TextMate: Power Editing for the Mac Paperback – Mar 4 2007
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
TextMate, like many Mac applications, seems like a simple, easy to use application but underneath the hood it has four types of additions to customize the editing experience - snippets, macros, commands and language grammars - and a method of tying them together into a mode called a bundle. Grammars control syntax colouring, indentation, text folding among other features. TextMate also seems to have been designed from day one to integrate well with Mac OS X and its Unix underpinnings. First, it includes a great command line tool, "mate", that has a couple of neat tricks like automatically creating a project when passed a list of files or a directory name, and a GUI that can easily run shell commands and scripts. TextMate can't give me a list of unique lines in a file but it is trivially easy to pass a selection to 'uniq' and have the results replace the selection, for example.
I don't want to spend half this review describing TextMate, suffice to say that it is an incredibly powerful and conformable editor. The extended features are all well covered by TPEftM.
Taken as a whole this book is a marvelous second volume to the TextMate manual. Though the first section summarizes information covered in the TextMate manual the rest of the book takes a huge leap forward and gives you details on how to get the best from one of the finest text editors it has been my pleasure to use. If you want a well written manual for the advanced and malleable parts of TextMate then this book is pretty good, the details it is missing, such as the plugin API, are covered by the manual and where the manual is thin on detail this book fleshes it out nicely.
It's broken up into three sections, "Editing" which contains three chapters (and the introduction) covering the basics of creating projects and files, moving around, selecting text and find and replace (a nice little regular expresson engine), "Automations" which contains five chapters covering the built in bundles and how to write your own snippets, macros and commands and "Languages" which covers the development of language grammars, preferences and themes.
This is a useful book. It's not a classic, it won't revolutionize your thinking about anything, nor will you learn new coding techniques. It will, however, reward any effort you make towards working through it with a much improved editing experience.
TPEftM is also a hard book, reading it can be almost a chore with the need to digest and try out some fairly complicated topics. TPEftM isn't a great learning aide, it's more a technical manual than a textbook. I wish I could blame the writing but the book is well written and edited, it just has a technical style. At times I thought a lighter touch in the writing would have been good to allay some of the density. It also seems light on examples, while the discussion of each topic is well constructed and understandable a little more attention to the number, length and content of examples would have improved the book's usability.
It is best to give TPEftM a quick read and then use it as a guide to doing some customizing of your TextMate environment. The chapter that I remember well is the one on snippets since I've used the book to guide me in writing several. In fact my first foray into 'programming' TextMate was to alter some snippets in the built-in automation.
The O'Reilly page for the book just contains a book description and some marketing information. For more useful information you can go to the Pragmatic Programmer's page for the book which has a link to download the code, an errata list, a table of contents and links to two excerpts from the book. You can also buy the PDF version or both the PDF and paper versions on the Pragmatic site.
In conclusion this is a great book if you are currently toying with using TextMate as your Mac OS X editor. It is a good book and second manual if you are already a heavy TextMate user and want to know how to get the best out of the programmability of TextMate. So all TextMate users should consider this book a must buy. This is one hunk of extra documentation for TextMate, at only 182 pages it isn't a large book but it is full of information. For your money you'll have an immediately useful book that will take you months to digest.
The Pragmatic Programmers' book, TextMate Power Editing for the Mac is a thorough introduction to TextMate. Edward Gray II has written a very accessible book, that covers the product very well.
The first third of the book is devoted to the basics - things you do every day in your text editor. The second third of the book dives into the details of some really sweet features of TextMate that you'll find yourself using all the time: bundles, snippets, macros and UNIX shell commands.
TextMate ships with over thirty 'bundles'. Each bundle is a directory of related files that provide additional functionality to TextMate. Let's say you're working on an HTML file. The HTML bundle will help you with loads of things related to your document: validate the syntax of the document, open the document in the default browser, refresh the document in the current browser session, insert open/close tags for the current word, strip all HTML tags from the document - just to name a few. Each bundle provides functionality that applies not only to the syntax of the language you're currently working with, but repetitive tasks that would apply as well.
As I mentioned, a couple dozen bundles ship with TextMate and many more are available for free download from various websites. You can even create your own bundles to extend the product in ways that only you can imagine. Here are a few of the bundles that ship with TextMate: Blogging, CSS, HTML, Java, Markdown, Objective-C, Python, Rails, Ruby, SQL, Subversion, Text, Textile, Xcode and XML. Bundles provide you with lots of help editing files and performing related tasks.
