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Product Review: Visual SlickEdit 8

SlickEdit supports a wide range of languages and project environments, and there's new support for pre- and post-build steps. It now supports Borland JBuilder, Visual Studio .NET, C# for Linux and UNIX, several scripting languages (Lex, YACC, ANTLR), Verilog, SAS, and XML schemas, and has improved support for Apache Jakarta Ant and various flavors of makefiles. XML editing is easy and powerful using a tree view, and SlickEdit lets you add, remove, and search XML elements and XML attributes via either local or HTTP-located DTD.

What has always been likable about SlickEdit is its start-up speed. It's as fast as Notepad, making it an ideal replacement general text editor. It opens Microsoft Developer Studio projects faster than Dev Studio.

SlickEdit supports a wide range of languages and project environments, and there's new support for pre- and post-build steps. It now supports Borland JBuilder, Visual Studio .NET, C# for Linux and UNIX, several scripting languages (Lex, YACC, ANTLR), Verilog, SAS, and XML schemas, and has improved support for Apache Jakarta Ant and various flavors of makefiles. XML editing is easy and powerful using a tree view, and SlickEdit lets you add, remove, and search XML elements and XML attributes via either local or HTTP-located DTD.

SlickEdit's tagging feature automatically tags source files in a project, looking for keywords, function definitions, and class declarations in each file, and builds a navigation map. The map enables the auto-completion features (such as parameter type matching, class/structure member lists, and syntax expansion) to operate, and aids in moving around projects. New to version 8 is the wildcard feature, with which you can add entire directory groups to a project rather than individual directories. Since 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 that have been created and maintained by another developer for libraries to which you do not have source code access.

Recent versions of SlickEdit have introduced a native Java Debugger for any JVM via the Java Debug Wire Protocol (supports JDK 1.3.1 and above), giving debug access to all the debug tasks, such as single stepping, variable watches, stack dumps, and breakpoints. Added to the Java Debugger in version 8 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 C/C++ Debugger has not been neglected, having been extended to facilitate debugging of remote processes.

While SlickEdit supports all the major version control systems, version 8 offers tighter CVS integration, including viewing of histories, single- and multi-file updates, commits, and comparisons, all from within the program via an easy-to-understand interface.

For complex merge operations, Visual SlickEdit has always offered some of the best tools around. These tools have now been improved with the new three-way merge ability with multiple windows and shortcuts.

I had gotten used to WndTabs in Microsoft Developer Studio, so I was pleasantly surprised to see "Buffer Tabs" added to Visual SlickEdit. Buffer Tabs perform the same job as WndTabs by displaying a tab for each source file that has an open window.

Small interface changes made to the color-coding dialog and the extension options dialog, plus the introduction of Find/Replace for multi-file operations, make everything move a little more smoothly. The code beautifier has been updated to handle the new languages, and the internal FTP client now supports Secure FTP.

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 and more languages and project environments than you can shake a stick at, while the powerful Slick-C macro language and plug-in extension architecture ensure that custom, project-specific features are easily added.

Visual SlickEdit's pricing is based on platform, so it's best to consult the latest information on the company's web site. There you will find an unusual 50 percent discount as a competitive upgrade incentive for people considering moving from another software package. Some consider SlickEdit to be expensive, but realize that it is so much more than "just an editor." It can replace your current editor/IDE of choice, while adding a slew of extra features to sweeten the transition.

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