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Review of SlickEdit 2009 for Windows

The latest and greatest SlickEdit 2009

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating

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Another year, another version. You may remember the review of SlickEdit 2007. Well not long ago, a new version was released and the makers haven't sat on their laurels. Rather than cover just the new features I've tried to cover the major features in this review to give an overall view.

New Features - Useful or Bloatware?

There's always a risk adding lots of new features that you'll end up with an application where 90% of them aren't used- e.g. MS Word springs to mind. But with SlickEdit it's safe to say that isn't the case. Though less important than it used to be because of the likes of Eclipse and Visual Studio's Editor, a good editor is still a vital tool for a developer. At work I have a choice of 4 (Delphi IDE, Visual Studio, Textpad and Notepad++) and I use each according to its strengths. SlickEdit covers a loft of bases. Why don't I use it at work? Banks can be slow to take on board new software especially when they have perfectly usable editors already.

SlickEdit has always been more than just a code editor on steroids. Even with its ever growing set of features, I would guess that the developers "Eat their own dog food"; a phrase that came from Microsoft developers who used their own software during development. I.E. the SlickEdit developers use SlickEdit to develop SlickEdit and consequently have a good feel for ways to improve it and help developers write code faster. It's definitely not bloatware.

Important Features

Developers always have their own favorite keyboard operations; I grew up with Wordstar and used it for a dozen years in various IDEs but long ago switched to Visual Studio. Thankfully SlickEdit emulates Visual Studio keys and 12 other emulations but not WordStar. Before you start using SlickEdit you should adjust it for your preference in the Tools/Options menu or better still run the Quick Start Wizard which runs you through the Options screens quickly. Particularly useful is Code Tagging, SlickEdit's version of Intellisense where SlickEdit goes through your various compiler libraries. it found various Visual Studio Libraries as well as Cygwin, the .NET libraries (all of them) plus a Java JDK that I had forgotten about. A one off scan of these to build the Code Tagging library took about three or four minutes on my 3 year old PC.

Other Quick Start configurations include selecting an edit color scheme. There's a dozen or so schemes but you can edit these and save out new schemes to your hearts delight. Should you wish it you can have a different color for every virtually every identifier, highlighting, selections, comments etc. Almost 60 different color configs per scheme. You can see how these look with the various languages as well so you could configure a favorite color set scheme per language.Likewise you can set indentations and layout for all languages or just for individuals. You can literally spend hours configuring SlickEdit. Thankfully it's easy to export all the options into a file that you can re-import onto other computers.

Slick-C

Slick-C is the Macro language that is the heart of all the functionality. It's a very powerful programming language based on a mixture of C and C++. It is actually bigger than Ansi-C with strings, no objects, #define and const, Java like Interfaces, pointers and function pointers, foreach loops and while,do,for. This is no lightweight macro language but a powerful language implementation that comes with its own debugger and profiler. If you want to create sophisticated text editing macros, Slick-C will make it possible.

Much of SlickEdit's functionality is down to Slick-C. You can record a macro then bind it to a key. Particularly impressive is the dialog forms and toolbox that gives you standard window controls and lets you bind events to them. It's not unlike creating forms in Excel but more powerful.

In Conclusion

SlickEdit is at heart a decent file editor but with compiler integration, version control, code tagging, spell checking, a FTP/SFTP client, it definitely goes more than a little beyond. Especially with the added Debuggers for Perl, Python and PHP new to this version.

I'd guess it started life as a C/C++ editor as that still comes through but it does cover over 40 programming languages with editor syntax support, code navigation and is available for seven platforms. (Windows, Solaris SPARC, Linux, HP-UX, Mac OS X, AIX, Solaris x86).

At $299 this is starting to nudge into the Enterprise arena, but also because of the useful features and editing convenience that make it Enterprise grade software. Certainly for small companies it's very useful but if you are only doing say single language development like Java or just using Visual Studio, it's harder to justify the expense. Where it is the best is for developers who work in several languages, particularly C/C++ and maybe Java.

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