SlickEdit

Language Support

As a programmer, I'm personally limited to a handful of languages. In fact, when it comes to Java, I can't even say hello to the world. SlickEdit takes me to task in this department, supporting more than 40 languages. To be fair, some of those languages are specific to their platform (that is, Microsoft), but I couldn't think of a single language it doesn't support.

One of the advantages of using a tool like SlickEdit is that because it knows languages you might not be intimately familiar with, it's a great tool for jumping right in to unfamiliar code with unfamiliar syntax (which leads to my next favorite feature).

Autocompletion

Although not exactly SkyNet-type artificial intelligence, SlickEdit does save time by automatically completing your commands—and with the proper language-specific syntax. For example, if you type for and press the spacebar inside a C++ document, SlickEdit automatically creates the parentheses and curly braces needed to complete the conditional loop. I find this incredibly helpful when switching between languages, because compilers aren't as forgiving with incorrect syntax as the human brain might be.

Autocompletion doesn't stop with code syntax, however; SlickEdit also autocompletes any symbols or words while you type. This is great for long symbols or variable names. SlickEdit searches your open document in real time for matches and pops up a box with the matches it finds. If you don't want to use autocomplete, simply ignore the pop-up box and keep typing. Focus isn't taken away from what you're typing.

Backup

As I've mentioned, SlickEdit supports revision control systems like Git, but it also keeps a history of changes every time a file is saved. Even if you haven't committed your changes, you still can see the history of changes made to your files. Access to the save history really can save your bacon if you accidentally save an error by mistake.

DIFFzilla

SlickEdit uses a tool called DIFFzilla to compare files. It's also possible to compare folders full of files or active buffers in the editor. What makes DIFFzilla great is that it does its best job to reformat non-compilable differences (like whitespace or line breaks where they don't matter) in order to display the code side by side. This may seem like a minor feature, but it makes comparing files line by line a breeze. In fact, you can edit the code directly from the DIFFzilla window, and the updates are written back to the location where you opened the file. Figure 5 shows DIFFzilla in action.

Figure 5. DIFFzilla adds things like the "Imaginary Line Buffer" in order to line up code so it's easier to see.

Code Templates

For programmers who use chunks of code over and over (the foundation of FOSS, no?), SlickEdit supports code templates. Basically, any common coding elements can be saved as a template and used in a project easily. Re-using code isn't revolutionary by any means, but the templating system makes it easy to do. By using templates, there is no longer a need to search/replace the files to make it match your project. SlickEdit automatically changes the specified parts of the template to match your needs.

Regex Testing

Life without regex would be hard to sort through. Bad joke, I know, but as powerful as regular expressions can be, they also can be mind-bending, especially after a long day of coding. SlickEdit includes a "Regex Evaluator", which lets you test your regular expression in real time against test data. It doesn't guarantee your regex will be perfect, but the real-time testing can help eliminate silly mistakes.

Macros

Programmers love to re-use code, but they also tend to repeat the same tasks over and over as well. SlickEdit has a nifty macro-recording feature, so that you can assign a keyboard shortcut to a process you need to do often. It can be as simple as a key to add/remove a comment, or it can be as complicated as rewriting sections of code.

If you have complex macros to create, SlickEdit includes its own programming language specifically for macros. Slick-C has extremely complex abilities that can interact with just about every facet of the SlickEdit program. If you generally go through a long list of procedures when you start a new project, SlickEdit can be programmed to do them for you with a single keystroke. Information on the Slick-C language is available on the SlickEdit Web site.

Magic Paste

No, I'm not talking about that stuff you ate in kindergarten, but plain-old copy/paste. When you paste a chunk of code from one place to another, SlickEdit will match indentation and brace placement automatically. It's another feature that doesn't affect the compiled code, but it makes the source much easier to read and less embarrassing to share.

Built-in Command Line

A feature I bet Windows programmers appreciate even more than we do in Linux is the built-in command-line interface. Once activated, the command line offers a set of commands that can be accessed command-line-style. Its similarity to the Linux command line might be a little confusing, because although some of the output is similar (typing ls for instance), it's not truly a Linux shell. For quick mouse-free file interaction, however, it is worth the effort to learn the commands available.

New Features

If you've been a SlickEdit user in the past, you'll likely find SlickEdit 2011 (version 16) has a few really great enhancements. Notably for Linux users are the following:

  • 64-bit version for those using 64-bit Linux.

  • Ruby debugging.

  • Git support.

  • Multithreading.

