Programming Editors (also some customer service kudos)
I’m a particular individual; a creature of habit. Especially in matters of computers, cooking, and my home, I can get a bit snippy when things do not work reliably and predictably. For the last couple years, I’ve been developing software professionally at Microsoft. The culmination of my efforts (and many others’) will be released on October 26th, 2012 to the general public as “Windows 8″, the most significant change to the flagship Microsoft product since Windows 95.
During those two and a half years, I’ve jumped around from editor to editor, trying to find one that suited my needs. I started with Emacs which I became a fan of during college as an intern at Google. After time, that wore on me as pinky cramp set in and my own inability to convince myself to learn e-lisp. Then I tried Visual Studio for a while but it has its own set of challenges with respect to developing for Windows. Additionally, I’ve never enjoyed using an IDE (as opposed to an editor) to develop C++. I find languages like C++ which were designed before the modern concept of an IDE existed tend to integrate poorly with an IDE anyway. Sublime Text 2 offered a good compromise where folders represent “projects” which worked well with the build system I am accustomed to. Unfortunately, lack of any contextual tagging (Intellisense) proved to be a hindrance as I had to continually use grep and a code indexing service to search for context and follow code flow.
The editors I iterated over earlier were just the ones I used for longer than a trial period. I also played with several commercial editors in the process but was put off by their high price. The short list of these was Lugaru Epsilon (proprietary Emacs clone), Source Insight, UltraEdit, and finally Visual SlickEdit. Most of these editors run at least $100, with SlickEdit being on the higher end at $300. Of the proprietary solutions I tried, it seemed the most promising and powerful. It was clearly designed with scale in mind but at a great cost. It is Visual SlickEdit which is the actual point of the title of this post.
As we finished up Windows 8, I decided it was time to re-evaluate my tool choice again. In reflection, I recall spending a lot of time trying to understand how various code bases worked and navigating around in a web browser to follow references was tedious. Source Insight was able to handle the huge code base that I work in, building the proper contextual tagging I needed, but received such limited updating that it was no longer able to properly cope with heavily templatized C++ code. Given this realization, I could pony up and pay for a more robust editor or continue struggling with my half-assed solution where my editor has zero contextual information about the file I’m editing.
I reinstalled SlickEdit 2012 two weeks ago, and went to work on a couple bugs. After getting it setup properly with the code base and delving into the inner workings of the OLE Clipboard code base, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was for me to navigate around. The first time I tried out SlickEdit, I was not working in such gnarly code and was unable to fully appreciate the depth of its power. I setup a few custom key strokes to streamline my workflow and left the remaining key commands in their default CUA-style layout.
Two weeks with the editor passed quickly, with myself feeling like I had accomplished a great deal more with it than I would have in my former workflow. SlickEdit had sold me with their trial. After receiving the courtesy reminder email from Sean (the customer service rep assigned to me), I thought briefly about it and determined that SlickEdit was worth $300. I emailed Sean, asking for a quote with a discount since I was using a competing product to theirs (Source Insight). He promptly emailed back a discounted price and offered to give me a call to settle the final details. During this exchange over roughly 18 hours, my trial license expired before the licensing department at SlickEdit had finished getting my license sorted out. Sean was kind enough to email me a trial extension license to allow me to continue working. All in all, very impressed.
The thing that really got me with SlickEdit was…
- The non-crippleware trial period. Smaller software companies often provide a trial version of their software that is crippled, doing a disservice to their potential customers.
- The prompt response from customer service and willingness to keep them happy. This is a fine line to walk and many retailers screw it up royally. Being pushy and persistent isn’t representative of a customer service representative actually caring or being helpful. They’re just being annoying.
- The discount for users that are using a competing product. If you’re confident in your product, you ought to be confident enough to offer a discount to bring customers over. They’ll appreciate it and feel like you’re really trying to please them.
In traditional ebaynese review language: A++++++++++++++++++++++++ service. Fast shipping, would buy again!!!!!!!!!!