Okay, so I’ve been trying to wean myself off of IDL in favor of python. Sometimes after you tell yourself you’re not going to develop in a language again you find an awesome new tool…
I use BBEdit for most (all) of my text needs these days. If you’re not familiar with BBEdit (and it’s lightweight companion TextWrangler) then you probably didn’t grow up editing HTML on a Mac. BBEdit (from Bare Bones Software) is one of the classic Mac apps for pretty much doing anything that requires a keyboard. These are real developers who want to make a living making their Apps, so BBEdit does cost a little money to try. TextWrangler is completely free, though, so you really don’t have any excuse to load up XCode if you’re doing some quick python or php development.
While I do (sometimes) still use Emacs on my Mac (and I pretty much have to if I’m working on remote code on our Linux machines), I’ve found that the popular Mac port Aquamacs has all of the bells and whistles of a fully customizable text editor but it lacks all of the polish of a really finished standalone application.
I know, I know, I can go put whatever lisp commands I want in my .emacs file (and people do). But sometimes I just want something that works and has nice, modern design touches (hover autocomplete, cold folding, etc). In those cases, BBEdit is the way to go.
Of course, the one problem is that while Emacs comes packaged with syntax highlighting for pretty much any language you could want, BBEdit requires you to do a little work if you use odd little scripting languages like IDL (also known as “Matlab for Astronomers”).
However, if you’re still one of those astronomers that use IDL, and you’re on a Mac, go check out this great BBEdit and TextWrangler plug in in that provides syntax highlighting for IDL. It’s great and now by BBEdit windows are all pretty again, even when I’m writing in IDL.