When I do consulting, a lot of people are really surprised that I use Texmate, a popular text editor for OS X, to develop on Symfony projects. Indeed, Textmate is a bit rough around the edge compared to bloated full featured IDE like Eclipse PDT or Netbeans, which are both Java based by the way.

So why using Textmate? No intelligent autocompletion, very basic project management, poor VCS native support, limited index search capabilities… First and while it’s mainly a matter of taste, I mainly use Texmate because it’s fast. Compared to PDT with which you often have to wait a bunch of seconds for the UI to respond on some action you make, mate will react quite instantaneously, and that is making big difference to me. Because when I’m concentrated, focused on some complex problem to solve, I demand my text editor to not make me wait [1].

Oppositely, not having full code introspection and autocompletion makes mate making me think about the code I write, instead of just consuming some API passively. I’ve been using phpeclipse and PDT for some years with Symfony, but I think I really began to understand the framework architecture when I switched to mate as my primary editor. Because every time you need to do something with the Symfony API, you have to open the file and read the code: then you learn a lot. And by the time, you end by knowing the core very well, and it’s incredibly efficient. One more time, this is just matter of taste.

Textmate quick tips

So whereas mate can be somewhat limited at first glance, a second look shows it provides some really effective commands to enhance your productivity. Let’s examine some of them.

Searching for a file within the project codebase

Just by pressing ⌘ + t, a snappy filename search window will pop up and allow you to search a file interactively by its name pattern. If you’re using the incredible Quicksilver app for osx, you got the picture.


As Symfony names php files against the class name they contain, finding a class file is just easy as typing the class name in the search field!

Browsing the available functions, classes and methods within a php file

When a php file is opened, the ⌘ + shift + t command will show up the available sections of the document, with a search box you can use to filter their names, still interactively.


Note that this will also work for other file types (like CSS for instance).

Obtening help on native php functions

Move the carret onto some php native function and press ctrl + h and you’ll get the php.net related page in a pop up.

Want the function signature definition in a tooltip, like in PDT or Netbeans? Hit ⌥ + F1 and you’re done.


Using the mate command line utility

Textmate ships with a native command line interface executable called mate you can use from your term:

$ cd /path/to/project
$ mate .

You can also pipe some command to mate to open the output in it:

$ svn diff|mate


Taking part of Mate’s url-scheme capabilities with Symfony

I already blogged about this awesome feature available since Symfony 1.3, one more I won’t ever be able to live without.

Improve your productivity using bundles

The Ack in project bundle

One of the most annoying lack of mate is its internal search engine. It’s really damn slow. The best way to get something decent is to install the Ack in project bundle. You’ll then be able to access a fast and convenient fulltext search engine by pressing the ⌘ + shift + a command.


The ProjectPlus bundle

If you’re looking after a better project browser and some VCS support in mate, you’ll love the ProjectPlus bundle. It will replace the default project drawer by a new one with finder label colors support, file sorting options and VCS icons integration. Give it a try, you won’t be able to live without it.


The Symfony bundle

How could I write a blog post on Textmate and Symfony without mentioning the Symfony bundle? Denderello and contributors did a really good job taking over the original tool, which provides very convenient and effective shortcuts to write Symfony snippets of code quickly.

The GetBundle bundle

Last, if you didn’t find anything new or useful reading this blog entry, you might then be interested by installing the GetBundle bundle which will allow you to browse all available bundles and install any of them in one click!



So these are some of the reasons why I’m using Textmate when developing with Symfony (and other languages too). What are yours?


[1] You know the don’t make me think mantra? Well, now you got another one ;)