SlickEdit

For the minimalist programmer, there's vim. For everybody else, there's SlickEdit.

I fell in love with SlickEdit a few years ago when I noticed its ads on our Web site. Although most companies use the sort of Web ads you'd expect in the tech industry, I took a second look when LOLCat images appeared in the place of our regular ads. Admittedly, for a moment I thought perhaps we'd been hacked, but when I realized I was looking at a clever marketing campaign, I decided the folks at SlickEdit were okay in my book. I recently had the chance to review SlickEdit, and although my programming skills are fairly novice, SlickEdit made me feel right at home.

SlickEdit is a text editor designed for programmers. Calling SlickEdit a text editor, however, is much like calling the DeLorean from Back to the Future a daily driver. SlickEdit makes the line between text editing and full-blown IDE pretty fuzzy. It is available for nine platforms, and, thankfully, Linux is one of them. In this review, I take a look at its features, and you can decide whether it's a text editor, IDE or something in between.

Installation

Installation is fairly straightforward if you've ever installed a closed-source application in Linux. Both 32- and 64-bit versions are available, and on the handful of systems on which I installed it, I didn't run into any problems with dependencies. The installation must be performed on the command line, as there is interaction during the install (Figure 1). By default, the program is installed into the /opt/slickedit directory. (Thanks to the SlickEdit folks for not using weird capitalization in the installation directory; that is so frustrating.)

Figure 1. Installation must be done on the command line; there is no GUI installer.

Starting SlickEdit the first time is a little cumbersome, because the installer doesn't appear to make any icons in the system menu or on the desktop. A desktop icon is created after the first launch of SlickEdit, but you have to get past the catch 22 of needing to start the program to create the program startup icon. The executable to start SlickEdit by default is /opt/slickedit/bin/vs, and typing that in a command shell starts the program and its initial wizard right up.

During the Quick Start Wizard, you start to see some of SlickEdit's neat features. Figure 2 shows the configuration screen for selecting keyboard emulation. If you're used to a particular set of keybindings (like vim in my case), SlickEdit can use those familiar keybindings by default. You even can customize the emulation if your needs don't line up with the dozen-plus emulation options offered.

Figure 2. The keystroke emulation makes SlickEdit behave like your favorite editor.

One of the other neat features configured during the initial wizard phase is the customization of how you prefer your code to look. Figure 3 shows indentation and brace-style configurations that can be set for all languages. The indentation and methods for displaying braces and parentheses certainly don't change the compiled product, but they make code look however you prefer. And, a happy coder is an efficient coder, right?

Figure 3. If SlickEdit is going to save time, it needs to know how you prefer to format your code.

You can change many other initial settings, such as color themes, font size and choice and so on. Once configured, you even have the option to export your settings so they can be imported on another machine. It's a great feature if you use SlickEdit at home and at work, in order to ensure your developing environments match.

Initial Impression

Once the initial quickstart is complete, it's easy to be overwhelmed by the feature set. Thankfully, although SlickEdit boasts an incredible number of features, understanding them all isn't a prerequisite for coding. As shown in Figure 4, I jumped right in with a simple Bash script to see how well it handles code formatting. As expected, it looks and behaves quite nicely.

Figure 4. My messy Bash script was recognized without any problems.

Next, I tried to work with one of SlickEdit's new features, namely Git repository interaction. Here, I was met with some frustration. Although I could get SlickEdit to recognize my local cloned Git repository, using the GUI tools to interact with a remote GitHub repo consistently locked up the interface, requiring me to kill the process and start over. Admittedly, I'm a novice programmer, but my naïveté shouldn't lock up the program. Git support is new, however, so it is possible a few bugs need to be shaken out.

Although Git support is new, SlickEdit still has FTP built in to access remote repositories. I really like the flexibility to use either the built-in file management or to manipulate my files separately and simply browse the local file structure with SlickEdit.

Features and Features and Features

SlickEdit is a code editor, and credit where credit is due, it really excels in this area. Some features like code highlighting are expected, but some others stand out from the crowd. I'm listing a few of my favorites below.

Keyboard Emulation

As I mentioned earlier, this is an advantage for coders coming from other programs. The ability to customize individual keystrokes is nice, but it's the built-in support for other familiar program keybindings that makes this feature so great. Emacs fan? You don't need to learn new keystrokes to edit your code. Vim master? Same deal—you can save and close a file like God intended by pressing <ESC>:wq.

______________________

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.
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DanielAnderson's picture

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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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