Best Free HTML Text Editors for Mac
The following is a list of completely free text editors for Mac, with no paid upgrades or extra purchases. You might think that free means “lacking in features,” but that’s not the case with these.
Atom makes a strong claim as the best free text editor for Mac. It’s an open source project from hosting and version control maestro GitHub. Don’t let the lack of a price tag put you off; Atom has some serious potential under the hood.
Describing itself as “a hackable editor for the 21st century,” Atom is a great starting point for beginners. It’s a basic text editor out of the box, with optional packages that add more complex functionality.
There’s support for Git and GitHub, with no need for additional packages. When you want to add features and language support, there’s a package manager that makes this easy. You can also customize the interface to your liking.
One standout package is Teletype for Atom, a real-time collaboration feature that allows you to work on projects with others. Atom is also cross-platform, so you can switch operating systems while maintaining familiarity with your favorite editor.
Download: Atom (Free)
Visual Studio Code
Like Atom, Visual Studio Code is a comprehensive app that excels as an HTML editor. Not to be confused with Visual Studio, Microsoft’s full-power IDE, VS Code is a lightweight text and script editor built around the concept of expanding support with plugins.
There are plugins for writing and running shell scripts in Code, for penning Markdown documents, and even writing AppleScript. That’s right; you can use Microsoft’s text editor to create scripts that will only work on Apple machines.
The Visual Studio Code marketplace turns the app into a Swiss Army knife of code, text, and script editing. A reliance on plugins means the app is lightweight and responsive from the start, as you won’t lug around features and functionality you’re never going to use.
Which plugins are worth getting? Our roundup of the best Visual Studio Code plugins will answer that for you. Also check out our top tips for boosting productivity in Visual Studio Code to learn more.
Download: Visual Studio Code (Free)
TextWrangler is one of the most user-friendly examples of a free HTML editor for Mac. Hosted on the Mac App Store, TextWrangler offers an old-school feel and rock-solid performance.
It’s another great entry point for anyone learning to code or use text editors in general, whether you’re writing simple AppleScript projects, editing CSS, or building a website in HTML. It’s also a good alternative to macOS’ built-in editor TextEdit.
The app isn’t just a stripped-down freebie though. It offers a wealth of powerful tools like grep pattern matching, multi-file search and replace, varied themes, and syntax coloring options. You can also work on files remotely via FTP and SFTP.
It lacks some of the fancier features seen in the premium packages, notably a preview pane to view changes in real time. It feels and behaves like a native macOS app, which makes it particularly user-friendly compared to some of the other choices here.
Download: TextWrangler [Broken URL Removed] (Free)
Next up is something completely different. Vim is a command line-based plain text editor that comes with macOS. Simply open Terminal, type vim, and hit Enter. You’re now using one of the most respected text editors of all time, but it has a steep learning curve.
Fortunately, Vim comes with a stack of documentation to help you learn how to use it. This includes quick reference and help documents, plus a 30-minute tutorial to get you up and running. Be warned: even figuring out how to access the tutorials is a lesson for those unfamiliar with the command line.
You can add new features to Vim and accomplish a lot with it if you know how to use it properly. This knowledge won’t come overnight, but in a few years you’ll likely be able to accomplish more than in a comparable GUI-based application.
Despite Vim being built into the OS, you might also be interested in MacVim. This is a slightly more user-friendly port, with full menu bar controls for functions and a more up-to-date version of Vim than that maintained by Apple. It’s slightly less intimidating for newbies.
Download: MacVim (Free)
Another great free option with an off-putting learning curve, GNU Emacs is the “free as in libre” version of the Emacs text editor. First released in 1976, Emacs is one of the longest-running open source projects, and it still receives updates today.
Emacs is known for its unique methods of getting work done. It relies on a programming language known as Emacs-Lisp, a fork of the Lisp language that was originally specified in 1958. You’ll need to use Emacs-Lisp for even the most basic functions of editing, but it’s also used to expand the editor beyond its humble text-based roots.
These expansions include an email client, news reader, file manager, and games like Snake and Tetris. Under the hood, though, it’s still a basic text editor with features like context-aware editing and support for syntax coloring. There’s full Unicode support and a packaging system for adding new features.
Like Vim, Emacs requires a commitment to learning how to use it long before you’ll understand why so many people swear by it.
