Collaborative text editor free for Mac: Write, code with others

Edit text, edit code, on your own or with team collaboration

If you are struggling with a document or code, use a collaborative text editor. Work with someone else or even a whole team on projects with SubEthaEdit, a useful free open-source Mac app.

It is not easy doing everything yourself and there are many benefits to collaborating with someone else or even with a group of people. When several people are generating ideas and content, the task gets done a lot faster and more easily.

SubEthaEdit can be used on its own by yourself to create plain text files or edit various types of code and it has all the core features you would expect of a utility of this type. While there are text and code editors that offer even more features, like BBedit, Sublime Text, CotEditor, and others, they don’t have SubEthaEdit’s stand-out feature, which is collaboration. You can work with others.

It enables several people to work on a document or code at the same time, entering new text and rewriting existing text. You can see who wrote what as contributors are easily identified using colored highlights in the text.

Get SubEthaEdit free from the Apple Mac Store or go to the website subethaedit.net. There is a direct download and a link to the Mac App Store.

Text and code editor

In its simplest form, SubEthaEdit is a text editor that supports Markdown (see Basic Syntax for Markdown) and if you know a little of how this works, you can write documents with headings, lists, bullet points, links and more. Markdown takes a bit of getting used to if you have not come across it before, but it is worth learning a few of the common ways Markdown styles text because it is widely used.

SubEthaEdit collaborative text editor for Apple Mac: Screenshot
SubEthaEdit can be used as a Markdown text editor

The app supports 28 different types of code and some of the common ones are C, C++, CSS, HTML, Java, JavaScript, XML, PHP, Python and so on. Write in any of these programming and markup languages and the code is automatically colored to highlight functions, parameters and so on.

There are dedicated tools for programmers that do a lot more, but the app is good enough for the type of basic coding tasks that I do, like bits of HTML, JavaScript and CSS code for inserting into web pages.

Whether you like SubEthaEdit depends on how serious a coder you are. If you create text documents and occasionally write short and simple code, it is fine. If you are a professional programmer, it still has its uses, but it might not be the best tool.

Collaborate with others on documents and code

Here is where SubEthaEdit gets interesting. It is a collaborative text editor, and you can create a document consisting of text or programming code, on your Mac that other people can open, view and work on too.

Advertise a document for collaboration in SubEthaEdit: Screenshot
Get collaborators by advertising the document

Other people on the local network can be seen in the app and you can either invite specific people to collaborate on a document or code, or advertise it, which makes it known to everyone. It appears in each user’s Hub window.

The doSee documents to collaborate on in SubEthaEdit: screenshot
See documents other users have advertised

Another SubEthaEdit user on the local network can see that you have a document you want to collaborate on, and they can apply to join it.

Accept or deny collaboration requests in SubEthaEdit for Mac: Screenshot
Someone wants to collaborate. Set permissions.

You are notified that a user wants to join the document and you can choose Deny, Read Only or Read & Write as you prefer.

Collaborating on a document in SubEthaEdit for Mac: Screenshot
Two people collaborating on a document

Each user is assigned a color and the text they enter, or change is highlighted in their color. This makes it easy to see what you entered and what others have entered. It might begin to look rainbow colored if you had a lot of people working on a document or code, so it is better to work with one or two others rather and a large group.

Set collaboration permissions in SubEthaEdit for Mac: -Screenshot
Set permissions for incoming participants

There are other ways to share files and to collaborate on them, but these usually involve putting files online or in a networked folder, such as in OneDrive, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, and then setting up sharing permissions.

SubEthaEdit is different and a document can be stored anywhere, even in your personal folder, like Documents, which no-one else has access to. No sharing features need to be enabled and the file is only shared through SubEthaEdit.

Save documents and code in SubEthaEdit for Mac - screenshot
Save options in SubEthaEdit

One downside of SubEthaEdit’s method of collaboration is that everyone working on a document needs to be at their Mac and have SubEthaEdit running. If the Mac with the document is not powered on or the SubEthaEdit app is not running, it cannot be accessed by others.

According to the app, documents could be shared over the internet if port forwarding in configured. I didn’t try it myself, but it should enable remote workers to work on your shared documents as well as those on the local network.

Summing up

SubEthaEdit is an average Markdown and code editor and an average programmer’s code editor that supports many languages. It’s adequate, but not brilliant. However, it has a stand-out feature that sets it apart from the rest: Collaboration. Two or more people can open and work on a document or code at the same time. Is a collaborative text editor something that would be useful to you?

Everyone needs to be online at the same time, but it is useful for working with others, such as a friend, work colleague or team. It can be used solo, but it is mainly for teams on a local network. However, remote access over the internet is possible with a bit of tweaking.


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