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I'm looking for a Unicorn, the mythical Text Editor that will do everything I want it to do, and especially one feature that Mac's TextEdit has that I haven't found elsewhere: easily open multiple windows in multiple workspace/desktops and have the positions preserved through a reboot.

I found a similar question, Linux text editor with support of illustrations, folding, and different fonts? which asks for the following features for a Linux-based editor:

  • no vendor lock-in
  • has support of different font styles
  • can fold text (aka collapse and expand)
  • supports illustrations

I want all of those and:

  • Mac OS 10.14 support
  • Preserve window positions on multiple workspace/desktops through reboot

That last requirement is the kicker because it is so rarely addressed that vendors and reviewers virtually never mention it in feature lists. Most apps are designed with the presumption that you do everything in a single app window on a single desktop. The current state of the art appears to be tabs for multiple files. That is just uncomfortably cumbersome for my multi-project, multi-context workflow.

The built-in Mac editor TextEdit does that. That's why I'm spoiled. I can have a different desktop for each project, or multiple, adjacent desktops for parts of a project, and keep a TE file for ToDos and a TE file for Research Notes, or whatever, open on EACH desktop. If I have to reboot, the same files reopen in the same positions on each desktop. It's a very nice system for me.

But it doesn't fold text. With folding text, I could have each ToDo item be a heading and I could collapse and expand the text under that heading as I want. Without that, because of having lots of details, some of my ToDo and Notes files are getting too long to see all at once.

To really test for that last, crucial requirement with various editors would not only mean lots of installations, which is tedious but doable, it would also mean lots and lots of rebooting during the testing. That adds another layer to the tedium.

So I'm asking if YOUR favorite editor supports folding and if so, does it do what TextEdit can do, keep the positions of multiple app windows on multiple Mac desktops through rebooting.

Any suggestions?

Thanks.

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  • The trouble is, there's no support at all for any app on macOS to be spread over multiple Spaces. It just was never in the design concept. BTW, you don't need to reboot to test this on any app, just quit & relaunch; everything will come back to one Space, but keep its relative screen position.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 28, 2021 at 6:48
  • Fortunately, TextEdit does what I want as far as Workspaces/Desktops is concerned. I guess it's better integrated into MacOS than third-party apps. I just wish it could collapse and expand sections of text. Jun 29, 2021 at 5:39
  • @Tetsujin -- Your claim about "any app" is simply not true. TextEdit allows multiple open windows in different desktops/workspaces and it preserves their desktop locations through a reboot. Through testing I have found that FoldingText and TextDo do the same: allow multiple app windows in different workspaces/desktops and preserve those locations through a reboot. Sep 6, 2021 at 20:13
  • Yeah, interestingly, TextEdit will do it through a reboot but not a relaunch.
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 7, 2021 at 7:19
  • 1
    You are correct. A relaunch starts over from scratch, apparently. If it's open during a reboot (and I presume the "restore open windows" option has to be True) it does a pretty good job of restoring. And that's what I'm after. Sometimes reboot is out of my control and I deeply appreciate not having to reconstruct where I was in several different projects. Sep 7, 2021 at 17:33

1 Answer 1

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Here are some results of testing various apps that work for notemaking, if not for folded outlining, looking for reboot robustness:

Apps that work

  • TextEdit. Multiple windows. Reboots to original desktops. Preserves unsaved buffers.
  • FoldingText. Multiple windows. Reboots to original desktops. (Last updated in 2011, but it has a new owner as of the end of 2021.)
  • TextDo. Multiple windows. Reboots to original desktops.
  • Typora 1.0. $15. Multiple windows. Markdown. Reboots to original desktops. Preserves unsaved buffers
  • Bear. Free. $1.50/mo to sync with phone. Multiple Windows. Markdown. Reboots to original desktops. Unusual concept of master window that has a paragraph from every file and then files are separately openable from there.

Apps that don’t work

  • Trello. Allows multiple windows in a session. Reboots to only one window in the first desktop.
  • Word. Allows multiple windows in a session. Reboots to only one window in the first desktop.
  • OneNote. Allows multiple windows in a session. Reboots to only one window in the first desktop.
  • MS To Do. No multiple windows. Reboots to the first desktop.
  • BBedit 12. Multiple windows. Reboots to first desktop in the window’s original monitor.
  • Bbedit 14. Same as v12. Even the new Notes mode is not suitable.
  • Text Wrangler — same as BBEdit.
  • MacVim. Nothing reopens after a reboot and the open files seem to even have vanished from the Recents list, even though they were saved. VIM is a Fail.

I haven't kept notes about apps that are not suitable for lists or note taking, but I have noticed that some apps reopen all windows but all on Desktop 1, some apps only reopen a single window on whatever Desktop you reboot into, and some apps don't reopen at all, even with the "Restore All Windows" setting.

Apps to be tested

I look forward to testing:

  • Notes
  • Code Bubbles
  • Brackets
  • TextMate
  • Notion
  • ... and any others that you or others might suggest are good candidates for easy note taking and reboot robustness.

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