BBEdit 15 Adds ChatGPT, Minimap, Cheat Sheets, and More

Originally published at: BBEdit 15 Adds ChatGPT, Minimap, Cheat Sheets, and More - TidBITS

The latest major update to the venerable text editor BBEdit brings connections with ChatGPT, new navigational and reference aids, and a plethora of helpful refinements.


Did you mean 2023?

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Adam lives in the future - I thought we all knew that. It’s why his insights are so useful.


If there’s one thing I hate about January, it’s resetting my sense of what year it is. Clearly went overboard on this one. :slight_smile:

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At least you didn’t write 2022…

And the fact that BBEdit is still around after 30+ years is a testament to its usefulness.

And I’m using it more now than I did when it was first released.


Well, possibly like most people, I paid for the upgrade just because. Probably won’t use the new features, but want it functional for future macOS versions.
I go back to the free TextWrangler version.

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The notion of “Text Factories” is new to me, even though I’ve used BBedit (mostly for rudimentary stuff) for decades.

Is that (or is there) a way to bundle a series of five or six Find/Replace commands into a single action? That’s one of of my pre-launch production tasks for each edition of Chicago Public Square.

That’s exactly what Text Factories are. You can chain a whole series of commands, including powerful GREP stuff, into one command. They have been pretty buried and hard to configure – hoping the new system makes them easier to set up.

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It all sounds interesting. My general feeling is “whatever they do is fine.” I don’t know for sure if I’ll use any of those new features, but I always upgrade BBEdit whenever a new version comes out because it’s great software, and they are a great, responsive company.


As a developer who, after wasting a huge amount of time trying, has given up trying to get ChatGPT to produce working code—or, really, do anything useful at all, beside spout amusing fiction or rhymes—I cannot help but feel we will look back on the inclusion of this feature into the sensible and practical BBedit (so called from the initials of “Bare Bones”, remember?) as the moment we finally arrived at Peak AI Stoopitness.

I have seen far too often, like approaching 100% of the time, when technical precision is required, ChatGPT is more than happy to confidently spout nonsense. HTML? Sure. Maybe. HTML is stateless, there is no control flow. HTML never fails with a fatal error. I bet it could generate word documents, too. I could believe it could create Sudoku puzzles, if they’ve gotten it to finally understand math.

But I would guess that most of what developers are doing with BBEdit isn’t stateless. Even CSS3 isn’t. Trying to get ChatGPT to help with, say, production Javascript, not a spectacularly complicated language itself, was worse than a runaround, it was a complete waste of time. It’s less like hashing through a programming problem with a fellow programmer than like hashing through a programming problem with a very well-spoken lunatic.

Programming is an iterative process, yes, but iterating it requires semantic and procedural understanding. ChatGPT’s understanding of semantics is entirely statistical, it understands the likelihood of relationships between tokenized concepts but not the concepts themselves. It doesn’t know anything. Occasional happy accidents may result in working code, but I wouldn’t chalk them up to anything more than that, and I haven’t seen it happen myself even after the kind of time only a huge geek would spend idealistically trying. I have seen it once or twice cough up some momentarily amazing ideas in prose, but nothing that couldn’t be explained by random chance, and when I asked it to elucidate further, it couldn’t, it clearly didn’t know what it was talking about.

I believe the single most apt summation I’ve heard of these LLMs is the now-famous “spicy autocomplete” comment: That’s about the stages I went through with it, too.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s extraordinarily impressive technology. It’s fun, too. And I use it all the time for editorial suggestions. But not for anything requiring technical knowledge: not for legal research, not for how to keep my houseplants alive, and definitely not for programming. I spent far too much time this year exploring that possibility, without anything at all to show for it but lost hours and frustration.


The new features sound great - but BB Edit is still completely inaccessible to VoiceOver users! unlike most other editors.
Hopefully this is something being worked on, but no signs of this to date :(

The problem is that the developers of these LLM products are hyping them as actual AI - as if the software has some semblance of understanding your question or its answer.

