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Product Review: SlickEdit v11

SlickEdit's latest version is indeed slick, supporting advanced editing capabilities for multiple file types, but it lacks a few features offered in other editing environments.


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lickEdit's latest editor (version 11) provides new features such as code templates, comment auto-generation, Regex evaluator etc. This article provides an overview of how SlickEdit's features function in the context of building a J2EE application. The test application contained several different file types, including Java, JSP, XML, and HTML, so I could thoroughly explore SlickEdit's various editing features. To perform this review, I first defined a list of features and functionality that I think are desirable in a code editor. I then created a new project to develop a Web application using SlickEdit's "New Project" and "New File" creation options. I modified the various source and configuration files in the project using SlickEdit's code editing and refactoring features. I then deployed the application in a Tomcat servlet container, to test SlickEdit's debugging features. Finally, I've provided a summary section listing SlickEdit's features and comparing them with other editors and IDEs so you can see how SlickEdit stacks up against its code-editor competition.

What You Need
SlickEdit editor, Tomcat 5.5 servlet container, JDK 1.5, Apache Derby Database Server

Installation and Configuration
SlickEdit is easy to install and configure. The installation process is straightforward and the default settings are sufficiently well-thought-out to get you started without problems. I installed SlickEdit on a Windows 2000 machine. The install program automatically starts when you insert the CD in the drive, but you can also double-click the setup.exe file in the "Windows" directory of the install CD to start the installation. I usually install all the software programs in a tools directory, so I elected to install the tool to C:\dev\tools\SlickEdit (the default directory is C:\Program Files\SlickEdit). I accepted the defaults for all other options during the installation process. Table 1 shows the software and hardware specifications of the PC I used to test SlickEdit features.

Table 1. Test PC Specifications: The table shows the software and hardware specifications of the PC used for testing.

Category Monitoring Stats
Editor Version SlickEdit v11
Operating System Windows 2000 Professional Edition
Processor 800 MHz
Memory 512 MB
Disk Space 40 GB
JDK Version 1.5 (SlickEdit supports JDK versions from 1.2 all the way upto 5.0)
SlickEdit Install Directory c:\dev\tools\SlickEdit
Java Project Directory c:\dev\projects\JdbcApp

SlickEdit supports several different platforms and operating systems, and has the system requirements shown in Table 2. Table 2. SlickEdit System Requirements: The table shows supported OS's and the system requirements for the Windows version of SlickEdit.
Category Specification
Operating System(s) Windows, Linux, UNIX, Mac OS X
Disk space 170 MB (for Windows)
Memory 256 MB recommended
License Price $299 for new licenses ($139 for upgrades)

After the installation is complete, double-click on the vs.exe file (located in the win folder created under the SlickEdit main install directory) to launch the editor. Figure 1 shows the main window of SlickEdit after it's has been launched.


 
Figure 1. SlickEdit's Main Window: Here's how the editor looks when you first launch it after installation.
When you launch SlickEdit for the first time, you will need to configure the settings for the different types of source files (such as Java, JSP, XML etc) you plan to edit. You do this by setting the auto tagging for run-time class libraries on "Automatic Tagging for Run-time Libraries" dialog. SlickEdit uses the tagging information to provide Auto Function Help, Auto ListMembers, and Class Browsing—thus saving time you would otherwise spend searching for code in your source files. To create tag files, enter the base directory for your package(s) as well as the destination of the tag file. Tutorials and Documentation
I ran the Java tutorials that come with the SlickEdit installation. They are simple and intuitive and easy to build, deploy, and test. Also, SlickEdit has the standard Windows help where you can search for any help items or select them from the contents tab. The help module was very helpful to me in setting up the classpath for the test Web application. I will explain later how to set up the classpath setting for Java project.

The latest version of SlickEdit provides features such as code templates, comment auto-generation, enhanced search-and-replace functionality, a Regex evaluator, built-in code refactoring capabilities, etc. I tried out most of these features while working with Java classes, HTML scripts, and XML configuration files. Desirable Editing Features
I often use several different editors and IDEs when working on a J2EE application. A typical Java project includes source files such as Java classes, JavaServer Pages (JSP), custom tag libraries, SQL, HTML, JavaScript, and CSS files as well as configuration files such as XML and properties files. For example, I typically use the Eclipse IDE for writing Java code, TextPad for JSP and HTML scripts, and XMLPad for editing XML configuration files. I wanted to see if SlickEdit can replace these editors for creating and modifying the different file types.

I am a big fan of Agile software development concepts based on test-driven development (TDD) and continuous integration coding practices. So, iterative development, debugging, and code refactoring are very important to me when I have to choose a software development tool. I would like the tool to support features such as automatically importing run-time libraries and OO programming features, and it should aid in maintaining existing code by providing search-and-replace and refactoring features. Among the list of the features I look for in a typical code editor are:

  • Code Templates to create new project and source files
  • Code refactoring
  • Continuous Integration (meaning the editor works with a build tool like Ant)
  • Debugging (both local and remote)
  • Built-in integration with a software configuration management (SCM) or source control tool
  • Context sensitive help/code completion
  • An auto/organize imports feature
  • The ability to search for a resource file—without specifying whether it's a Java class file, or a JSP script, or a configuration file
  • The ability to highlight syntax errors (preferably in red text) which provides a good visual indication of errors that developers can fix before compiling the source files


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