Charles Engelke's Blog

June 29, 2008

SlickEdit Selection Fix – and Book Recommendation

Filed under: How To,Notes — Charles Engelke @ 2:31 pm

I’m trying out SlickEdit to see if I’ll be happy with it.  I really, really want an editor with good Brief emulation.  I used CodeWright at work; it’s good, but expensive and effectively orphaned, so I didn’t want to buy a copy for my personal machine.  Jed says it emulates Brief and it’s free; I tried it, couldn’t get it to behave like Brief, and found its documentation unhelpful.  I found Zeus: it’s inexpensive and mostly does a good job, so I bought it and use it, but it has some annoying minor glitches.  (Really minor; I’ve been using it for a year as my main editor.)

SlickEdit gets great press and has extensive documentation, so I’m giving it a try.  (For the third free trial; I never got deep enough into it to work on configuring it just right in the first two.)  One of the best things about SlickEdit is that it is nearly infinitely configurable.  One of the worst things about SlickEdit is that it is nearly infinitely configurable.  I don’t like investing all that startup time tweaking it to get it right.

But I’m still looking for an editor, so this time I’m really making the effort.  Just selecting Brief emulation made it work pretty well, but I read through the User Guide and changed a few settings.  And I got quite happy with it, except for one infuriating behavior: if I typed over selected text, what I typed was appended to the text instead of replacing it.

I figured that there had to be a way to change this, but I couldn’t find it in the User Guide.  Google didn’t turn anything up, either.  There’s a book just about SlickEdit, though; maybe it would help?  I don’t want to have to buy it to find out, though; I haven’t yet committed to this editor.  I checked for it on Safari, but it’s not there.

It is on Amazon, though.  And “Search Inside this Book” is available for it.  I searched for “typing replaces selection” and immediately found what I needed!  Right there on page 382, I saw some SlickEdit macro code commented with:

// CUA Style: typing replaces basic (not locked) selection

The code changed the value of a variable named def_persistent_select to a D.  I wasn’t about to learn how to write code to do this, but the SlickEdit User Guide did show how to change these variables through the menus.  I changed it (it was set to N in my installation), and now the editor works the way I want!

Needless to say I’m not going to remember how I did this, nor how I found this information, hence this post to remind me.  Here’s how to do it:

  1. Select the Macro menu, then Set Macro Variable…
  2. There’s a drop-down list named Variable.  Scroll through it to select def_persistent_select.
  3. Enter a D in the Value text box, and click OK.

I’m pretty sure this change is persistent.  If not, I’ll figure out how to save it later.

This greatly increases the chance that I’ll decide to buy a $300 copy of SlickEdit.  If I do I’ll also buy the $50 book (only $36.49 on Amazon).  Both in gratitude and because it’s likely to have a lot of other useful stuff.  My main qualm right now is that SlickEdit is much more complex than I want or need.  Doesn’t anybody just make a plain editor any more?

So why don’t I use Brief itself?  Because I didn’t know it existed!  I Googled it to see if there would be a good link about Brief I could put in this post, and found this.  It’s not the same Brief of old, but it’s trying to be just like it.  I’ll try it out, but it may emulate a console-mode editor too well for me today.



  1. That setting can also be modified by going to “Tools” > “Options…”, “Editing/Selections”, and turning on “Delete selection before insert”.

    Using the search to find “selection” within “Tools” > “Options…” would have taking you directly to this screen. Hitting the Help button would have gotten you the rest of the way.

    Comment by Dennis — June 30, 2008 @ 9:38 am

  2. This option is grayed out on my installation. I think that’s because I’m using Brief emulation.

    I’m liking SlickEdit more and more, but the scope and complexity of the customization options is intimidating.

    Comment by Charles Engelke — July 1, 2008 @ 8:53 am

  3. […] Filed under: Notes — Charles Engelke @ 10:46 am Tags: brief editor, slickedit 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 […]

    Pingback by SlickEdit - and Brief « Charles Engelke’s Blog — July 15, 2008 @ 10:48 am

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