Although most of the new features are self-explanatory, the multithreading is more than just minor code efficiency. In the past, when parsing source code for tagging, SlickEdit would force the user to wait. Now, a little box pops up telling you it's working in the background. For large projects with lots of files, this seemingly insignificant feature can save tons of time.

Conclusion

SlickEdit is an amazing tool. As a novice programmer, I barely scratched the surface of its full abilities, but even so, I found it's extremely useful. One of my favorite features is the keyboard emulation, which makes the learning curve a little less steep. Although its features make it ideal for a full-time, professional programmer, unfortunately, so does its price. At $299 for a single user license, SlickEdit isn't for everyone, but for programmers working in an environment where time is money, its time-saving features alone will pay for itself in short order.

Apart from a few minor issues, like the lockups when trying to configure Git, SlickEdit was very stable during my testing. The GUI itself seems to use a proprietary toolkit, or one I'm not familiar with. The menus behave strangely from time to time, and they refuse to close occasionally, requiring me to click off the main window to get it to behave properly. It's possible that is just some strange conflict with my Xubuntu desktop, and it isn't a showstopper by any means.

If you want to try SlickEdit, there is a free 15-day trial, which includes help from the SlickEdit support team. If you're an Eclipse user, there is the SlickEdit core editor as a plugin for Eclipse. Both options are available from SlickEdit's Web site: http://www.slickedit.com.

______________________

Shawn Powers is an Associate Editor for Linux Journal. You might find him chatting on the IRC channel, or Twitter

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Yeah it's good to use. It

Jane21's picture

Yeah it's good to use. It also has a build-in ftp to access the remote server magnetic particle inspection

Great Reviews

ProForm's picture

Excellent review, I'll be switching immediately, been an absolute nightmare trying to use eclipse with a plug in.
http://www.squidoo.com/proform-elliptical-trainer-reviews

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DanielAnderson's picture

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Reply to comment | Linux Journal

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Why not use emacs ?

Anonymous the second 's picture

Emacs has many if not all of the feature listed and the price tag is far lower ;-).

Reply to comment | Linux Journal

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city engineer's picture

Appreciate the recommendation. Let me try it out.

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Nothing beats Vim

Anonymous's picture

What!!?? Vim is "good enough"? Vim "may not be perfect"?

I'm not sure if Vim is perfect but it's about as close as you can get.

Nothing beats Vim. If it did, I'd certainly pay $299 for it. But it doesn't.

Looks like a great editor, but...

GeodesicGnome's picture

Slickedit looks like a great editor and reminds me a bit of Codewright, back in the days when I did my editing on a Windows system. I'm well aware of how a great editor can enhance productivity, but only if it's there when you need it. I regularly edit on my Macs and Linux systems, and everything from my new RaspberryPi to high powered servers owned by my employer. Copying files back to my home system for editing is not practical. Using one editor on my home systems and another in the field is a good way to lower productivity, which requires knowing your editor well enough that it feels like it just gets out of your way. So far, vi/vim is the only thing I can depend on being there, even on systems running Busybox. Vim may not be perfect, but it's there and I get better on it each time I use it.

Oh... how could I forget to

Germano's picture

Oh... how could I forget to include this in my last comment? Well, it is nothing very important anyway, but I found it curious at the least: when minimized, the application icon in my KDE taskbar resembles quite much a dollar bill. :D

I have been trying the demo,

Germano's picture

I have been trying the demo, mostly for fun. Although I'm a quite happy gvim user, from times to times I assess anything that could show itself as a better option.
So, my first impression, is that it is and editor that tries, at the same time, to be the most powerful and the most user friendly as it can. There are configuration options for almost anything you can think about, and I found pretty useful the regular expressions testing window. Also, in the view menu, the possibility to see your file as hex and switch back to normal view, or to show spaces, tabes and new llines using printable characters are things that I found cool. Ok, maybe vim has those also and I dont know, I admit.
But I didn't find a way to store my config preferences into a file that I can keep and reload in a new installation. Maybe there is one, but I'm not willing to search more just to make sure. Still about config files, I also prefer to put whatever preferences I want into a simple text file loaded by the application, that I can modify at will, instead of having to navigate through a jungle of configuration windows.
To sum it up, it is an editor very suited to the novice user or anyone that for some reason or another prefer a windows oriented application. But too pricey, and there is no excuse for that.

Options export.

Sandra's picture

There is a way to export and import your preferences across installations. You can find both by going to Tools > Options > Export/Import Options. You can choose which individual settings to export/import or just do the whole shebang.

The options can be overwhelming. The configuration dialog does have a search box to help you find individual settings.

Orion

MadTom's picture

edit your code over the internet...

