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Eclipse Special: Bill Dudney Looks at Eclipse M8 Close-Up

Eclipse Special: Bill Dudney Looks at Eclipse M8 Close-Up

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    As a kick off for this new column I figured I'd go over some of the good, bad and ugly in the new Eclipse M8 drop. I have been using M8 for two weeks now and I've accumulated a lot of notes of what I like and don't like in this latest of the drops before we get 3.0 final. Over all I am really impressed with this release. I went through the release notes and tried to comment on each aspect of what was documented as well as a couple of nice things that I found that are not in the release notes.

  • Eye-candy - in the form of new welcome stuff. I like the look of it and seems to be very useful for RCP based apps. Since I'm not writing any RCP apps I probably won't have to write anything to plugin into the new Welcome extensibility points it's nice to know it's there.

  • Cheat Sheets - very cool and very useful for doing long winded stuff like creating a session facade or something like that. I got to see an example of this at Eclipse Con back in February in the form of a demo from the IBM WebSphere folks. The cheat sheet guided you through the whole process of building a Web service. All you had to do was type in a couple of names and a URL or two and bang you had a Web service stub that only needed business logic. For tool vendors this will be a big win.

  • Workspace Selection on startup is very nice esp for OSX users, instead of digging into the Info.plist file or cons'n up your own shell script to start Eclipse you get a bit of UI complete with a browse button. I tend to be a different breed of user and install multiple versions of Eclipse though because I'm doing weird stuff like comparing different versions of plugins and stuff like that.

  • Tear Off Views - Sounds like a cool feature for people that don't like the "everything in one window" UI. Only avaiaible on GTK and Windows though. Another thing that ticks me off about SWT. If the UI were Swing based then it would be available everywhere. There seems to be quite a bit of complaining about SWT these days. Dion Almaer of The Server Side posts this in response to another blog complaining about SWT here.

  • Collapse Views - I like this very much. It was available in M7 if you moved to the new LAF so I have been using it for quite a while.

  • Multi-Tab Scalability - I love this feature! I usually keep the default of having multiple tabs but I like having only one tab as well. I absolutely love the switch buffer support though, kind of like C-x C-b in Emacs, now if we could just get the Emacs key bindings to work :-)

  • Manual Build - very cool, esp 'build working set' to only build your project and the projects it depends on. This is very useful when building an Eclipse plugins that is broken up into multiple projects, or really any multi-project environment.

  • Background Processing Maturing - tabs now indicate via font when a background process is going on. This is a nice addition. The background processing is great in general and it's really nice to see it maturing.

  • Key Bindings work in Dialogs - another thing that makes me mad about SWT. Swing based apps always worked with the key bindings defined for text on OSX even the Emacs key bindings work in all text fields, modal or not.

  • Virtual Tables - cool but again makes me mad that there is an SWT, Swing had this fixed much earlier.

  • New Searching - very cool, I've recently been doing some work on myFaces and I've been using the search stuff a lot. I really like it, esp the group results according to package an other stuff like that.

  • Synchronization problems reports - very cool feature. Basically allows the sync to report problems that will result if you just do a simple update and commit. In other words – it will show you before you do it that you commit will break the build. Now if only we could get people to use it :-)

  • Ant - problems now show in the problem view, nice touch. The Ant team did a great job of maturing the Ant support all together, hats off to them. Much earlier (M4 or M5 I think) there was a discussion around providing some refactorings for the Ant editor. I'm not sure where that is but I think this feature has been deferred till after 3.0. It would be very cool to see refactoring support though, imagine being able to rename a target without having to do a search and replace…

  • Ant - template support like the Java editor's 'sep' for System.err.println’ Support is early though and I've not had a chance to dig into it so I don't know how configurable it is. Another sign that the Ant editor is really maturing.

  • Java Editor - quick outline now shows inherited members in a different font

  • Java Editor - refactorings now update Java Doc without forcing an preview. I believe this has to do with the rework of the underlying Java model to include the Javadoc as a first class citizen. There is a cool AST viewer available as a plugin as part of this work too.

  • Java - User Defined Libraries - group needed jar files and refer to them with a name that can live at a different path for different users, very nice - also has a quick fix for users that are importing your project but don't have the library defined, cool! This is a great feature for doing things like adding Easymock to your project (anything that requires multiple jar files to work).

  • Debugger - new value popups are very cool indeed, you can see the values for stuff right there without the variables view.

  • Debug - Assign values in the variable view, no longer have to go to the expression view . This is a very cool feature. I recently had to go back to 2.1.x to write a plugin and did not realize how much I'd miss this feature untill it was gone.

  • Package View - Context Menu now contains Run menu, I love this and have been meaning to put in a feature request for it for a long time. I'm sure glad someone did.

  • Refactoring - launch configurations finally support refactorings, I hated renaming a test class cause my JUnit launch config got hosed, no longer. If my memory serves me correctly this is part of opening up the refactoring code so that other plugins can participate in the refactoring. From what I remember we are even going to be able to write our own refactorings.

    Well that's about it for this inaugural installment. I hope you're enjoying M8 as much as I am. Please feel free to contact me here or look for more info on my blog.

