Allan Odgaard recently announced that he is open sourcing the popular Mac editor TextMate. I’ve long considered it one of the few editors suitable for serious programmers so I treated the announcement as good news. It means that (what I consider) the three most important editors are open source.
Others, however, were not as sanguine. John Gruber of Daring Fireball writes “Pretty sure this is it for TextMate…” and Josh Kerr says that this is what happens when you set out to rewrite your codebase. Marco Arment joked that TextMate was just sent to retire on a farm upstate. My friend Watts Martin agrees that this is the end for TextMate.
All these naysayers are smart guys and may well be correct but it will be a shame if they are. One of the things that most everyone agree really hurt TextMate was the 6 years without a major update while Odgaard rewrote the code. Now that the source is available, it’s at least conceivable that a critical mass of developers could coalesce around that codebase and provide the regular updates needed to keep TextMate a major player in the field of text editors. Certainly, there are a large number of developers who have a huge investment in the muscle memory and mental model for TextMate. Of course, most of those developers won’t have the time or inclination to take on a maintainers role but perhaps a few will. In any event, I hope so. TextMate is a great editor and deserves to lives on.
Afterword: Odgaard speaks out and insists that he is not abandoning TextMate. Indeed, he says he will continue working on it as long as he is a Mac user.