What is the best text editor for Mac?

7 min read

Nominally, a text editor is a program that allows users to edit the contents of a text file for any purpose: programming, prose, notes, etc. Since the early computer days, text editors have been amongst the most essential apps in our operating systems. Yet, few of us devote a lot of time to choosing the editor that we would likely be using for years and maybe even decades to come.

There are hundreds of text editors available for all operating systems, including macOS. But it’s impossible to say which one is the best text editor for Mac. After all it depends on how it will be used as well as personal preferences and functionality requirements. It is possible, however, to provide a shortlist of the best text editor apps in each of the broad categories, which will at least start the conversation and provide direction for people on the verge of choosing a good text editor for Mac.

How to choose a text editor for Mac

Text editors have a variety of applications, but most of them are used for one of two things: either writing code or producing prose (e.g. articles, ebooks, white papers). And although any plain text editor for Mac could help with both, the best text editor apps specialize.

Generally, any worthwhile text editor for Mac costs something, which makes it difficult to try a lot of them and decide which one is the best fit. It would be so much better to pay and get them all at once, so you can spend as much time testing each one as you need and easily switch in the future if need be.

Setapp gives you this opportunity by offering all the best text editors in its ever-expanding collection of apps. Become a Setapp Member (with a free trial) and test every app described below to understand which one you truly need and want.

Write good prose with a plain text editor for Mac

After the widespread domination of word processors, such as Microsoft Word, Apple’s Pages, and Google Docs later on, there has recently been a strong push to come back to the basics, simplify, and focus on essentials. Out of dozens of popular apps, Ulysses and Focused stand out here as most versatile and user-friendly options.

Combine power and simplicity with Ulysses

As virtually the most popular plain text editor for Mac, Ulysses puts your writing environment first, without obstructions, but at the same time supports it with a diverse set of features, from Markdown to built-in library to powerful exporting.

Markdown is a true blessing, as it allows you to mark up plain text without affecting its readability and simultaneously get it ready to be published on the web. Largely thanks to the Markdown support, Ulysses lets you export HTML, PDF, .docx, and ePub, and directly integrates with WordPress and Medium. This means that finally all your writing can be concentrated in one place and distributed everywhere else when it’s ready.

Ulysses text editor

Built-in library that syncs through iCloud facilitates the centralized approach to writing, keeping everything easily accessible. You can created unlimited amount of folders, sub-folders, and individual notes — all of which are clearly displayed in the sidebar. That’s a huge improvement over what some other plain text editor for Mac might do, which is force you to save files in a regular folder on your computer, making it cumbersome to create new small notes and organize related ones in a project, for example.

Other wonderful Ulysses features include apps for iPhone and iPad, as well as the ability to attach images, PDFs, and other files. All of it makes Ulysses a truly great text editor for Mac and maybe the only one you’ll ever need, unless you’re looking for something more simple.

Eliminate all distractions with Focused

Sometimes you have to use over-complicated word processors, whether it’s for work or some other collaboration. So what you’re looking for on the side is a distraction-free environment to write your drafts. No features, just a perfectly serene writing experience. That’s where you can find Focused.

As the name implies, Focused eliminates all unnecessary features to lead with a minimalist proposition of undistracted writing experience.

Zen Mode lets you select an ambient soundtrack to block the noise and dive into your words full screen — always focused on the center of the page (typewriter style). Typography is carefully thought out and features six options, ranging from Avenir Next to Menlo typefaces. In addition, as the day progresses, you’ll find the theme color changing from white to beige to dark, which helps a lot with eye strain.

Besides all the visual design goodness, Focused supports Markdown syntax for easy web export as well as auto-saving functionality and the ability to retrieve older edits.

Focused distraction free writing

As far as choosing a plain text editor for Mac, Ulysses is the best option for those looking for a primary writing tool, whereas Focused is the ideal choice for a secondary distraction-free writing experience. If you’re looking for the best code editor for Mac, then consider a few other apps, such as TeaCode and CodeRunner.

Create beautiful, well-structured documents with Craft

If you need a professional text editor that will allow you to create well-structured, appealing documents and organize your content, Craft is a good thing to try.

