First Looks

SlickEdit 10: Edit Code in Multiple Languages

SlickEdit 10 lets you work with code in a variety of languages. It provides tools for editing, searching, and merging your source files, and it offers built-in support for many development environments.

SlickEdit 10 is the latest release of a powerful editor that lets you work with code in a variety of languages. Like its predecessors, this version provides tools for editing, searching, and merging your source files, and it offers built-in support for VS.NET, Java, and other development environments. Version 10 adds some features that are of particular interest to C++ and Java developers.

SlickEdit's GUI features menus, dockable windows, toolboxes, and explorers similar to Visual Studio. It also includes capabilities similar to IntelliSense. Note that this feature helps in completing statement blocks (such as if (?) {}) and built-in functions for many languages, but it doesn't extend to recognizing ActiveX object properties in the same manner as VS.

SlickEdit's GUI supports hotkeys, and what's more, SlickEdit allows you to choose the "family" of hotkeys you want to use, including the hotkeys used within VS, Brief, or a variety of other environments. You can switch easily between SlickEdit and another editor to take full advantage of the special features each offers.

SlickEdit includes an intelligent search-and-replace engine that accepts regular expressions (see Figure 1). SlickEdit makes using regular expressions a snap by adding controls to the search dialog that help you build your search expressions. Other tools include support for a class browser, embedded FTP, spell checking, and beautifying source code.

SlickEdit provides particularly strong support for source code comparison and merger. Its DIFFzilla tool supports interactive comparisons of directories and files using an easy-to-understand GUI that supports visual merging of differences. A three-way merge capability that's built into the editor itself allows you to compare up to three different files and merge them together. This merge is particularly valuable if you must combine work being done by multiple developers on a single module. This capability can also be effective when you must reconcile and pull together development, test, and production versions of a module.

SlickEdit 10 provides support for refactoring C++ classes by helping you split large classes into multiple classes, move class methods around in an inheritance hierarchy, or pull methods in subclasses up to a super class. The documentation includes built-in help and printed user manuals. The online support team is prompt and professional.

SlickEdit can also perform builds and compiles, but it is not a true replacement for the VS environment. It lacks the visual form editor, special database tools, automatic object completion for registered components, and a variety of other things. However, it does provide functionality not available in VS, and it's easy to switch between the two environments. If you work with one of the many languages SlickEdit supports, SlickEdit provides a convenient and useful environment for working with source code intended for multiple environments.

SlickEdit 10
Phone: 800-934-3348
Price: $299
Quick Facts: Text editing and management for C#, C++, VB, VB.NET, Java, COBOL, XML, and other languages.
Pros: Great cross-platform development tools; strong tools for comparing and merging source code.
Cons: Doesn't do visual editing of forms; doesn't integrate completely into Visual Studio or VS.NET.

Create Setups With Windows Installer
by Ken Cox

In a field crowded with time-tested and top-notch entries, InstallAware Studio 2005 Second Edition is a setup authoring package that aims to distinguish itself by isolating developers from the complexities of Windows Installer (see Figure 2). It offers a graphical interface to simplify development and a scripting environment to build in setup logic.

InstallAware's Project Wizard walks you through a basic setup, prompting for product information such as your company name and Web site, installation conditions including minimum operating system and available RAM, and runtime requirements such as the .NET Framework. Each screen includes a brief explanation of its purpose, but I needed more information on configuring optional product features. Unfortunately, there is no Help button. Not only is F1 disabled, but the modal dialog box blocked access to the online help file. With no option to save my progress and exit, I was forced to complete the final build process. Then, the wizard dumped me into the regular development environment with no indication of where to go next or how to restart the wizard.

In the absence of a tutorial to guide me, I explored InstallAware's menus and discovered two view options: visual and code. Code view shows the installation script as generated by the wizard and numerous templates. You can round-trip the VB-like scripting language so that your changes to the code appear in the visual view. Visual mode includes modules for setting up Web sites in IIS and executing database scripts in SQL Server, My SQL, and Oracle.

Once you fashion your installation routine in the IDE, you can turn production of the distribution package over to your build process by executing the setup script against InstallAware's API. You can even use your Web server to deliver custom-built packages on the fly with only the DLLs a user's machine requires.

InstallAware ships with an impressive array of dialog boxes for gathering pre-installation data, showing setup progress, and completing product registration. Simply launch the user interface editor to add, move, or tweak controls in a dialog box. The editor would be easier to use if it were docked with the main IDE rather than floating about as disembodied windows.

InstallAware hosts an online forum where the site administrator fields questions from evaluators and purchasers alike. The responses were timely and helpful, although many questions about unclear error messages and features could be avoided with better documentation. A relative newcomer to the installer scene, InstallAware has the features and scripting support that could make it a contender.

InstallAware Studio 2005 Second Edition
InstallAware Software
Phone: 415-358-4094
Price: $899
Quick Facts: Visual and scripting environment for creating setups using MSI technology.
Pros: Scripting environment supports logic and variables while producing pure MSI; visual environment round-trips customizations; lots of sample dialog boxes and skins.
Cons: Project wizard leaves you hanging and doesn't restart; documentation lacks tutorials and context-sensitive help.

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