The Alpha Text Editor

“BBEdit may get lots of good press, but the shareware text editor Alpha beats it in the area of HTML features…”
MacWorld, May 1998

Alpha received an Editor’s Choice award for HTML editing tool from MacWorld in May, 1998.

You can now register online! There are both normal and secure versions of this form.
See here for comprehensive instructions on how to pay for Alpha.

Alpha is a Shareware Macintosh text editor. Alpha is:

  • Powerful. Alpha uses Dr. Ousterhout’s Tool Command Language (Tcl) as a scripting language. Tcl is rapidly becoming a popular extension language over many different hardware platforms.
  • Customizable. Any function or keystroke sequence can be bound to any key, menus are completely user-specified and modifiable.
  • Emacs-ish. Alpha supports many of the key bindings and central concepts of GNU Emacs. It is not a port, however, and uses a Tcl instead of LISP as an extension language.
  • Multi-modal. Alpha supports mode-specific:
    • bindings
    • menus
    • keyword colorizingAlpha currently has more than 20 different modes, including modes for the following languages: Ada, C, C++, Fortran, HTML, Java, Pascal, Perl, Postscript, Scheme, SQL, Tcl, and TeX (including both LaTeX and LaTeX2e).
  • Interoperable. Alpha allows user scripts to build and send arbitrary AppleEvents. Currently, the default configuration of Alpha inter-operates with several different compilers, including CodeWarrior and Symantec C/C++, several LaTeX implementations, including OzTeX, DirectTeX, and Textures (although Textures’ AppleEvent support is currently very weak), and several other applications, such as MacPerl, BibTeX, Excalibur, and the ToolServer.
  • Native on the PowerMac.
  • Internet services: Internet Config-aware. Includes interfaces to web browsers, Eudora (create, send and receive mail from within Alpha!), and Archie (remote file editing).
  • Uses the latest Apple technologies, such as Drag and Drop, and AEGizmos.
  • Uses Ramon Felciano’s Mercutio menu definition routines.

Alpha has been reviewed in Macworld, MacTech, Volume 10, Issue 7, TidBits, the Italian and Australian versions of Macworld, and received a Cool Tool Award.


The current version is 7.5. Version 8.0b1 is in public beta testing.

Mailing Lists

Kagi Software (the firm that now handles my registrations) is in the process of accumulating the infrastructure necessary to support mailing lists. Once this happens, I will put together lists for general Alpha questions, bugs, and programming. In the meantime, Tcl developers can subscribe to [email protected] by sending the message SUBSCRIBE ALPHA-D to [email protected] which subscribes you to the ALPHA-D mailing list.

Tcl-related links:

Contributing Tcl authors:

  • Tom Scavo (LaTeX mode)
  • Tom Pollard (BibTeX and MacPerl modes)
  • Scott Brim (past HTML mode maintainer)
  • Johan Linde tools (current HTML mode maintainer)
  • David C. Black (Electric Alias code)
  • Vince Darley
  • Mark Nagata (all-around bug chasing and code fixing)
  • Many, many others have contributed, but the above are actively maintaining specific modes.


Alpha is shareware; it is not free. Please pay the shareware fee if you use Alpha more than 30 days. Registrations are handled by the Kagi Shareware service run by Kee Nethery. In addition to cash in various currencies and US dollar checks drawn on US banks, Kagi Shareware also accepts credit card registrations by mail, fax, or e-mail (your card number is scrambled). For organizations, they handle invoices and site licenses, too. For more information, run the Register program. It creates a customized registration form and tells you what to do with it.