Be a BBExpert

Do more with BBEdit Expert Preferences.


Legendary text and code editor


For over 25 years, BBEdit has been the go-to code and text editor among power users. One reason it’s such a hit? Unparalleled customizability. BBEdit lets you tweak how it looks and works in innumerable ways.

But BBEdit doesn’t make every setting visible in the Preferences window. To avoid overwhelming users with endless options, some are activated via Terminal commands. Many are niche, set-it-and-forget-it options, but they can seriously streamline your day-to-day writing and coding.

To activate these settings, open the Terminal app, enter the appropriate command-line command, then press Return. Or use BBEdit’s built-in Unix Worksheet: Choose Window > Unix Worksheet, enter the command, and press Control-Return.

Execute Terminal commands—and thus change expert settings—right from within BBEdit.

Here are a few expert settings to start with. (To see a full list, go to BBEdit > Preferences> Expert > Expert Preferences Help.)

1. Auto-complete faster

What it does: BBEdit’s text-auto-complete feature suggests words it thinks you might be trying to enter whenever there’s a pause in your typing. This command triggers auto-complete immediately whenever you press the Tab key. (You can revert to the to the default setting by running the same command but replacing YES with NO.)

What to enter: defaults write com.barebones.bbedit UseTabKeyAsCompletionTrigger -bool YES

2. Choose your language

What it does: Changes the default coding language for new documents. Just replace <language name> with any language shown under BBEdit Preferences > Languages > Installed Languages (for example, Markdown, CSS, or C++).

What to enter: defaults write com.barebones.bbedit DefaultLanguageNameForNewDocuments -string "<language name>"

3. Make Live Search always visible

What it does: Keeps the very handy Live Search field visible at the top of every new document window, so you don’t have to choose Search > Live Search each time you want to use it.

What to enter: defaults write com.barebones.bbedit Editor_AlwaysOpenQuickFind -bool YES

BBEdit’s Live Search feature is great; why not make it visible all the time?

4. Change the order of file navigation

What it does: BBEdit’s View > Previous Document and View > Next Document commands let you quickly navigate among open documents in the current window using your keyboard. By default, “previous” and “next” refer to the order in which the documents were opened, but this command lets you navigate based on the order they appear in BBEdit’s sidebar.

What to enter: defaults write com.barebones.bbedit SurfNextPreviousInDisplayOrder -bool YES

5. Select inclusively

What it does: By default, double-clicking one of the delimiters around text (such as parentheses) selects only that text. Enter this command if you want a double-click to also select the delimiters themselves.

What to enter: defaults write com.barebones.bbedit BalanceIncludesDelimiters -bool YES