Update: This is kind of like the recent switch in basketballs used in the NBA. Go read Mark Cuban’s discussion of the new ball. Very interesting. Some players benefit immediately. Many do not.
Text editing with any great speed is a tremendously intimate bit of interaction between you and the editing software. It is inherently a keyboard driven task and a very complex task, at that, given the myriad of syntax rules and gestural editing possibilities.
As a result, any user who spends any significant amount of time with any one text editor — I’m talking years, here — will build up a set of usage patterns that employed rapidly and repeatedly throughout an editing session. Often this is called “muscle memory”, but it is really more that your brain builds up a library of “mental macros” that are applied almost subconsciously as you work with the editor.
Because of this, switching text editors is incredibly disruptive to one’s workflow and results in some awesome “religious wars”. Why? Because it is just too damned difficult to actually quantify why one editor is so much better than another.
So, really, it boils down to how many of the “mental macros” can be transported from one editor to another.
Me? I was an emacs user. Because Cocoa’s text editing subsystem has supported emacs like behaviors since 1990 or so, the move from emacs to TextMate was relatively natural. I lost a lot of the more complex features, but I gained a much more modern and native user interface.
An acceptable trade off.
I have tried BBEdit many times and simply can’t use it. It makes my skin crawl to try and do so. Certainly not because it is a bad piece of software or otherwise inferior, but entirely because my learned mental model of text editing is simply incompatible with BBEdit’s implementation.
As I said in the above article:
Using BBEdit literally makes me grind my teeth with the general discomfort it causes. Now, I know that’ll rub a few people wrong (if anyone reads this) so let me be completely clear: BBEdit is a brilliant product and my inability to deal with it is entirely in my head.
So, in this case, it sounds like Erik’s brain has remapped itself to view text editing within the patterns of use perpetuated by BBEdit. As a result, a move to TextMate or SubEthaEdit is going to be disconcerting. It will feel unnatural and the flaws/bugs are going to be amplified.