Forwarding Address: OS X

Monday, October 25, 2004

Smultron : The Next Generation

I've been obsessed with programmer's editors lately. I think what set me off was the latest BBEdit upgrade; a paid update lacking any must-have features is an incentive to survey the competition. I'm not going to list them all, but suffice it to say that I looked at pretty much every editor that will run on OS X, whether Cocoa, Java, terminal, or X11-based. In the end found that what I wanted most was something that: 1) had that nice native feel and 2) was open source, increasing the odds that it would stick around, get updated, and remain affordable. It needn't have the featureset of Eclipse or XCode.

The application I liked most that met those criteria was Smultron. It's impressively full featured for a 1.0, one-person effort. It's got syntax coloring, regular expression support, a novel one-window interface to multiple documents, user-extensible syntax coloring, multiple (human) language support, a nifty "code snippets" drawer, HTML preview, and lots more. It reminds me a bit of SciTE, but alas there is no Aqua version of SciTE.

Smultron is licensed under the GPL. I've exchanged some mail with Smultron's author, and while he's made it clear that he would like to retain his own Smultron branch, he would welcome a "competing" fork based on his code.

I've been playing with the source in XCode and have succeeded in fixing a couple cosmetic problems, writing a quick hack to work around a hanging bug, and even adding a feature that I wanted ("Run in Shell").

I'd like to fire up a Sourceforge project for this, but I can't possibly do it alone. Though I'm learning, my Cocoa skills at this point are not at a very high level. So I'm looking for other developers who would be interested in taking the Smultron codebase and collectively running with it. There are bugs to quash, features to add, and interface guidelines to uphold. If you're interested, email me. I'll set up a discussion list and we'll figure out whether this is worth doing, then move on to the gritty details.


  • I'm not sure I get it... do you propose creating a "competing" branch? Why? Are there any changes you want to make that the current developer has rejected?

    If not, then your best bet is to just colaborate with Peter Borg. The project is already in sourceforge.

    Have you sent back your changes to Peter? That would be the best first step.

    By Sebastian, at 2:23 PM  

  • Sorry not to have been clearer. In email Peter told me that, barring a very high level of involvement from a collaborating developer, he would prefer to keep the current project his own. I've submitted code for most of my fixes/hacks (you can look them up -- I'm "pbx" on sourceforge). My impression is that Peter's energy for the project has waned, that he wants to retain sole control of the current Smultron project for now, but that he is very amenable to seeing other people run with his code. If there's a smarter way I could go about this, I'm open to suggestions.

    By pbx, at 4:03 PM  

  • Well, the project is underway! A small team has been assembled and we're starting work. I'm guessing we'll have a public beta within 1-3 months. More later...

    By pbx, at 2:58 PM  

  • Please post more information - what features are you adding, what's the project URL, how can everyone else contribute. 'Closed' open source projects are futile.

    By Anonymous, at 5:43 AM  

  • Thanks for your interest. I completely disagree, though, that it's "futile" to have a quiet period before opening stuff up to the world. Some things need to be broken before they can be fixed, and there's not a lot of useful input to be delivered during that phase. "Hey, dude, this is broken!" Uh, thanks. But of course we hope to soon reach the point where feedback is wanted, and we'll also probably need some help with documentation, icon-making, localization, etc. Readers of this blog will be among the first to know when that day arrives. Features to be added are still under discussion, so I don't want to name stuff that we end up dropping; but to pick one example, some sort of shell integration is pretty much guaranteed. We've also fixed a number of bugs and interface irregularities. More soon, I promise.

    By pbx, at 11:11 AM  

  • I just moved to the mac from PC and I was looking for a good replacement for notepad2 (PC-only) recently. Then I found Smultron and it's much better than notepad2. And it's free too and Open Source!

    I don't know Cocoa but I'm willing to test a beta of your build of Smultron. I'll give you only progressive feedback and criticism. Anything to improve the state of text editors for Mac OS X. I'll test it with real-world projects --- my commercial web design projects and will be using it to code XHTML, CSS and PHP.

    You can email me through my site

    By Anonymous, at 2:38 PM  

  • So come on already. Open this up to the community!

    By Anonymous, at 8:54 AM  

  • Soon, I promise! Watch this space:

    By pbx, at 2:51 PM  

  • Well - is the project dead ? I´ve been waiting for so long ... It looks like THE app I would love to use.
    It would be nice if you could give a short report on the project´s status.

    By, at 3:03 PM  

  • OK, *now* the project is dead. We've bundled up the source and posted it on Sourceforge. If you feel like picking up where we left off... have at it!

    By pbx, at 7:43 AM  

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