbers and can easily display invisible characters, though the distinction between a space and a period isn't much in that mode.
Smultron can be set to auto complete words after a delay period of your choosing. As it lacks spell checking, that's at least a partial substitute. That feature does make it difficult to type html tags, though: if you start <p it Smultron thinks the "p" should be the word "period". Also, if you have accidentally mistyped something, Smultron will add that to its list of words to suggest, making it very easy to keep compounding the mistake. I found auto completion more annoying than useful, so turned it off.
Smultron can do automatic indenting and supposedly can indicate matching braces in code, but I couldn't figure out how you ask it to show the matching brace and again the documentation is non-existent. There's also supposedly syntax coloring that supposedly shows unclosed tags; how to trigger that eluded me.
That's undoubtedly the most annoying part of Smultron: no documentation. I suppose if you must have a graphical editor, and don't mind one that has lousy documentation, then Smultron might be useful to you. It sure is not useful to me.
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2012-07-12 Anthony Lawrence
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