$300

john75's picture

How SlickEdit compares with tools like Geany (already packaged for Linux) or even Komodo Edit (http://www.activestate.com/komodo-edit)?

SUPER DUPER but pricey!

Anonymous's picture

As one of the lone Linux users in my place of employment, I used and LOVED SlickEdit. I really loved the fact that you could basically add new language templates -- which I DID need for some arcane stuff. But, yike!, $300 -- VERY PRICEY. At the time I think it was much much less expensive.

I would truly LOVE to use it again, though. :(

Vim is still good enough

Ajay Ramasehan's picture

I think Vim is still good enough, rather than trying out these fancy expensive product. It can do syntax highlighting, indendation, searching - I think almost all the featuers that are mentinoed here. And once you learn the Vim Editor, it can be easily used on any other Linux distribution as it comes default installed, so I d still go with it.

If you want icons, use Windows.

Chris Moller's picture

"Starting SlickEdit the first time is a little cumbersome, because the installer doesn't appear to make any icons..."

If you want your computer to look and act like Windows, use Windows.

If you want everything up to and including the kitchen sink in one messy, hopelessly complicated, Swiss Army knife of an app, use Windows.

The Windows a-million-little-buttons-in-one-cluttered-window-paradigm is left over from the days when the OS could barely multitask--there's absolutely no need for such a thing in Linux. If you want to git or ftp something, open a new terminal and just do it--it's a waste to duplicate those capabilities in your editor.

Swiss Army knives are great when you're on a camping trip and can't bring your whole machine shop along, but for real work you need real tools designed and optimised for what you're doing, and you can't beat the decades of design and optimisation that have gone into tools like vim and Emacs.

ed :)

someBody's picture

ed :)

What SlickEdit guys say...

Germano's picture

I took the time to write directly to the SlickEdit guys asking about this in my opinion exaggerated price, though keeping an educated tone since they can charge any value they want because no one is being forced to buy. They were kind, and I must say also fast in their answer, and among other arguments pointed me to the following link:

http://blog.slickedit.com/2007/04/300-is-free

I'm not saying that I changed my mind and now I'm willing to pay for a text editor more than I would pay for a Microsoft Windows license, certainly not. But anyway, here you have the arguments given by the people who develop and sell this tool. Judge by yourselves.

For a $300 IDE, this sounds suspicially like an ad

dalescott's picture

Few IDEs beat free NetBeans (too bad official support now only Java, C/C++, Groovy and PHP) or Eclipse (support for everything, but with a wide variety of plugin quality). If you need a proprietary commercial IDE for specifc features or support and can accept a language-specific IDE, take a look at JetBrains IDEs with individual developer licenses for under $100.

It doesn't take an IDE to code, but I wouldn't consider vim an IDE (maybe emacs ;-) If you don't need the features or workflow capabilities of an IDE (or don't have the time to learn them), then at best it's foolish to spend money or time on one.

-----
Transparency with Trust
http://dalescott.net

$300

Moses Moore's picture

Could you please tell us what SlickEdit does differently from other IDEs that Linux Journal has previously reported on?

Furthermore, could you tell us how these differences justify the $300 price tag for one linux single user license?

(odd, my old Linuxjournal login doesn't work anymore.)

300 bucks! O.O

Germano's picture

I'm not against new tools that come to add to the plethora of such editors, or IDEs, or whatever this one can be. Each one is free to use what he or she thinks it is fit, and if any developer states that can work happily and comfortably with the old "edit" for DOS, I would have nothing against this guy.
But I think it is a complete nonsense to pay such a price for this tool if the very same features can be found in so many other cheaper or even free tools.

Are you kidding me?

mastro's picture

Are you kidding me?

you call this software amazing?
vim can do all that stuff.. better ...

As you said you are just a beginner developer.
If you want to see how an IDE looks like try Eclipse or Netbeans.

Of all the feature you talked about there wasn't ONE that I couldn't do with vim.

And I'm not one of the guy saying vim is an IDE / an IDE is not needed if you have vim, that usually comes from somebody who never actually WORKED PROFESSIONALLY with an IDE.

suggestion: move on and try something else ;)

Anything but

Anonymous's picture

Vim, Emacs, Gedit, Geneie, Notepad... even Eclipse, nano, really, anything is better then using proprietary IDEs developed by people that think they , on their own, can beat years of development by thousands of smart hackers. Why on earth would anyone waste any time when there's so much free software, and it is so readily available.

WHAT!!!! no groovy support

Anonymous's picture

WHAT!!!! no groovy support

Emacs

smitty's picture

Emacs

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