I finished my two-week trial of SlickEdit and decided to buy it. $300 seems like a lot of money for a text editor, but the market for good ones is pretty small and those folks need to stay in business. The Brief emulation is great, and it’s got a bunch of really nice additional features that I never knew I wanted. There’s quite a learning curve, but if you’re writing code it’s worth spending a while to master it all.
In the process of using it, I realized my absolute requirements for an editor:
- Full screen editing. Move the cursor with keyboard or mouse and add or delete text. Even Notepad does this, but I started programming in 1972 so I still don’t take it for granted.
- Auto-indent. It doesn’t have to be smart; so long as tab moves me in a level and each new line stays there until shift-tab takes me out, I’m happy. Why have they never added this to Notepad?
- Line-oriented cut and paste. The editor should have a mode for selecting, copying, cutting, and pasting text by line instead of by characters. If there’s no selection, copying and cutting should operate on the current line. Pasting a line selection should go above the current line. Brief was the first editor I used that did this well.
Syntax coloring, smart indenting, even regular expressions, are nice but not absolutely essential. (Maybe regular expression support is, come to think of it.)
Brief itself meets those three requirements, and is available for free in its basic mode. It’s a faithful recreation of the original program but for Windows instead of MS-DOS. However, it doesn’t do much (if anything) with the mouse, and I find I miss that. I’ve installed it on my machines for quick and dirty editing, and I’m going to try it on a USB memory stick since it’s quite small. But SlickEdit is my new editing home.