When Will Bare Bones Release a 64-bit BBEdit?

At WWDC 2017, Apple announced that macOS High Sierra (10.13) will be the last macOS to support 32-bit apps “without compromises” (whatever that means). Anyway, for all intents and purposes, it seems that any serious app needs to be 64-bit by the time 10.14 (or 11?) is released in the fall of 2018.

I think it’s safe to say that BBEdit qualifies as a serious application. It’s also just about the last piece of 32-bit software I still use on my Mac.

According to the Bare Bones OS Compatibility page:

32-bit compatibility: Since Apple has explicitly stated that macOS High Sierra will run 32-bit applications, there is no immediate compatibility concern. We do plan to release a 64-bit version of BBEdit, which we expect to have ready well before OS support becomes an issue.

Since Bare Bones is probably one of the most consistent software companies in existence, we can take a look at history to make an educated guess as to when this 64-bit version of BBEdit will be released. Everything that follows is just a fun thought exercise and pure speculation on my part.

Release History

Here’s an overview of BBEdit updates, starting from BBEdit 4 (taken from the official company history).

  • BBEdit 4: May 1996 - 22 months since 3.0
  • BBEdit 5: November 1998 - 30 months
  • BBEdit 6: September 2000 - 22 months
  • BBEdit 7: November 2002 - 26 months
  • BBEdit 8: August 2004 - 21 months
  • BBEdit 9: August 2008 - 48 months
  • BBEdit 10: July 2011 - 35 months
  • BBEdit 11: October 2014 - 30 months

The first observation that sticks out to me is: I can’t believe version 4.0 of this software was released in 1996. I was only 10 years old when the 4th major update to this software happened.

Secondly, as you can see, Bare Bones is very consistent with their releases. Roughly every two and a half years (for over twenty years), a new major version of BBEdit has been released. On average, there are about 30 months in between each major version.

BBEdit 12

Going by the company’s own history, version 13 will be released after Apple has cut off (or severely neutered) 32-bit apps on macOS, which is why I think it has to be version 12 that goes 64-bit. This is also assuming that going 64-bit will occur in a major version.

It’s already been 33 months since the last major upgrade was released (version 11, in 2014), but there seems to be a trend of longer time between major releases (for the last three releases). The average time right now is about 40 months, so we’re not quite there yet.

Since going 64-bit is going to be a major task, we’ll probably go all the way (if not further) than the 40 month average. This puts my estimate for a BBEdit 12 release somewhere in the first or second quarter of 2018, and that’s taking Bare Bones’ “well before OS support becomes an issue” statement into account.

Why does 64-bit matter?

If you’re like me and BBEdit is the only 32-bit app running on your system, you’ll save some memory by not having to load all the 32-bit frameworks for a single app. But this really is the least of it.

The thing is, BBEdit 11 still mostly uses the Carbon APIs, which were a transitionary set of APIs that were there to make developer’s lives easier when the Mac was transitioning from OS 9 to OS X. This is why BBEdit, despite being very “Mac-like” and polished, looks a little dated and behaves slightly different in some ways than many more modern macOS apps that use Cocoa.

The Carbon APIs are the reason why BBEdit has been stuck in 32-bit land for so long. When they go 64-bit, they’ll have to go all-in with Cocoa. This also means BBEdit may be getting a major overhaul when this happens, which is pretty exciting to me.

BBEdit vs. Others

I believe Bare Bones has been working on this for quite a while behind the scenes (again, pure speculation), which may explain why BBEdit has sort of fallen behind some of the other popular text editors today.

Don’t get me wrong, BBEdit is a solid text editor with some powerful features and regular updates, but I don’t think anyone can deny that it’s sort of lagging behind in terms of features and raw editing capability when stacked up against the likes of Sublime Text and even some newer competitors such as Visual Studio Code and Atom (despite the latter two being Electron apps).

My hope is that the 64-bit, Cocoa version of BBEdit will finally be the one that allows me to stop having to switch between BBEdit and Sublime Text. Readers of my blog know I have been doing this for years, and it drives me nuts. Whenever I switch to Sublime Text, I miss the “look and feel” of BBEdit (which is important, I think, for someone who spends most of their time with a text editor), but when I’m in BBEdit I miss Sublime Text’s editing capabilities.

For decades, BBEdit has always been the gold standard for professional text editing on the Mac. I don’t think Bare Bones is quite ready to concede defeat to a cross-platform solution like Sublime Text just yet. I for one am looking forward to seeing what a 64-bit Cocoa version of BBEdit is going to look like, and how it will stack up against the plethora of cross-platform text editors out there.

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