Using BBEdit or Textwrangler? Here are some BIM goodies

I have been using TextWrangler as my OSX power text editor for quite some time. It is free, runs fast and efficient and is quite versatile.

For many code formats, there are adequate syntax highlighter settings available: C++, php, html, xml and many more. However, for domain-specific languages, you are often on your own.

I’ve created and improved some highlighters which you can freely download.

You have to install them in the correct folder, for TextWrangler to recognise them.

/Users/<user name>/Library/Application Support/TextWrangler/Language Modules

I assume (have not tested), that they also work for BBEdit, the big brother of TextWrangler, which will have a very similar path upon install.

IFC - Industry Foundation Classes

I do hope that you know what this is…

This is the beginning of the IFC definition file. It is an XML file, with a series of recognised words underneath <dict> in the <array> tag. I’ve copied them from a long listing of IFC classnames. They are derived from IFC2x3, so the IFC4 classes are not (yet) available. But it’ll take some time before applications start supporting them.


You can download it from my Dropbox here:

And that is how an IFC file will look in TextWrangler:


Not perfect, but already very usable. In particular, most DATATYPES are still missing (IFCBOOLEAN) and the enumerations, like “.T.” or “.ATEND.”. Listing them all should be possible, but that requires either stupid manual work or applying an Express parser. I’m partially there already, but it’s not complete. But it is usable and the IFC files look much more readable already. They are still frightening for most architects, though.


EXP = the Express language

Actually, the whole IFC data structure, defining datatypes, entities and rules is described in an Express file. I have been looking at the official IFC 2x3 EXP TC1 (technical corrigendum 1) where IFC 2x3 is described. This is used in numerous IFC developer toolkits, where it is often the source for the automatic generation of the hundreds of classes for IFC.

The TextWrangler express definition file (again, an XML file) is shown here:


Download the file from here:

If you load an EXP file, it will look like this:



ArchiCAD Geometric Description Language

And Finally, as I was studying some GDL files, I’ve added a definition for GDL too. This is the basic language for parametric ArchiCAD objects and is a variant from Basic.

This is the definition file:


You can download it from

And when you load a GDL file (with extension GSM), it’ll look already much better than it does in ArchiCAD’s internal GDL editor, which is still a relic from the 90ies, without syntax colouring, code folding nor code completion. Alas… Most Open Source software that supports scripting has a decent code editor with these features and more built in. Don’t ask me why Graphisoft chose not to integrate this. But it scares the GDL developer away even more. I’m wondering if they are using it themselves…


However, as a GDL file is not a pure text file, this is mostly for studying. If you start messing around in this file, you’ll ruin the object. In ArchiCAD, it looks cleanly divided into 2D, 3D, Parameter and other scripts, but it also contains other sections and even a basic 2D drawing, which can be seen by large sections of gibberish:


So avoid the urge to edit the GDL file and especially do NOT save it. My advice? Copy paste sections of the scripts from the arcane GDL Editor in here, correct or study and copy them back.