The 5 Best Text Editors for Mac

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The 5 Best Text Editors for Mac

By Jessica Lanman

Published 12 hours ago

We’ve rounded up all the best text editors you can use to write code on your Mac.

If you have a coding project you want to make on your Mac, like an app or a website, you’ll need a program to write out the code in. These programs are called text editors. Text editors let you write and execute code in different coding languages. They can be pretty simple, or come with lots of options like automatic color coding and formatting.

Whether you’re coding for the first time, or have been doing it for years, there’s a Mac text editor for you. We’ve compiled our favorite Mac text editor apps below; read on to find the best one for you!

1. Vim

MacVim application and project open on a Mac

If you want a text editor on your Mac with a ton of power and not too many bells and whistles, you want Vim. Often called the “Programmer’s Editor,” Vim can handle pretty much any project and programming language you throw at it.

As a program that’s great for programmers, though, Vim comes with a bit of a learning curve if you’re new to coding. Vim automatically color-codes syntax so your code is a bit easier to read, but it doesn’t make suggestions or point out bugs or typos to you. It also doesn’t have a very robust Graphic User Interface, or GUI, if you’re used to those—though MacVim has more of a GUI than Vim for other operating systems.

At least it’s a widely used program, so if you have questions, you’re likely able to find answers with a web search. But you have to be willing to put in the legwork and learn the program.

In our opinion, if you already code, Vim is a great editor to work on your code without any unnecessary frills. For those still learning, Vim will be harder to grasp right away, and you might prefer a different text editor app on this list. But it’s worth figuring out if you want to make the effort!

Download: Vim for Mac (Free)

2. Emacs

Emacs application and project open on a Mac

Since we’re talking about Vim, it makes sense to talk about its great rival in the classic text editor war—Emacs. Emacs, like Vim, is a Mac text editor aimed at the code-savvy. It color-codes syntax, but beyond that, it’s a tool, not a learning platform.

Also, like Vim, Emacs has a packaging system that allows you to download and install extensions to it. These extensions can allow you to have things like a syntax checker and a bug hunter, but you have to download and install them separately. And only so many extensions exist.

Emacs does set itself apart from Vim a bit by having some other functions, like a being calendar, a news reader, and having project planning capabilities.

These extra functions might help Emacs edge out Vim for you as your text editor of choice. Or, they’ll seem unnecessary, and make Vim all the more appealing. It’s up to you and how much you want your text editor to do beyond let you write and edit text and code.

Download: Emacs for Mac (Free)

3. Atom

Atom application and project open on a Mac

For Mac users newly learning to code, we’d highly recommend the text editor Atom. Atom has a very user-friendly GUI, and many features that are helpful to first-time coders.

The autocomplete feature can help you remember code syntax you might have forgotten, as well as help you write code faster. Atom also allows you to easily find and replace text in your code, as well as work in multiple panes. There is also a great new user guide for Atom that’s easy to follow as a new coder, and we’ve found much of its documentation relatively easy to follow as well.

Atom also has some nice customization options, including extensions you can download from within the app (instead of finding them separately like with Vim and Emacs), and themes you can utilize to make your windows more fun to look at and work in.

Atom is great for new coders, but its system is as robust and hackable as Vim and Emacs, so it’s a text editor you can grow with as you learn. It also allows in-program GitHub access, editing, and sharing, if you’re coding with others. Long-time coders with set workflows may not like the autocomplete feature, but if you want a powerful and pretty editor that can offer users a bit of help along the way, you’ll love Atom.

Download: Atom for Mac (Free)

4. Sublime Text

Sublime Text application and project open on a Mac

Another great text editor for new coders using a Mac is Sublime Text. Like Atom, Sublime Text offers autocomplete for your coding, but adds syntax definitions to that in case you need to look up a term or remind yourself what a bit of code does. The definitions can even appear in a few different forms—you can get a quick definition in a popup window beside the term, or click through to get a full definition in a side-by-side pane.

These are amazing features for learning, as you can check things as you code, or open code projects in the program to study them. There are still features for the more advanced coders in Sublime Text, though, including easy view splitting and tab switching, and multiple selections, allowing for quick variable changes.

Atom has a bit more appearance customization, but Sublime Text still has Dark and Light themes, and can work well with many GPUs and eGPUs, if you’re thinking about getting an eGPU for your Mac mini.

Sublime Text might be even more beginner-friendly than Atom, but its definition and autocomplete features may become more annoying than helpful as you learn. Still, if you want to easily navigate windows with your keyboard and like its look, Sublime Text is awesome.

Download: Sublime Text for Mac (Free)

5. VS Code

VS Code application and project open on a Mac

The last text editor we highly recommend getting for your Mac is Visual Studio Code, also known as VS Code. Boasting in-app debug options and a smart autocomplete system, VS Code aims not just to help new coders, but to increase the speed of advanced coders.

With Git (you can and should install Git on your Mac if you’re working on an evolving code project) and other SCM providers accessible for review and commits right within VS Code, this is an editor that wants to simplify your workflow as much as possible. Many extensions are available for VS Code, too, so you can let it make you even more efficient with different projects. VS Code’s built-in features truly don’t feel in the way here. To us, they feel like time savers.

VS Code does feel a little less novice-friendly than Atom (with whom it shares a lot of source code) and Sublime Text. But growing into VS Code could really help you and your coding speed long term.

To us, VS Code is the best middle ground of a text editor being a tool and an instructor. That makes it best for the intermediate coder: someone looking to hone skills but who occasionally needs help with a bug. Is that you? If yes, check out VS Code for sure!

Download: VS Code for Mac (Free)

Which Text Editor Will You Choose?

There are many wonderful text editors you can get for Mac. All of them let you write and run code, as well as write text. And wonderfully, all of them are free!

Deciding on the text editor you want will come down to your current coding skills and how much you want a program to help you code. If you want to push yourself and do everything manually, you want Vim or Emacs. If you want a program to guide you, you want Atom, Sublime Text, or VS Code.

About The Author


Jessica Lanman (57 Articles Published)

Jessica has been writing tech articles since 2018, and in her free time loves knitting, crocheting, and embroidering tiny things.

More From Jessica Lanman

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