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Hey, Check Out My Slick New Editor!

As a developer, you presumably spend much of your time working in a code editor—so you owe it to yourself to explore what a truly full-featured editor can offer.


hen someone comes over to your cube and starts talking about the latest cool software, the last thing you would expect them to be excited about is a new text editor. I mean, who buys editors these days? If you want to get fancy-shmancy, you can download emacs—if you have the time to figure out how to install it and use it. Moreover, every Integrated Development Environment (IDE) these days has browsing functions, syntax highlighting, and so forth. Why would you really need more than that?

Enter SlickEdit. SlickEdit isn't new; it's been around for 20 years or more. If you don't know about it yet, maybe the right person hasn't stopped by your cube lately.

Why Switch Editors?

If your current editor works well enough for you, why switch? The answer depends on how you define "well enough." Your current editor probably handles every editing command you think you need now, but consider the possibility that something could make you far more productive. You'll see a few examples in a moment, but first, here are some of the reasons you might decide not to switch editors.

Mastering Powerful Tools Takes Time

If all you've ever used is emacs or vi, no wonder you immediately think of this excuse. Those editors do require serious learning time. Contrast that with something like Eclipse or Visual Studio, which have features designed to be discovered relatively easily.

SlickEdit combines the best of both worlds; it has custom and/or predefined keyboard navigation shortcuts combined with rich menu choices that make your world both "powerful and discoverable."

I'm Used to <your editor here>

Familiarity is a perfectly valid reason: and that's where SlickEdit's emulation features may help you out tremendously. Look at Figure 1, and you'll see that SlickEdit emulates most of the powerful editors available today.

Figure 1. SlickEdit Emulation: The options screen lets you choose to emulate nearly every popular editor.

Brief (my personal favorite) seems to have the fastest keystroke commands of any system I've seen, yet I have to admit that SlickEdit's Brief emulation is superb.

Of course, the best part is not that the emulations are all defined for you—you can define your own. SlickEdit will let you attach a command to any keystroke combination using its "Key Bindings" option. After assigning a keystroke, the keyboard shortcuts immediately show up on the menus next to the commands as a reminder.

I Have to Work from My IDE

That's understandable; however, IDEs such as Visual Studio have options that let you substitute external editors for their built-in internal ones. In other words, Visual Studio doesn't really care what editor you use. SlickEdit can open Microsoft solution files and compile or build them and jump to compiler error lines. So while you may feel the need to work from your IDE, you may also discover that doing so is necessary only for debugging.

Author's Note: SlickEdit also sells a nifty set of tools that integrate right into Visual Studio. Don't rule those out if they provide what you need.

Now that you've seen the main reasons why you might not want to switch, the rest of this article covers a longer list of features that illustrate why you might want to consider a more powerful editor.

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