I use TextEdit on the mac for nearly everything I do, making notes, writing letters, etc.

I'm interested to find out what you use (if you use an alternative)?

I've found that "competitors" like BBEdit and TextMate are just too overcomplicated for what I need.

13 Answers 13


While it's command-line, pico is another option for those non familiar with vi/emacs.

  • have just started playing with pico, and whilst it's via the command line, I actually like it, so thanks for the suggestion for recommending something I wouldn't have even knew existed.
    – cust0s
    Aug 26, 2009 at 11:49
  • I hardly think pico can be considered as an "alternative to textedit". It's like saying notepad can be an alternative to emacs.
    – Rook
    Aug 26, 2009 at 14:45
  • I don't see why not.
    – cust0s
    Aug 26, 2009 at 23:50
  • 2
    Nano is the new Pico. In fact pico on OSX opens Nano. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nano_%28text_editor%29 Dec 5, 2009 at 13:24


I use it for all my note taking stuff, I find it fast and responsive. It also will intergrate nicely with a lot of other applications, such as Cyberduck which I use for FTP.

It's made by the same people who make BBEdit, but it's also a fair bit less complicated.

SubEthaEdit is probably a bit over complicated for what you're looking for.

myTexts is an application that I've been meaning to try. If other applications are too complicated, this just might do the trick - it looks promising!


aquamacs - Emacs for Mac OS X


Vim, multi-platform, the same everywhere. No new suprises when you go somewhere.

  • Unfortunately MacVim ( the VIM port ) is not as good as regular "gVIM"
    – OscarRyz
    Aug 19, 2009 at 23:05
  • Why ? What's wrong with it ?
    – Rook
    Aug 19, 2009 at 23:48
  • Blasphemer! The is no editor but emacs! Aug 20, 2009 at 0:34
  • 2
    Oh, ye of little faith. Put your faith in vi, for it is the only true path :-)
    – Rook
    Aug 20, 2009 at 10:19
  • 4
    @Oscar: I use MacVim whenever I'm on a Mac, and I don't find it "not as good as regular gVim." Care to share what you don't like about it?
    – Telemachus
    Aug 24, 2009 at 12:44

I'd recommend Smultron. As a plain text editor it's pretty good for replacing TextEdit. Offers a good replacement if you're not looking for anything fancy.

  • I've just checked that link and it says it's not being developed any more.
    – cust0s
    Aug 19, 2009 at 23:32
  • 1
    The version there works well and i use it for all my text editing needs. That just means you dont need to check for updates ^-^
    – RCIX
    Aug 20, 2009 at 0:53
  • It's a little rough around the edges, but it is still my editor of choice.
    – hbw
    Aug 20, 2009 at 11:40

If you want a simple word processor, try Bean. It's lightweight, Mac-like, and, because it is written using Apple's Cocoa framework, it offer's Cocoa's good stuff -- dictionary, word completion and more. It's open source (under the GNU General Public License), free of charge. From its home page:

Why use Bean?

Bean is lean, fast and uncluttered.

  • If you get depressed at the thought of firing up MS Word or OpenOffice, try Bean.
  • If you use Text Edit but have to jump through hoops just to get a word count, try Bean.
  • If you desire a simple, beautiful writing environment, try Bean. . . .

Bean doesn't . . . do footnotes, pre-defined text styles, floating graphics (but it does do in-line graphics).


Once you get to know some of the features in TextMate, it definitely has some time savers! I used it for note taking all last year, and it worked like a charm.

  • The first one that actually allows me to open up files from the terminal (mate filename.txt) without any hassle. Thanks!
    – PdevG
    Nov 6, 2018 at 9:51

jEdit is a great text editor for pretty much anything.

  • I've just moved from PSPad on Windows to jEdit on Mac & Windows. I miss many features about PSPad, but have quickly been impressed w/ jEdit -- among the best Java apps I've ever used (surprisingly not clunky/slow). I recommend looking through the plugins to get a feel for its extensibility. Apr 7, 2010 at 14:12

Between TextEdit, Xcode, nano and Pages, I have everything I need. It works for me.


Scrivener for plain text writing in full screen mode is brilliant, I have a project for working text and just add new sections to it. Just you and your words. The fact that it supports markdown (which SuperUser also uses for text entry, markdown rocks!) means you can write intuitively in plain text yet formatting comes for free, which is great! Scrivener UI gets out of your way, but when you need features (snapshots of a text for example, great for quick versioning of a letter), is there.

Textmate for everything code. There is nothing complicated about TM, it has such a minimalist UI often people wonder what is special about it! ;-)

myText is also not bad for a cheap full-screen editor (a WriteRoom clone better than the original). It allows managing all your text documents and an easy search through them. Brilliantly it uses proper tagging and works well with spotlight.


If you're using the text editor strictly for notes, letters, and other person to person correspondence, then editors such as

Apple's Pages
Microsoft Word

If you're looking more for plain text editor for programming


  • I like to do everything in plain text mode in TextEdit and if I'm writing a letter I transfer what I've written over to Pages and make it look snazzy. – nam3d 0 secs ago [delete this comment]
    – cust0s
    Aug 19, 2009 at 23:02
  • 1
    The OP already dismissed BBEdit and TextMate... Aug 20, 2009 at 0:27

Maybe what you are looking for is a note keeper/organizer where the notes are easily searchable. Something like Circus Ponies' Notebook or Voodoo Pad. This way you don't have to save a new document each time you want to add a note, web link, image, or sound clip. I leave VoodooPad Pro running all the time.

Each have their strong points.

Notebook is a more complete experience, formatting numberd lists and sublists is easier. As well as more eye candy, stickies and post-it flags, and animations. Notebook also provides a service to clip from within any application and add it to your Notebook document.

Voodoo Pad Lite's price is right and provides most of the functionality of the regular version. VoodooPad has a higher geek factor, you can embed scripts in real languages (Python, Lua) and execute them from within Voodoo Pad. The Pro version includes whole document encryption and a built it web server.

Both have demos available of the full version so give them a spin.

  • I always worry with these sorts of programmes about exporting the data and how accessible it will be in the long run, for now a simple txt file is compatible with all text editors so theirs no worry one day you won't be able to open it because the company has stopped making the software and no one else supports the format.
    – cust0s
    Aug 26, 2009 at 11:17
  • Most of what I put into these programs is formatted test. Many bullet lists. It's not hard to get the important data, what you lose is the formatting. It's also nice to have a central place to store and search. With text files I can never find the file where I put my notes. With VoodooPad I only have one document that holds everything from my how I bill my time to general notes. For Example I was watching a podcast with some technical stuff in it yesterday, so I retyped from the video and stuck it in a new page. Aug 26, 2009 at 12:51


enter image description here

Checkout 10 tips for Stickies for improving your Stickies experiance. My favorite is the very last:

Create a Sticky note from selection

Due to the Services menu in Mac OS X, you have access to Stickies whatever application you are in. Simply select any block of text anywhere and hit Command-Shift-Y to create a Sticky note with that selection.

I use them quite a lot, especially for jotting down quick, temporary notes for school:

enter image description here

That screenshot is after I deleted a couple and trimmed down the content in a couple others.

  • 2
    Hell no. The last thing I want is for my desktop to start looking like my real-life desktop.
    – Rook
    Aug 20, 2009 at 10:18
  • hrhrhr ... you must be a bit crazy ... i like it ;) Aug 22, 2009 at 14:30

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