The app is packed with features. For starters, there is support for markdown and basic text formatting. You can also add icons and cover images to customize pages. Speaking of pages, you can put pages inside pages and create a hierarchy where you can insert backlinks. 

well-structured writings with Craft

Exclusive to Craft, you can turn these pages within pages into cards. Cards offer more visualization options to make your documents more visually appealing. Craft also lets you insert photos, videos, and any file from your camera, photo library, files, or Unsplash. The app will automatically arrange them in the best possible layout. 

Can’t beat writer’s block or find any interesting ideas? Craft’s AI Assistant will generate content ideas and help you get started in seconds!

Write effective notes with NotePlan

If you don’t have the goal to write an Amazon bestseller but simply want a good tool for capturing your ideas and thoughts, here’s the best one. 

NotePlan is more of a productivity space than a text editor — kind of like Evernote, Bear, and Notion all in one app. It gives you a clean interface for note-taking, powerful markdown, task tracking, and more. You can integrate NotePlan with Calendar and Reminders and link notes with specific dates. Or, you can simply open the app and start writing — NotePlan will keep all your notes organized in nested folders. 

You’ll love the app’s bi-directional links for interlinking notes (very similar to “mentions” in Slack). Last but not least, NotePlan’s fast CloudKit Sync makes content transfer secure and effortless. You can try the app with Setapp membership — it has both macOS and iOS versions available for 7 days free. 

NotePlan text editor

Create software with a Mac coding editor

If your goal is to write software, simply using a good text editor for Mac won’t help. There’s no syntax support, no documentation, no code expanders. Overall, it’s a tough sell. What you need instead is a great Mac text editor for coding. There are dozens of popular ones out there but TeaCode and CodeRunner seem to offer something unique, whether used separately or in tandem.

Expand code quickly with TeaCode

For a minute, let’s step aside from our goal of finding the best code editor for Mac and mention how we can make any native Mac coding editor better — by using code expanders with TeaCode.

Code expanders allow you to specify repetitive functions, components, or templates, and then paste them right into your chosen Mac coding editor using pre-defined abbreviations. In a way that makes TeaCode your personal coding library that can be used in whatever text editor for Mac you prefer.

The app comes with more than 70 code expanders for Swift, PHP, HTML, and other languages to give you a glimpse of its possibilities. After that, you can create any amount of snippets in any programming language and use them as you see fit.

Teacode code expanders

TeaCode also supports shortcuts for searching and pasting code expanders, so you can focus on writing your code and let it assist you from the background of your menu bar. And when it comes to the best Mac HTML editor to use with TeaCode, look no further than CodeRunner.

Write and debug any code with CodeRunner

Choosing the best text editor for Mac can become a never-ending quest if you keep jumping from one option to the next. Of course, you should try all the promising apps when you begin your search, but it’s generally a good idea to settle down and master a single Mac text editor for coding completely. Here’s why it could be CodeRunner.

CodeRunner is a general multi-language programming editor, which means it’s equally suitable for beginners and experienced developers alike. Rather than trying to be the best HTML editor for Mac, it supports more than 25 languages right out of the box, but can also be easily extended to run any other ones you need.

Coderunner text editor for Mac

Besides language support, CodeRunner features extensive documentation right in the app, so you never have to distract yourself by going online. Check all the methods, function, and objects you don’t completely remember exactly when they become a hurdle.

Even more importantly than writing high-quality code is speedy debugging. After all, most of the code you get to deal with at work has already been written, which makes debugging so much more important. CodeRunner gives you great options to set breakpoints to quickly scan your code for errors, explore the call stack, and edit any misused variables — an invaluable feature in any Mac coding editor.

Choose the text editor for the job

When it comes to picking a good text editor for Mac, always keep your final goal in mind. Ulysses can become your reliable everyday machine for writing actual text, whereas Focused excels at getting that first draft out of you with no distractions. Craft is an excellent tool if you want to create well-structured documents and organize them. TeaCode will supercharge any Mac text editor for coding, especially CodeRunner, which is a great choice for software developers concerned with versatility and speed.

Best of all, you don’t have to rush to a decision. As mentioned before, all these apps are available on Setapp, along with more than 240 other high-quality apps and utilities to suit almost any Mac, iPhone, and iPad user’s needs. You can try every app for seven days free, then pay $9.99 monthly if you like Setapp. Give it a try! There has never been a more perfect time to create!

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