In reality, there is no such thing present.

These LLM models are nothing more than text generators based on probabilities computed from a corpus of training text.

It takes the question you asked and then asks itself “what word has the highest probability of following this text?” And then it repeats that for the next word, and the next word, and so on.

Because we write documents in an actual language and not by randomly spewing words from a dictionary, this approach (given enough training data) can produce valid English sentences, and can even construct them in a way that is (usually) relevant to the question.

But it only works well when the answer to your question appears many times in the training text. If you try to ask it anything that requires an original answer (that is, actual understanding), you just get word salad. Grammatically correct, but complete nonsense.

This is also why it will fabricate citations for its output. It’s not actively trying to deceive (it doesn’t have the understanding for that concept to even make sense), but it is using its massive probability database to generate text. Since citations come in fairly standard forms, the probabilities it has will produce something that fits a standard template, but the actual content of the citation may completely random.

I agree with you - ChatGPT and all these LLM software packages are going to go down in history as a big joke. Like a modern day ELIZA.

The biggest danger here is that far too many people believe the marketing hype and actually believe they’re getting good results from this pseudo-random phrase generator.


I read the information on the BBEdit site that states the new release of BBEdit is NOT compatible with Sonoma. One needs to stay at 14.6.3 of BBEdit until the issues are resolved.

I think you are reading something wrong. I see no such statement on the Bare Bones website. On the contrary, they say they recommend not going to Sonoma until Apple fixes some bugs. But if you do use Sonoma, they do recommend BBEdit 15. In fact, the bugs in Sonoma also affect BBEdit 14. (And no earlier version of BBEdit can run at all on Sonoma.)

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I have the very opposite experience with ChatGPT (plus) and Jetbrains AI in my workflow.

I have been working with Python as my main programming language for the last 16 years and roughly 10’ish years of PHP before then.

I have many set ways of doing things in Python, but ML/AI has opened up new solutions for old problems for me. Does the AI get it 100% right? No, but neither would a real pairprogrammer buddy.

With tools like Jetbrains Ai (running on a mix of ML’s) I love that I can highlight some old code and refactor it or check for vulnerabilities. Could I do that without AI - sure. Would I in reality? Most likely not to be honest unless I know that a subcomponent that I use is vulnerable for attacks.

Also I have learned more and more how to prompt in order to filter out the wrong answers, so the responses are getting better and better for me.

So Ai tools can be very useful, but they work best if you already are an “expert” on the stuff that you query about - it is just an extended memory.

The way BareBones implement GPT via API can be useful for small tasks, but can run pretty expensive if used a lot.


Yes that is right!

Read even more about it here:

I use text factories to turn Indesign documents (contents exported to tagged files) into xml. I don’t see much advantage to the new interface (and since I’m still clinging to OS 10.14 (mostly for Word 14 (2011)) I won’t for a while yet), but what would really be useful is a search and replace function for the text factories, for example, every new year I need to change the years and volume numbers, so I have to scan through all of the commands (each text factory includes dozens) and hope I don’t miss any. Or I could open them in another text editor (they’re xml files themselves, it seems), but that complicates it. Yes, I’ve requested it, years ago.

In fact, that changed completely—I just didn’t happen to mention it in the article. Rich Siegel covers it below. :slight_smile:


BBEdit 15 release notes:

“This version includes numerous internal and architecture changes to improve application accessibility; this includes compatibility with VoiceOver, Full Keyboard Access, and external applications which use the system accessibility mechanisms to control the application. (If you use an application of this sort and it is not compatible with BBEdit, please contact the application’s developer for assistance; we will be happy to work with them to ensure the best possible experience.)”


From the BareBones website:

Important information for BBEdit customers

We have identified several bugs and regressions in macOS 14 which affect BBEdit’s performance and stability. (FB13219490, FB13213147, FB13264033) For that reason we recommend that you remain on an older compatible version of macOS until such time as Apple addresses these issues. As and when that happens, we will amend our advice accordingly.