Visual SlickEdit 5.0

Visual SlickEdit 5.0 takes a bite out of development time

This article originally appeared in InfoWorld Magazine

Copyright InfoWorld Media Group, Inc.

If you're involved in software development, you are probably painfully aware of the pitfalls of working on a team. Deciphering the different coding styles of various team members alone can drive a project manager or code reviewer crazy. Then there's the time line where speed counts, but not if it results in sloppy code. And, of course, let's not forget the other omnipresent demands: the need for applications that run on multiple platforms, the difficulty of accounting for syntax and language differences, and the need to support a variety of IDEs (integrated development environments).

If these issues have been plaguing you, then MicroEdge's Visual SlickEdit (VSE), Version 5.0, may be exactly what you need. Its capability of simplifying the process of cleaning and debugging code, thereby speeding the development cycle and easing the burden of project managers, earned it a score of Very Good in my evaluation.

Code review is a common phase of any development cycle, but as we said, sifting through the various coding styles can make one bleary eyed, if not a little nuts. VSE's Source Code Beautifier can ease the pain by letting you reformat C, C++, Java, JavaScript, or HTML files with a single click of the mouse.

Another feature of VSE is the capability of keeping your source formatted in accordance with your development language as you type. VSE supports a number of development languages including C++, Java, JavaScript, HTML, and Perl.

VSE's closest competitors are CodeWright from Premia and American Cybernetics' Multi-Edit. Neither product can boast the broad cross-platform capabilities of VSE.

With more development moving to the Web, VSE's new Javadoc comment support and HTML toolbar are welcome additions. The Javadoc Editor makes commenting source not only easy, but also consistent in format and display. The HTML Toolbar supports a variety of common functions such as adding colors, fonts, links, and tables; spell-checking; and an FTP client, just to name a few. I found VSE's integrated FTP client to be a particularly useful tool when it came to maintaining or developing Web sites. It opens and saves documents directly to and from an FTP site. This means you'll no longer have to download the file to a local drive, make modifications to it, and then upload it back to the site. VSE's seamless FTP operation treats the remote file as if it were on your own system, which is a real time saver when you're working remotely.

A common problem for developers who code in more than one language is the arduous task of finding the right information in the right help file when they need it. Then comes the task of searching each help file in each directory for each development language. VSE's Help Index feature is a handy tool that can index each help file on your system and create a single, searchable file. Then when you encounter the "where was that?" dilemma, the answer is only a few keystrokes away.

Printing source code is sometimes useful during a code review or bug-tracking cycle, but VSE's new Print Preview feature allows you to change the format of the output and see how it will look before you commit to printing it. VSE can print in one-column or two-column mode, orient the document as landscape or portrait, and can even output the code with syntax-based color-coding. However, I found the Print Preview to have a serious flaw in that the number of views supported is too limiting. You can preview the document at 100 percent or at any percentage increment of 100 (for example., 200 percent, 300 percent, and so on). I found 100 percent too small and 200 percent too large to be of any use.

VSE can help with another common problem faced by developers: duplicating file names. If you've ever found more than one source code file with the same name on your system, you know that trying to figure out which file is the real McCoy can be a painstaking process. VSE's file differencing tool, DIFFzilla, not only can help you figure out which file is which by providing a side-by-side display of each file with code differences highlighted in color, but it can merge the differences from one file to the other. New for Version 5, DIFFzilla can now analyze two entire directory structures.

VSE's other new features include emulation for Visual C++, C-style preprocessing for Java (Visual J++ support), and embedded language support for Java Server.

VSE has always been a notable product in its niche, but Version 5.0 adds enough improvements to make it compelling as an upgrade or new purchase. Its multitude of features should help you cut development time right from the get-go and reduce the number of different tools and utilities you'll have to research, install, and support in your environment.


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