Coding on OS X is a beautiful thing. You enjoy a Unix-based OS with native bash shell (and greater compatibility with Linux utilities) and the spit shine and polish Apple brings to all its products. The Retina displays on its high-end Macs don’t hurt, either.

For those of you looking to code, there are a lot of great options on OS X. Whether you’re learning Java or digging into low-level languages, there are options for every user. Coding on OS X can be even better with one of these text editors.

See Also: A Mac User’s Experience of Using Linux (Ubuntu)



Vim, or Vi Improved, is like nothing else. It’s a better version of vi, a program written back in 1976 when computers didn’t use mice. The entire program runs on keyboard shortcuts which give it an insane amount of depth. Vim is fast, lightweight and as powerful as you can make it.

MacVim is the best implementation of Vim on OS X. Sure, it’s outside the terminal, but it’s easier to work with since MacVim supports standard OS X text-editing shortcuts like Cmd-Delete and Cmd-S.

That and some nice theme options make it a beautiful and fast way to edit code. It easily wins as my personal favorite text editor. MacVim is an amazing program for those willing to learn its ways.

Download MacVim



Emacs is vim’s rival. Its merits relative to vim are hotly debated among programmers, to say the least. We’ll try to steer clear of that battle and focus on what emacs does well.

Emacs is highly flexible. It can become whatever you want it to be, from a text editor to a file manager to an email client. You can even enable Evil Mode to make it run with vim keybindings.

The program uses a large amount of shortcuts to compare code, make quick changes and do complex edits. Again, emacs strength is in its ability to contort itself with plugins and customization.

Like vim, there’s definitely a learning curve, but it’s a good program and you can run it from the OS X command line.

Download emacs

Sublime Text 2


One of the most popular editors for OS X is Sublime Text 2. It supports all the languages you’d expect, as well as some impressive quick commands for opening files, searching and jumping to line numbers.

The program collects your windows into Chrome-like tabs, a nice touch for users juggling multiple classes for a single project. Users split across multiple computers can also enjoy the program’s buy-once-use-anywhere licensing across OS X, Windows and Linux.

That and a strong bent toward customization make Sublime Text 2 a great text editor. It’s pricey, at $70, so definitely check out the trial first to see if it’s something you need.

Download Sublime Text 2



TextWrangler is a simpler text editor than the other programs on this list. It’s a decent program, with support for quick file access and a good number of shortcuts. It supports some low-level IDE actions like run or run in Terminal as well.

TextWrangler is a good option for those looking for a good editor without a lot of fluff (or cost).

Download TextWrangler

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the best text editor for you depends on your preferences and your project. As someone who does light work with C++ and Java, I don’t need much more than MacVim and gcc in Terminal to get my work done. Your mileage may vary, though.

Let us know in the comments which one is your favorite!

Further Reading: 2 WaysTo Password Protect Folders In Mac OS X