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SlickEdit Studio: An IDE in the Rough

While the new SlickEdit Studio delivers on its promise of multilingual support and a high degree of customizability, counter-intuitive interfaces and excess Java baggage dull this IDE's luster.


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arket trends are a dominant factor in the evolution of IDEs. 15 years ago, syntax highlighting and extensive online help were all the rage; in the late 1990s, it was variables' value examination by a mouse movement and auto-completion of member functions and arguments. Nowadays, multilingualism seems to be the hottest game in town. SlickEdit Studio v2 adopts this concept wholeheartedly with its support for numerous programming languages including C/C++, Java, Ada, C#, VB, FORTRAN, and others. Additional features include the ability to install Eclipse plug-ins, symbol referencing and lookup, key-bindings, and code beautifiers.

Leader of the Pack
The installation pack contained only a single CD. Compared to the 14 CDs of C++ BuilderX (of which only one was actually useful), it was a modest, though brave, start. The installation went smoothly—too smoothly in fact. As a multilingual IDE, SlickEdit automatically installs features and components that developers who stick to a single programming language don't need. The result isn't just a substantial waste of disk space but a longer installation time and constant background noise during code editing, debugging, and testing, as you will shortly see.

A Different Perspective
Creating a new project is a breeze with the New Project Wizard (shown in Figure 1): from the File menu—>New—>Project—> C/C++ Project.



SlickEdit can generate a source file containing main() with the indispensable #include <iostream> followed by 'using namespace std;' already inside (see Figure 2).


Figure 1. Here's the New Project Wizard.
 
Figure 2. This shows a generated source file.

I like this feature. While it's not exactly a jaw-dropping, anything that saves programmers a few keystrokes is welcome. My enthusiasm didn't last long, though. Building a project—perhaps the most common operation in any IDE—isn't just a matter of a mouse click, in this case. Rather, you have to choose an appropriate perspective and click Build—>build.

"What on earth is a perspective?" you're probably asking. In theory, perspectives are meant to facilitate viewing and working with projects. There's a C/C++ Perspective, a Debug Perspective, a Resource Perspective, and so on. In practice, however, they are nothing but a source of confusion and complication. Honestly, doesn't an IDE already know which programming language you're currently using? Furthermore, what's the use of an artificial split between Run and Debug, except for the automatic execution suspension at a program's beginning?

I suspect that SlickEdit's development team were enamored with their notion of perspective. That's probably the reason why they wouldn't jettison it during the product's early development stages, although they certainly should have. The result is an unintuitive IDE that requires a lot of research in order to get basic operations done.



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