BBEdit shows how to add generative AI to Apple platforms

One useful ChatGPT implementation I’ve come across in serious Mac software was recently introduced in BBEdit 15. It’s an integrated solution that lets developers request help from the generative ai (genAI) tech when building projects.

It shouldn’t be surprising to see a tool as powerful as BBEdit integrating such support. After all, the application is beloved by leading lights across Apple’s developer community, and we know for a fact that developers use these tools.

Github claimed last year that 92% of US coders already use AI coding tools. (Naturally, Github offers its own genAI implementation with Microsoft/OpenAI, GitHub Copilot.)

How does it work, what does it do?

The BBEdit integration should feel familiar to anyone who makes regular use of the application. For those who don’t, BBEdit is a highly advanced text editing tool that  now offers a worksheet (sort of like a document in Word) for ChatGPT interactions.

If you have a ChatGPT account and an API key, you enter those details into BBEdit and then can have text-based conversations with the genAI tool within a worksheet. This lets you engage in extensive conversations, which are saved in their own sheets. That makes it pretty easy to review, refer back, or search through conversations.

And, if you use BBEdit to write your code, it means you can get help from ChatGPT from within the app; there’s no need to rely on awkward copy and paste to bring code recommendations from your browser.

This isn’t the only Mac app to integrate support for ChatGPT. Look around and you’ll find apps such as swiftGPT, MacWhisper, MacGPT, and others. Many apps use genAI for specific purposes (such as transcription), while others simply let you access these tools to help seek smart assistance within a more Mac-like experience.

Focusing on results

What’s important about BBEdit’s approach is that the company has implemented the tech in a way that should be of the most use to its customers, particularly developers. The manner of this hints at the kind of narrow and defined implementations that will emerge as the most useful business cases for the tech.

After all, given there’s a cost to each query, pro users will want to ensure the tasks they are spending money on are those most useful for them, which makes it highly probable we’ll see more narrowed and focused spaces in which it is fully exploited.

That’s also why edge-based AI will be an emerging and important component in the coming months. It’s also why Apple’s anticipated advances in AI engineering are significant to anyone in tech.

From Mac developers, for Mac developers

The BBEdit implementation does strike me as interesting from another perspective. Just about every single one of the most advanced Mac users I’ve ever spoken to has at least made use of the application.

That’s because Bare Bones, the company behind BBEdit, is led by Rich Siegel, who has remained at the cutting-edge of Mac development for decades.

He’s a widely known industry thought leader, which means that if he thinks the best way to deploy genAI in his app is in this focused manner, developers across Apple’s platforms think the same way. I can imagine that gropup would also include Apple’s OS developers working on how to implement the company’s widely-anticipated own genAI models for WWDC 2024.

That surmise alone encourages me to believe that Xcode will be among the first beneficiaries of whatever Large Language Model (LLM) Apple is alleged to be creating.

How useful will it be to developers to have Xcode writing the code you need to reliably implement iCloud support within apps? (Though some may say that’s impossible.)

This is how most apps will work

Returning to BBEdit, the application recently hit version 15.

Along with ChatGPT integration, it also introduces a host of improvements for customers who like its elegant text wrangling talents. These include a new Minimap view that delivers great oversight of document structure, personalized cheat sheets to expedite text markup and editing, workspace improvements designed to make you more productive and almost 200 other tweaks customers will want to use.

Find out more about that here.

Pretty soo,n I expect we’ll see similar tools appear as a service within Mac, iPhone, and iPad applications from multiple developers, and the source may not always be ChatGPT.

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