Download: GNU Emacs (Free)
Best Premium HTML Text Editors for Mac
If you’re looking for a text editor to use at work, or you’re at a stage where your tools can have a serious impact on your productivity and paycheck, you should consider one of these. They all come with a decent free evaluation period, so you can try before you buy.
Sublime Text markets itself as a code, markup, and prose editor. It’s pricey, although the never-ending trial period lets you make sure it’s right for you before you buy.
For those who need a powerful tool, Sublime Text delivers a wealth of features and functions. Some of these are hallmarks of the app, like Goto Anything, which lets you open a file and quickly navigate to the relevant line in record speed.
The app creates a project-wide index of all classes used for references, plus it supports multiple selections so you can change more than one element at a time. To cut down on the time you spend in menus, developers devised the Command Palette for rarely-used functions, and fast project switching with no save prompts.
There’s a vast amount of customizability at your fingertips. Many favor the app for its smooth performance under load and attractive UI. It’s also cross-platform, and you only need a single license to use the app across all your machines and platforms.
Download: Sublime Text ($80)
Powerful, simple, and lightweight, TextMate is the preferred choice of many Mac professionals, and it’s not hard to see why. This editor has support for a range of languages and syntax, tabs, and a language-specific approach that can save you time and effort.
TextMate incorporates snippets, macros, and scoping features that vastly speed up workflow without stepping into full IDE territory. The developer aimed to bring “Apple’s approach to operating systems into the world of text editors” and that’s a fairly good summation of why so many love TextMate.
Despite development stalling from time to time, TextMate maintains a die-hard following of professional users. This has given way to an extensive database of TextMate documentation and screencasts for TextMate, which should help new users get up to speed.
It’s a simple tool to start using, with a clean UI and fair price point. TextMate is actually open source and free to use, though you should buy a license if you want to use it long-term.
Download: TextMate ($56)
BBEdit wouldn’t have earned a place on this list if it weren’t for a large userbase that defends it to the death. And that’s just fine, since BBEdit is a mature and powerful plain text editor that prioritizes performance and reliability above all else.
It’s the quintessential Mac text editor and comes from the same developers as TextWrangler. Despite lacking the freshness of Atom or the crisp UI seen in Sublime Text, BBEdit is built from the ground up for macOS, optimized for the platform, and takes a Mac approach to text editing.
That means keyboard shortcuts that make sense to the average Mac user, as well as an approach to text editing that follows many of Apple’s design sensibilities. It also bakes in support for Mac technologies like Bonjour. This removes some barriers for entry seen in other apps, but results in a slightly more cumbersome UI than its rivals.
BBEdit is perfect for HTML and text editing, with support for remote editing via FTP/SFTP. The app is highly customizable, from syntax coloring to menu options, user-defined functions, keyboard shortcuts, and macOS Terminal support right in the app.
Download: BBEdit ($49.99)
Not everyone uses their text editor for building websites, but many who do gravitate toward Espresso. It’s an editor aimed squarely at web developers, and it’s got powerful features to make creating websites a more productive experience.
There’s a laundry list of features that keeps people coming back. These include customizable snippets and UI, a clean modern design, custom spacing and indentation to keep your code clean, support for tabs, templates and custom templates, powerful find and replace, and multi-line editing for making changes in multiple locations at once.
It’s not cheap at $99, but you can download a trial and see how it works before you commit. It’s a great tool for web developers, but lacking in other areas like scripting and coding.
Download: Espresso ($99)
More Mac Text Editors to Consider
There are so many text editors available that we couldn’t possibly include them all, but we thought these were worth a mention if you’re still on the hunt:
- Brackets (Free): Adobe’s free text editor is worth a look if neither Atom or VS Code work out for you.
- Sandvox ($80): A WYSIWYG HTML editor for Mac that’s both accessible and more affordable than pro tools like Dreamweaver.
- RapidWeaver ($80): Another WYSIWYG tool that allows you to quickly build good-looking websites.
- Smultron ($10): A better-than-free text editor with a tidy interface that won’t break the bank.
What is the best HTML text editor? It isn’t necessarily the one with the most features; it’s the one that fits best with how you work. We’d recommend testing out a few before you settle on a decision.
Once you’ve picked out an app, you might want to start brushing up on your HTML. Take a look at our guide to HTML code samples you can learn quickly, then download our essential CSS cheat sheet for free to get your sites looking better than ever.
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