First Looks

SlickEdit's Tools Editing Toolbox 2.0: An Editor Add-In for Power Programmers

SlickEdit's Tools Editing Toolbox v2.0 offers "power programmers" enhanced Visual Studio tools.

SlickEdit's Tools Editing Toolbox v2.0 brings to Visual Studio some of the features that "power programmers" love about the SlickEdit editor. If you hate to take your hands off the keyboard and believe that real programmers don't use menus -- in other words, if pressing Ctrl+Shift+0 to navigate to the next method in your code makes sense to you -- then you're the audience that the Editing Toolbox is aimed at.

Out of the box, the Toolbox adds two new code navigation shortcuts (NextMethod and PreviousMethod) to your keyboard. There are more navigation commands waiting but, to avoid overriding keystrokes you're already using, the Toolbox doesn't wire those up for you. The Help file walks you through the process of assigning keyboard shortcuts to those remaining commands.

In addition to enhancing navigation inside your code, the Toolbox also provides two different ways for you to generate code faster. First, SlickEdit's aliases and acronyms allow you to enter short forms for common terms and then expand them with a keystroke. You can also add your own acronyms.

Word Completion also generates text for you, but requires less setup than aliases and acronyms. Word Completion fills in the remainder of a word by matching the start of a word to other words in the same file . If you've defined a variable with the name TotalBalanceOnHand, you might need to enter only "Tot" before letting Word Completion finish it for you (see Figure).

In addition to powering up your keyboard, the Toolbox features include comment wrapping, an icon extractor, and a Regex evaluator. The Toolbox's Quick Profiling feature lets you generate

timings for selected areas of your application by adding Trace.WriteLine commands to your code and then running your application. The Quick Profile Viewer provides a hierarchical view for analyzing your timings without having to leave Visual Studio.

The AutoDoc Viewer generates MSDN-style documentation drawn both from comments and any XML documentation you've added to your code. To encourage you to use comments, the Toolbox's Comment Wrapping automatically reformats verbose comments as you add and remove text or line breaks.

SlickEdit's Annotations feature goes one step further than XML documentation by letting you assign free-form comments to lines in your code (the annotations are kept in separate files from your code). While annotations will cling to their assigned line through most editing changes, I was able to detach an annotation from its assigned line by first cutting and pasting the line and then modifying the line after pasting it. The annotation was still present, but was tied to the new line at the original line's location.

These included tools are cool, but the primary reasons for buying the Toolbox are the navigation and code-generation features. If you're a programmer who believes that the mouse is for wimps and has a capacious memory for keystroke combinations, the Toolbox will make you more productive. I'm not that person: I use too many tools over the course of a day to be able to remember these additional keystrokes and acronyms.


At A Glance
SlickEdit Tools Editing Toolbox v2.0
SlickEdit Inc.
Web:
www.slickedit.com
Phone: 919-473-0070
Price: Starts at $49
Quick Facts: A feature rich Visual Studio add-In aimed at making power programmers more productive.
Pros: Strong navigation and code generation features; highly customizable; power-programmer friendly.
Cons: Programmers need to remember multiple keystroke combinations to unlock the power of this tool.

About the Author

Peter Vogel is a system architect and principal in PH&V Information Services. PH&V provides full-stack consulting from UX design through object modeling to database design. Peter tweets about his VSM columns with the hashtag #vogelarticles. His blog posts on user experience design can be found at http://blog.learningtree.com/tag/ui/.

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