Last Saturday I had one of the most rewarding moments of my professional life. I was at Barnes & Noble looking through the computer books when I saw two copies of the new Professional SlickEdit® book [1] on the shelf. Seeing this filled me with a sense of pride I have rarely experienced before.

I didn’t write the book. It was written by John Hurst, a long-time SlickEdit user with no affiliation with SlickEdit Inc. I did help to review the material John wrote and provided feedback, but the pride I felt wasn’t related to my minor contribution to the book. It was because of what the book says about our product that made me proud.

The book is a symbol of the impact our work has on others. It says that there are enough people using SlickEdit for a publisher like Wrox to publish this book. That someone like John, whose knowledge of SlickEdit is remarkable, was available to write this book also indicates something of the passion our customers feel for our work. This awareness of the positive effect our work has had on others is often missing in software development.

I’ve worked on a lot of different projects in my career. Most were large custom automation jobs that were deployed on a server somewhere. Often there was little to no interaction with the actual users of the system. With SlickEdit, I get to see and use the result of my efforts. I interact with people who use our products every day. And now, with the release of Professional SlickEdit®, I feel, well, almost famous.

Why a SlickEdit Book?

The very existence of a 3rd party book on SlickEdit raises the question of why such a book is needed. Some might ask, “Isn’t the user guide good enough?” The answer, frankly, is “yes it is” and “no it isn’t”.

After 20 years of development, SlickEdit is full of features. Even though we’ve made great strides in improving our documentation over the last several releases, there’s still a long way to go. As John points out in the introduction to Professional SlickEdit®, “The SlickEdit User Guide that is shipped with the product does not even document every feature…” Hey! We’re working on it!

The SlickEdit User Guide and Professional SlickEdit® describe SlickEdit from two different perspectives. Our goal with the User Guide is to teach you how to install, configure, and use the features in SlickEdit. Professional SlickEdit® picks up where the SlickEdit User Guide leaves off. It covers many of the features that are documented in the user guide but it does so from an advanced usage perspective, showing effective ways to use the features. The book includes examples showing actual code and how various features can be used. It also includes sample Slick-C macro code to customize and extend SlickEdit, which will be of particular interest to advanced users.

We try to be process-agnostic at SlickEdit. We recognize that people have very different work patterns, and we don’t want to force you to change them. Instead, we believe it is important for SlickEdit to adapt to your work style. No matter how much we are convinced that brace style 1 (shown below) is the only sensible choice we allow you to mess up your code with brace style 2 and 3 as much as you like.

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As an independent author, John had more degrees of freedom. He was freer to express his opinion, not unlike the freedom one has while blogging. So, where our documentation provides a list of the capabilities, John directs you towards the ones he finds to be most useful.

A Fresh Perspective

One of the key benefits I’ve gotten from this process is the insight from seeing our product from another perspective. Working with John and reading his descriptions of SlickEdit helped me see the product in a new way.

It’s a common problem. The more you work on something the less you are able to really see it. You see, instead, your perceptions of the product. How many times have you written something, code or text, and missed a simple flaw, like an omitted word or a boundary condition? No matter how many times you read it, you see what you expect to see not what is really there. Then, someone who reads it for the first time easily finds the problem.

My thanks to John Hurst for writing this book and the good people at Wrox for publishing it. And for treating me to a truly rewarding moment in my career!

[1] Professional SlickEdit® by John Hurst (ISBN-13: 978-0-470-12215-0), Wiley Publishing, Inc.