SlickEdit 2008 Review
I have been reviewing and using various versions of SlickEdit for years (visit my web site, www.mikeriley.com, for a list of my past articles and reviews) and was fortunate to be notified recently by the program's makers of their latest iteration, SlickEdit 2008. In my mind, SlickEdit has always been more than just a souped up code editor. Even with its expanding feature set, its methodical operation is all about reducing frustration associated with writing code. While the 2008 release supports numerous language types, its foundation is still optimized for the C/C++ developer, seconded by its Java followed by its support for .NET on the Windows platform. Speaking of platforms, SlickEdit 2008 has versions for 7 different computing platforms and is best suited for writing code for over 40 different languages beyond the ones I mentioned.
The editor itself can be fully customized and extended using the product's built-in Slick-C macro building language and a number of these company and user-generated extensions are discussed and sometimes made available for download from the company's community.slickedit.com user forum website.
As stated earlier, I've reviewed previous incarnations of SlickEdit (for those interested in reading those reviews, visit my personal website at www.mikeriley.com and follow the links for the SlickEdit reviews). Rather than retread over features that haven't changed since my last review of the product, I'm going to focus this write-up on the new features added to the 2008 release, two of which alone (Adaptive Formatting and the Message List) are worth the annual subscription price for existing SlickEdit enthusiasts.
The most interesting new feature in SlickEdit 2008 are the Message Lists, which essentially lists any build errors with the location in the code where the error was generated. While such features have lived in other IDE's for years, its absence in SlickEdit until now has been a noticeable omission.
Another new feature that carries some buzz is Adaptive Formatting, a way for the product to dynamically alter code beautifiers such as indents, tabs, parentheses padding, open/close brackets and the like for each of the supported language types. Like Message Lists, such capabilities have existed for a long time in other IDE's but not in a product with as much breath of language support as SlickEdit.
Other additions such as a more verbose options dialog with the ability to tweak a greater number of settings for targeted languages such as C/C++ and Java. Another is QuickBrace (and its corresponding UnBrace), a keystroke saving way to convert single line statements into a brace-enclosed block that doesn't require the annoying tabbing to maintain the braces in the desired position. Perl regular expressions can be used in code search and replace, Makefile import and parsing, a new clipboard list similar to that found in the latest version of Microsoft Office, AutoSymbol Translation expands a character sequence to the appropriate entity reference to minimize reference table lookups, SCIM (Smart Common Input Method) support for Linux users and live URL links (Ctrl clicking on a URL to hyperlink to its described target) and better URL mapping. And for users of Slick-C, SlickEdit's C-based language for creating custom SlickEdit add-ins, a new debugger to help accelerate add-in development. These are just some of the enhancements made to SlickEdit 2008.
While many of these features bring the product to parity with other IDE's, SlickEdit's speed and vast language support make it ideal for developers who prefer to use a single, comprehensive editing surface for all their coding needs. The product is best suited for C/C++ and Java developers who need to code in a myriad of other languages, and it delivers this utility in a fast, effective manner.
So what kind of developer is SlickEdit not going to rock their world? Those who develop for one primary language like Java or .NET for 95% or more of their coding lives have already found their home in Eclipse or Visual Studio respectively. Those who are vi or emacs wizards might want to take SlickEdit for a test drive but will probably loop back to their terminal-bound code writing ways. Finally, those free software zealots who adamantly believe that no code editor (or any other application for that matter) is worth paying for will obviously clash with SlickEdit's license activation and annual subscription policies. In fact, such people probably haven't even bothered reading this review in the first place.
Ultimately the selection of any code editor should be one that best suits the needs of the coder and gets out of the way so the structured constructs of codifying processing instructions flows as effortlessly as possible. SlickEdit achieves this to a certain degree, though bloat is definitely starting to crowd out the product's initial appeal. Yet even with the new features, load time is not dramatically impacted and the new features like the Adaptive Formatting and Message Lists are welcome additions for existing SlickEdit users to consider this upgrade. However, for those who have less demanding code editing requirements, SlickEdit may be too slick to fully appreciate.
Cost: $299 US