Recipe for Visual SlickEdit v8: Take one whole Microsoft Developer Studio, two Whole Tomato’s Visual Assist, an entire UltraEdit, one WndTabs, a fresh scripting language, and all the great features of every other editor and IDE you may have in your cupboards. Bake for several years through eight versions. Garnish with a steroid injection.
With each version of a program the expectation is that it will get slower as features are added. Not so with SlickEdit. What has always been likable is the speed of startup. It’s as fast as Notepad, making it an ideal replacement text editor when you need to jot down a quick note. It even opens Microsoft Developer Studio projects faster than Developer Studio.
SlickEdit has always offered a wide range of support for programming languages and project environments, with new support added for pre- and post-build steps. Without any surprise the IDE now supports IBM PowerNP, Visual Studio .NET solutions, Visual BASIC .NET, C# for UNIX, Apache Jakarta Ant, LEX, YACC, ANTLR, Verilog, SAS and XML schemas along with improved support for Borland’s JBuilder and various flavours of makefiles. XML editing is easy and powerful using a tree view and SlickEdit’s tagging lets you add, remove and search XML elements and XML attributes via either local or HTTP located DTD.
Tagging is SlickEdit’s way of scanning source files in a project directory – the new wildcard feature enables you to insert entire directories in to a project — performing an automated interpretation looking for keywords, function definitions, class declarations in each file and build a navigation map that aids the developer in moving about their project as well as enabling the auto-completion features such as parameter type matching, class/structure member lists, and syntax expansion to operate. As tagging can take several minutes on very large projects scheduled tagging can be executed from the command line at a convenient time. You can add tag files created and maintained by another developer for libraries to which you do not have source code access.
The newer versions of SlickEdit support full the Java Debugger for any JVM using the Java Debug Wire Protocol giving debug access to all the usual methods; e.g. single stepping, variable watches, stack dumps and breakpoints,. Added to the Java Debugger in the very latest version is the ability to edit-compile-continue, allowing you to edit source code during a debug session and then continue without restarting the program. The GNU Debugger has not been neglected, extended to facilitate debugging of remote processes.
Amongst supporting all the major version control systems version 8 offers tighter CVS integration, now allowing the viewing of histories, single & multi-file updates, commits and comparisons all from within the IDE via an easy to understand interface.
For complex merge operations Visual SlickEdit has always offered some of the best tools around which have now been improved with the new three way merge ability displayed in up to four separate windows.
For web development SlickEdit provides, in addition to the usual distribution methods, secure FTP for pushing content to web sites via the OpenSSH client.
I had gotten used to WndTabs in Microsoft Developer Studio so I was pleasantly surprised to see “Buffer Tabs” added to Visual SlickEdit, performing the same job, displaying a “tab” for each source file that has an open window.
There’s a simple code beautifier for each language that SlickEdit understands enabling you to tidy up a cornucopia of languages with a single click.
Small interfaces changes to the colour coding dialogue, the extension options dialogue and Find/Replace for multi-file operations make everything move a little smoother, though it took me a while to get used to some of the re-arrangements just due to learned keyboard responses on my part.
Visual SlickEdit continues to improve in leaps and bounds with every version. It is what every other code editor aspires to be, and what every integrated development environment should be. Version 8 supports nine keyboard/mouse emulation modes, more languages and project environments than you can shake a stick at and the powerful Slick-C macro language and plug-in extension architecture ensures custom, project specific features are easily added.
Pricing for Visual SlickEdit isn’t a simple single figure. Upgrades fall between $99 and $149 dependent on platform. New user prices are between $299 and $399. SlickEdit also offers an unusual 50% discount as a “competitive upgrade” incentive for people considering moving from another software package. Check the Visual SlickEdit website for more information.
Several hundred dollars for a “code editor” could be considered expensive by many but you have to realize that Visual SlickEdit is so much more than that, it essentially replaces, lock, stock & barrel, whatever your current editor/IDE of choice is, and then adds a slew of extra features to sweeten the transition. Rather than suffer with a cobbled together solution for Gameboy Advance, Palm Pilot or cell phone development I use SlickEdit as a single, familiar environment. And when I choose to do Win32 or PlayStation 2 development the environment remains the same.
Visual SlickEdit v8
10 out of 10
This review originally appeared in a 2003 issue of Game Developer Magazine.