Bluefish Editor is one of my favorite pieces of open-sourced freeware out there. It is, by far, my absolute favorite code editor. It’s simple, lightweight and powerful. It has all of the features I want in an editor and none of the features I don’t want. It’s almost as though it was developed specifically for me.
Bluefish is a code editor for people that actually write their code. It is not a WYSIWYG editor, nor do I ever see it becoming one. It is a plain text editor with a lot of features for coders. The developers like to call it a “What You See Is What You Need” interface. Honestly, I couldn’t have said it better, myself.
Unfortunately, Bluefish is currently only available for POSIX-based platforms (which apparently includes basically everything except for Windows). The developers have been working on a Windows port of the editor for a few years now, but no release has been made as of yet.
The interface of Bluefish is very simple and very powerful. You get tabbed documents, with the ability to “save all”, “close all”, “save this document”, “close this document”, etc. That makes it extremely easy to switch back and forth between documents.
You can toggle the integrated file browser to allow you to easily open different files with the browser open and to allow you greater editing space with the browser closed. The editing window offers customizable syntax highlighting for over a dozen different coding languages.
There are multiple toolbars with common actions and code snippets available for basically any file you open, no matter what language it’s coded in. In addition, Bluefish allows you to create your own “quick tool” bar where you can store your favorite functions and code snippets.
Within Bluefish, you can store FTP settings in Bluefish to allow you to edit files directly on a remote server. You can open files based on custom filters (you can even use a regex search to open files that include specific text within the filename or within the content of the file itself). You can set up “projects” within Bluefish to allow you to switch back and forth between various coding projects.
Within your document, the line numbers are displayed in the left-hand margin (which is always extremely helpful for debugging your code). The search and replace within Bluefish allows you to use regex commands.
Bluefish’s Web site claims that you can open over 500 documents at once without any appreciable overhead. I can’t say that I’ve ever tested that many files at once (although their Web site says they’ve tested with over 3500 files at once), but I have tested it with at least 100 files at once and not had any serious problems.
I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to tell you everything I want to say about Bluefish. There are just so many great things to say about the editor. It’s not weighed down with all of the unnecessary crap you find in so many editors nowadays. It’s build by coders for coders, and it keeps us hand-coders in mind every step of the way.
Bluefish is simply an application to put all of your favorite coding elements at your fingertips without overpowering you with a bunch of annoying suggestions (sure, it’s nice every once in a while to use Dreamweaver’s color chooser, but most of the time I already know what color I want and I don’t want a stupid pop-up getting in my way while I’m typing it).
Overall, I give Bluefish an absolute 5 out of 5 rating. If it weren’t for the fact that I can’t reliably use it on Windows, Bluefish would be the only editor I’d ever use.
Bluefish is available for download from the official Bluefish Web site. On that site, you will find some neat screenshots (including a screenshot of the developers actually writing the code for Bluefish in Bluefish), a list of features, the Bluefish Wiki and much more.