Snippets are a smart completion mechanism that go way beyond the simple concept of 'finish this word'. For example, if you are editing a Ruby file and you type array_object.ea followed by the TAB key (where 'array_object' is an arbitrary Array object), the snippet feature will automatically fill in the skeleton of the 'each' iterator, including the opening and closing curly braces, the text '|e|' with the letter 'e' highlighted. You simply type the name of the variable you want to represent the next element (or simply leave it as it is), hit the TAB key again and the cursor will be placed between the closing '|' character and the closing '}' character, ready for you to type in an expression. Very cool. This same trick works for dozens of different scenarios in your Ruby code. And that's just the snippets that apply to Ruby code. There are snippets that apply to a large number of file types.
You've probably seen macros in other editors and TextMate's macro facility works as you might expect: you start recording a macro, perform some actions and save the macro. TextMate saves the macros as XML files, so it's a snap to edit a macro after recording if you need to tweak it a bit.
The ability to fire off UNIX shell commands from within TextMate gives you another powerful tool to use while editing files. You can fire off one-liner shell commands by simply pressing the ^R key on a line containing a shell command. You can also use shell commands to act on all or part of the current document.
For the advanced TextMate user, the tail end of the book shows you how to create your own language syntax for use in TextMate, including how to describe the grammar of the language in terms TextMate will understand. So, if you program in some far out funky language that TextMate doesn't support out of the box, you can add the language grammar to TextMate and program away!
Overall, I found this book extremely useful and easy to read. TextMate ships with an excellent help system that will answer many of your questions. The TextMate Power Editing for the Mac book will take you beyond the built-in help and give you an in-depth guide for this great Mac application.
The funny thing is, to people who have never used TextMate for more than a few minutes the above phrase sounds like an exaggeration. It's not. (As long as you can accept the analogy of "really awesome code running on a Mac" = "robot ninjas"...)
Anyway, this book targets a pretty specific market: 1) Humans, 2) who own Macs, 3) and use TextMate. I'm here to tell you that, if you're human you should have a Mac; and if you have a Mac you should buy TextMate; and if you have TextMate you should buy this book. So there, now it covers everyone.
As with all of the Pragmatic Programmer books, I found this book to be concise without missing anything important. You may be thinking, "200 pages about a text editor!? That's crazy talk!" But you would be wrong, my friend. The amount of functionality built into TextMate is incredible, but I didn't even know the half of it until I started reading this book!
I don't want to give away the ending, but:
Three of my favorite simple features I didn't know about until I read this book:
- Pressing [ESC] to complete the word you're typing.
- The built in TODO list functionality (so crucial!!)
- [Cmd-Enter] to add a new line below this one and go to the beginning of it.
Things I wouldn't have been able to do without TextMate and this book:
- Edit some of my Bundles to make TextMate work even more how *I* like
- Complete an after-hours Web Site project *way* under time and budget
Seriously. TextMate is the One True Editor for Mac (it makes me loath using any other editor on any platform) and this is a great book for learning how to *really* take hold of its power.
The font size in the Pragmatic Programmers books is a little larger than say the O'Reilly books, which I personally like. Easy on the eyes. Screenshots are clearly printed.
I found the reading style conversational and easy to follow. Of course, with this type of book which includes many keyboard short-cuts you really need to be at your computer and using them to commit them to memory. Even a reading of the book will give you insights into the power available at your finger tips with Textmate.
If you spend any amount of time in Textmate, this is really a no-brainer. This book will help you be more productive and get more out of your chosen text editing tool.
The book does not list an intended target audience, but if you use Textmate at all I would say you have a bulls-eye right on you.
If you use Textmate get this book.
I would recommend everyone who uses TextMate read it, write down all the commands they think are relevant (I've compiled them into a chart, which I hosted on my work's wiki), and make a conscious effort to use them at any opportunity they can think of (Especially the macros, wow, so easy, and so handy).
After using them for a while, they will become commonplace, and you will be highly productive without having to put much effort into what you are doing (you will just use them without thinking, the same as you do when you type).
A book can be nice, but you already spent $60 on the license (ouch, btw), does a book really give you that much more than the online manual? Up to you to decide, if you want it, I definitely recommend it, but there are high quality free resources available to you.
Also, it would have been nice if the book went through an example of how to customize the themes, it was pretty daunting to me at first. Now I've changed a few things here and there and feel pretty comfortable with it.
Edit: Amazon removed the link I posted (as well as the paragraph of context). My point was that this book is great, but everything contained within it is available at TextMate's website under "documentation."
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