Why TextMate 2 Isn’t Being Developed in the Open

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If you weren't convinced already that TextMate 2 will never ship, this January 6 blog post from TM creator Allan Odgaard may seal the deal:

I got a letter asking me why I didn’t use the 1.0 model for developing 2.0, that is, released 1.0 when it reached “usable” and then incrementally improved it. …

All in all this has been a giant puzzle with a lot of pieces that needed to fall into place. When I did the last status blog post about “90% done” it was because I felt that the last piece of the puzzle had fallen into place — of course it is never so, but all the big unanswered questions have an answer, that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a lot of stuff to do before it is alpha ready, just that the road toward alpha is no longer filled with huge unknowns.

I know a lot of you want me to give some estimate about when the first alpha is out, but if you didn’t already read the software is hard essay then please go read it now! I can’t give any estimate I am able to fulfill, which makes the entire thing pointless and will just set me up for more negative comments.

I hesitate to say Odgaard has been rewriting TextMate from scratch for the hell of it. But he has rewritten it from scratch—the dreaded Big Rewrite, that (legend has it) never, ever succeeds. According to the post, version 2.0 is already a 25% larger codebase than the current release, and is no closer to release now than it was a year ago.

Why? Odgaard just says he's working on some problems, and hasn't gotten to solutions yet. But as three people pointed out to me on Twitter this weekend when I asked why no one else had seriously attempted a code editor for the Mac (besides TextMate), text editing is one of the computing world's few truly solved problems.

I'm not saying it shouldn't be hard to write a robust, innovative editor, but it seems like the TM 2.0 project isn't even about finding new solutions to real-world problems. It seems like TM 2.0 is about its developer searching for perfection, basically coding for code's sake. If he weren't, then he'd be able to give us a user story, or show his work. When he describes all the abstractions and approaches he's trying, it sounds like he's making a work of software engineering first and a usable app second. And I, for one, have no patience for that kind of thing.

Great artists ship. Suffice to say, Allan Odgaard is most likely not a great artist.