During the day I work on a Linux desktop, at home I use OS X. The main language that I develop in these days is PHP, however I also work in other languages as well as XHTML, CSS and JavaScript and I’m always keen to try out code editors, especially those which promise to support multiple platforms. So I was really happy to try out SlickEdit v11 which indicates on its website that it is a,

“… multi-platform, multi-language code editor that enables power programmers to create, navigate, modify, and debug code faster and more accurately.

Sounds good! As I’m at home I install SlickEdit on my G4 Mac Mini, on opening the CD I’m impressed to see the large number of supported platforms. That is definitely a plus in my opinion as it’s great to be able to use the same code editor no matter which box I’m sat in front of. On running the installer however I am disappointed to find that the software isn’t a native OS X application and will need to run under X11. This means that it can’t take advantage of inbuilt features of the OS and, to be honest, isn’t the most attractive application to use. Given that I didn’t want to judge the product on looks alone I also installed it onto Windows XP, where it looks far more at home.

As a coding editor SlickEdit has the usual features one would expect from any professional environment – code completion, syntax highlighting and so on. There are also some features that, once you got used to using them, could really speed up development. The Syntax Expansion – expanding block structures such as if, for and so on when you start to type – and ‘Surround With’ which will wrap a selection with a structure, works well, and you can define additional structures to those supported out of the box.

I particularly like the concept of ‘Backup History’, this isn’t a replacement for proper version control but instead, a feature which saves a backup of your file when it is saved and allows you to compare versions. This creates a backup of files that aren’t ready to be checked into your main version control – and you can compare versions – I can see this being a handy tool for many developers.

I think the best feature of SlickEdit is the ability to customise it, to shape the application to fit your own way of working. If you are a developer who is going to use this product as your primary development environment and is able to invest the time to learn it and to customise it to your needs, it looks to be a good choice, and certainly one worth looking at.

This customizability however, comes with the downside that the application is at first use quite difficult to get into and use. This was a difficult review to write as there is no way I can do justice to the product in a few words and after having spent a short while looking at it. However, the tool is designed for the professional developer, and so having some barrier to entry in the requirement to learn the environment shouldn’t be a problem given the features available once you are comfortable in using it. Also, there’s a dedicated community available to help with product questions.

If you are looking for a highly customizable development environment, or need solid support for a large number of languages in one editor then SlickEdit may well be worth a try. However if you just need a simple code editor, or are the sort of person who tends not to use many features in a development environment, then you might find that it is more complex than your needs dictate.

  • Software Name: SlickEdit v11
  • Maker: SlickEdit Inc.
  • URL: http://www.slickedit.com
  • Price: from $284 USD for a named user license
  • Rating out of 5: 4 (for the professional developer willing to invest time into learning the environment, however lack of native OS X support – especially given the cost of the product – would lose this a point for Mac users)