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Screwdriver Narrowness Considered Harmful

Something I actually think about a lot just popped out in an email to an internet acquaintance who makes Mac software

One thing to know about me (and probably a surprisingly large number of your customers and potential customers): there's very little mutual exclusivity in my software world. For example, I use TextEdit, Vim, and TextMate pretty much every day and for completely different things. To me it's like having several screwdrivers. I could be that guy who insists there's only One True and Good Screwdriver, but I prefer to keep them all handy and just grab the one I need for the job.

Does that make any sense?

I mean I hear these territorial pissing matches on `foo tool` vs. `bar tool`, and how the fate of the world turns on making the right decision one time, and then becoming some kind of viral evangelist. Meh.

There's stuff like Quicksilver and OS X in general where you inherently have to choose a platform. But what about text editors, graphics apps--jeez, even _notebooks_? Am I the only one who employs a stable of several different tools for a certain kind of task? Esp. where one is clearly better at one portion of the task than the others?

How about you?

Chet's picture

I'm totally a multi-editor guy....

I'm totally a multi-editor guy. I tried hard for a little while to be an all-emacs guy, but I just couldn't give up the interface richness of the GUI despite wealth of functions and configurability. Now that I've let go of being an all-one-editor person, though, I find that I use three. But only three. Sort of.

For most stuff, I use BBEDit, though I've registered my last version. The key feature that keeps me from migrating totally away is the file drawer, which shows all the files open in that window. This allows me to keep a scratch file open plus a few blog posts, and whatever other one-off files I'm working on, but switch between them quickly without cluttering the screen with a bunch of windows. (Call this feature "buffer list" (in homage to emacs) for later discussion.)

However, on dev projects with multiple files, I've grown to find TextMate's project construct to be invaluable, so I move to it for those tasks. Call this "project list," since that's what it is.

What I'd really love is to have TM and BB mate and give me the option of having either a project list or a buffer list on any given window. This super-editor would also need to honor some emacs keys, and have (if I get really lucky) a nondestructive autosave. (Barebones seems ideologically opposed to this sort of thing.)

Finally, in a terminal window or on a remote machine, I use emacs. I really don't scratch the surface of it, but for my basic needs it works fine, and it makes me yell less than Vi[m]. Mileage varies. (I also tend to use Emacs for opening very large files, but that happens pretty rarely.)

The also-ran for me is OmniOutliner, which I still use for structured notetaking, planning, and such. However, this ends up being pretty rare despite how cool OO is. Text files are so much more flexible...

Tool-for-task is a key piece of productivity, as Merlin points out. I've finally settled on a note-taking mode that uses multiple tools as well. Most notes -- day to day stuff -- go in my notebook, but key bits of data (new passwords, food or technical recipes, etc) go into my Treo so I'll always have them with me. I'm in the process of paring down the notes on the Treo (I've been using a Palm since about 1998, so there's a LOT of old cruft) as part of this plan, and it's making both the notebook and the Treo more useful.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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