Kod proves there is no end to innovation in text editors

In some ways, a text editor is about as basic as you can get. You type words (or bits of code) and they appear in a window. Compared with a word processor, formatting is limited. There is no such thing as spell check.

What makes them special is that they are used to create the very foundations of almost everything we do on computers. They are used by programmers to build the the apps we work with. They are used by coders to create the websites we visit. And the people who do all this programming and coding are constantly looking for ways to improve their craft and the work environment in which they implement it.

On the Mac, we are lucky to have at least a couple of good freeware text editors: TextWrangler and Smultron (recently forked as Fraise). There are also some excellent paid apps: the powerful BBEdit and TextMate, and the innovative Coda and Espresso. I’ve tried them all and find each to be superb in its own way. I was lucky enough to have an employer pay for my original copy of BBEdit, and it is the text editor I keep coming back to.

Still, I can’t help being curious when I learn of a new text editor under development. Such is the case with Kod (pronounced “code”). This open source effort is spearheaded by Swedish designer Rasmus Andersson. He worked for Spotify and has moved on to a position with Facebook.

Kod is interesting because it is an honest effort to build something new — “from scratch,” as he puts it. Given that text editors with a ton of features already exist, this makes Kod a huge challenge. It is currently in beta at version 0.0.2, but even now incorporates a look-and-feel you might expect from a designer: Chrome-inspired tabs, elegant shades of gray, an iOS-style scroll bar.

As for features, there are already people who feel Kod is good enough that they have decided to make it their default editor. Just have a look at the comments in this Google Group. As for me, I was impressed by the ability to tear off a tab and move it to a different window. But I gave up trying to figure out how to use the sidebar — I get the feeling it’s not quite ready for prime time.

If you’re at all interested in checking out new text editors, or even just enjoy seeing what developers are doing to break new ground, then Kod is well worth a download.

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