Emacs for Mac OS X

Emacs for Mac OS X, from David Caldwell, is a Mac version of GNU Emacs, a powerful, extensible text editor designed for classic Unix systems. This version offers graphical Mac components (such as menus and tools), as well as a rich set of features from the original program and built-in help.

Emacs for Mac OS X 26.3 is a free, open source donationware download for OS X 10.9 and later. (Newer test versions and older versions supporting earlier Macs are also available.)

GNU Emacs
An extensible, customizable, free/libre text editor — and more.
At its core is an interpreter for Emacs Lisp, a dialect of the Lisp programming language with extensions to support text editing.


UltraEdit is a powerful, cross-platform text editor from IDM Computer Solutions, Inc. with the ability to open and edit massive files (>4GB). A rich set of features includes syntax coloring for a variety of languages, web development support (including an HTML toolbar), full-featured Find/Replace (and file comparison/diff), FTP/FTPS file transfers, SSH/telnet with logging, macros and scripting, column/block mode, split windows, templates, projects, user interface “themes”, file encryption/decryption, hexadecimal editing of binary files, and more.

UltraEdit is priced at $119.95 for macOS 10.12 and up, Linux or  Windows with a 30-day trial period. (The license supports personal use on three Macs.) The latest version includes macOS Catalina optimizations, a JSON manager, Markdown support, Live HTML preview and more.

Hex Fiend

Hex Fiend is a fast and powerful hex data viewer and editor from Peter Ammon that can modify any file, even one hundreds of gigabytes in size. Features include the ability to insert, delete and rearrange data, and to interpret data in various ways (“integer or floating point, signed or unsigned, big or little endian…”) with the help of templates; a binary “diff” utility to show differences between two files; a choice of file encodings; bookmarks; a Find feature; smart saving (writing only the changed portions of a file); smooth, fast scrolling, a small memory footprint and a license that lets you embed the software in your own app. The app can open a file, a “path” or a drive (and shows invisible partitions, such as Recovery HD and EFI).

Hex Fiend 2.12.0 is freely downloadable open-source software for OS X 10.9 and up with older versions available to support Macs as early as PowerPC models running Mac OS X 10.4, and there are brand-new beta versions also available. The latest standard release brings template improvements, support for 2-byte floats, and support for “extended attributes” in Mac file systems:

Added basic extended attributes support. The open file dialog will now list the extended attributes for the selected file. This allows opening classic metadata such as resource forks (“com.apple.ResourceFork”) and Finder Info (“com.apple.FinderInfo”), and other data (for example “com.apple.quarantine”). Currently extended attributes are read-only and cannot be modified.


BBEdit is a professional HTML and text editor from Bare Bones Software Inc., aimed at web and software developers. Features include pattern matching (“grep”); search and replace across multiple files; the ability to edit columns (in “delimited (CSV, TSV) text files”); function navigation and syntax coloring for numerous source code languages; code folding; text and code completion; FTP and SFTP open and save; AppleScript support and a “text factory”; Unix scripting support and a complete set of HTML markup and clean-up tools.

Version 13 was a major update, first released last fall, that includes “Pattern Playgrounds … for learning, developing and testing regular expression search patterns (‘grep patterns’) in a safe environment” and “live display of both literal and regular expression matching while entering a search string in the Find window”, plus an “Apply Transform command, which provides a powerful, immediate means to apply any single text transformation to multiple files and folders”, among many other improvements.

BBEdit 13.0.3 is priced at $49.99 for macOS 10.14 and later. The BBEdit download runs for 30 days with all features enabled for evaluation and then continues with a reduced feature set free of charge. (The free BBEdit mode replaces BBEdit’s earlier TextWrangler app.)


TextMate is a “powerful and customizable text editor” for the Mac from MacroMates Ltd. with support for “a huge list of programming languages”, HTML markup, and general use. Designed to bridge “Unix underpinnings and GUI” to “cherry-pick the best of both worlds to the benefit of expert scripters and novice users alike”, TextMate offers project grouping, window tabs, text folding, macros, text snippets, regular expressions, syntax highlighting, WebKit-based HTML previews, column editing, auto-completion, visual bookmarks, shell commands and much more (see the TextMate 2 manual and “TextMate 2 Basics” posts for more details).

TextMate 2.0.6 is available as a free open-source download for macOS 10.12 and up (and older versions support Mac systems back to Mac OS X 10.4/PowerPC), or it can be purchased at $56.

Coda and Prompt

Coda is a website editing app from Panic Inc. that combines text and HTML editing and validation (with autocompletion, auto-indentation, code folding, dynamic placeholders, preview, etc.); integrated CSS and MySQL editors; site management (with SFTP, WebDAV, and S3 support, Git and SVN support, and one-click publishing); iCloud sync; reference materials; plug-ins and more.

Coda 2.7.5 is priced at $99 for OS X 10.11 and up. The latest version includes updates for macOS Catalina. (Older versions are available to support earlier Macs.)

Coda 2.2.15 is a mobile version, priced at $24.99 for iOS 10 and up, that offers text editing with syntax highlighting, an SSH terminal, SFTP support, file management/sync, find/replace, code clippings, and more.

Prompt 2.6.12 is an SSH client for iOS, priced at $14.99 for iOS 10 and up.


Atom is a “hackable”, cross-platform text editor from GitHub (now part of Microsoft), built on the Electron framework. Features include multi-pane views, GitHub integration, find/replace, “smart” autocompletion, a file system browser,  built-in package management, user interface themes and the ability to “tweak the look and feel of your UI with CSS/Less, and add major features with HTML and JavaScript.” (See Atom Flight Manual for more detailed documentation.)

Atom 1.42 is a free, open-source download for OS X 10.9 and later, Linux and Windows.


MacVim is an enhanced version from Björn Winckler and others of the widely used text editor with its old Unix user interface that predates modern, graphical Macintosh “apps.” In fact, Vim is included in the macOS Unix command-line libraries accessible via Terminal, and MacVim may best serve as a training ground for learning Unix-style editing. Features from Vim include a bullt-in tutorial and a highly customizable/extensible environment, along with comparison and merging of files, extended regular expressions, scripting languages, network support, spell-checking, Unicode support, syntax highlighting, undo/redo history, and quite a bit more. (See the MacVim FAQ and reference manual for more details.)

MacVim 8.1.1722 (157) is freely downloadable charity-ware for OS X 10.8 and later, and Vim also runs on Windows, Linux, VMS, and other operating systems.