  • More Stories By Bill Dudney

    Bill Dudney is Editor-in-Chief of Eclipse Developer's Journal and serves too as JDJ's Eclipse editor. He is a Practice Leader with Virtuas Solutions and has been doing Java development since late 1996 after he downloaded his first copy of the JDK. Prior to Virtuas, Bill worked for InLine Software on the UML bridge that tied UML Models in Rational Rose and later XMI to the InLine suite of tools. Prior to getting hooked on Java he built software on NeXTStep (precursor to Apple's OSX). He has roughly 15 years of distributed software development experience starting at NASA building software to manage the mass properties of the Space Shuttle.

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    Most Recent Comments
    zman 05/16/04 09:09:44 AM EDT

    Bill, cut the anti-SWT rhetoric and stick to your review of the IDE! It just doesn''t apply.

    Boris T 05/15/04 12:19:26 AM EDT

    I agree with many of the posts abpve. As a die hard emacs user, I am learning eclipse and am very impressed. But the key binding issue is real pain. I just can''t start using this tool without emacs key binding being available. Also, the emacs key board macro recording is huge. If these things where fixed, I would be come a complete convert.

    Bill Dudney 05/10/04 11:32:07 AM EDT

    I disagree that SWT is the reason Eclipse is such a good IDE. SWT is the cause of much frustration on the part of the rest of the community and I think to a certain extent limits the Eclipse market.

    The real value of Eclipse is its usability and productivity gains. The plugin architecture is cool too but to the average IDE user its just the availability of plugins that is great the API is not that important to them (except that it makes writing plugins ''easier'' for others and thus there are more of them).

    Bill Dudney 05/10/04 10:15:46 AM EDT

    ''ridiculous'' might be a bit strong...

    Yes it can be hard to make the switch but over all I find the productivity gains from moving to Eclipse worth the retraining. I did emacs for about 13 years before moving to Eclipse. I still miss some of my favorite keys (C-k, C-y, C-n etc) but overall I find Eclipse worth the switch. And besides at some point, someone who has actually used emacs will build the key bindings. Till then I''m content to run my shells in emacs and do my java in Eclipse.

    Charles H Martin 05/09/04 10:06:49 PM EDT

    It is ridiculous that Eclipse M8 does not support emacs keybindings...espcially when it is a feature in older versions!

    I have been using JDEE/XEmacs for over 5 years, and XEmacs for almost 10 years now. Working in Eclispe is like speaking in German but speaking in English...you have to translate every sentance in your head and it makes coding painfully slow.

    eclipse lover 05/07/04 08:30:26 AM EDT

    Over all M8 is good and SWT is still the reason that Eclipse is such a good IDE, despite the complaints.

    scot mcphee 05/06/04 05:39:47 PM EDT

    I disagree with Rolf - I found M8 to be much faster and smoother at many things over M7. There is still room for improvement however.

    As for key bindings I think they should be done at the basic ''text editor'' level and therefore set once for ALL editors.

    Alan Ezust 05/06/04 10:27:05 AM EDT

    Some things can''t be forgotten, and for me, it''s the
    cursor movement of emacs keys.

    For me, Ctrl+AENPFBKY need to be mappable from all editing contexts. I need Ctrl-K to cut-lines, and Ctrl-Y to paste. I can adjust to all the other keys no problems, but I need those keys.

    And it''s actually faster than reaching for arrow keys
    all the time. I find when I am doing anything non-java in Eclipse, I am not very productive because I keep stopping what I am doing, and trying to figure out how to get my keys working correctly.

    I still remotely login to unix hosts and use text-only editors. And I use the same damned old editor for editing files. My fingers remember and it is re-enforced.

    I can learn many other key bindings from eclipse, but for me, those are basic primitives, that will never change. I''m not alone - there are a lot of other emacs users who refuse to use Eclipse because they use those basic keys all the time.

    It''s such a shame - eclipse developers want to be embraced by the open-source community and they make it so difficult for emacs users to use it!! Imagine if you had all these old die-hard emacs programmers joining and helping out in making Eclipse better?

    Bill Dudney 05/06/04 08:51:43 AM EDT

    Hi Rolf,

    Thanks for the comment!

    I have been doing ''serious development'' with M8 since I started using it 4 or 5 weeks ago. The only thing that gives me real headaches is that XMLBuddy does not work well in M8. There are a few rough spots as noted earlier but the focus os M8 was not solely on ''eye candy'' as you put it. The RCP had lots of work, Ant & other editors were enhanced etc (take a look at the list above).

    I would not expect to have the UI revert any time soon. I think we are here to stay.

    Rolf 05/06/04 08:35:06 AM EDT

    I think M8 is not very stable, and is too much focused on eye-candy, making it a slow milestone. I''d recommend M7 over M8 if you are doing serious development work anytime.

    I hope M9 contains performance improvements, and will return to "native" widgets which are much more "real estate friendly" and faster.

    For those saying eclipse has "potential": Eclipse IS the best IDE out there, despite complaints about M8. It outperforms, outhandles, and outprices ;-) any java IDE I''ve seen. If you want your java developers to be efficient, without a steep IDE learning curve, go with Eclipse 3.0 (M7 in my opinion).

    kiki 04/25/04 04:41:43 PM EDT

    Ein wirklich sehr Interessante Seite mit guten Informationen.

    Bill Dudney 04/23/04 03:48:05 PM EDT

    Hi Alan,

    Thanks for the feedback!

    Window ->Show View -> Other -> Other -> Cheat Sheets
    Once the view is up, from the menu see ''creating an eclipse plugin with pde'' to see one of the longer ones.

    I have given up making Eclipse speak Emacs, I just gave up and learned Eclipse.

    Ant run configurations are under the ''running man with a suitcase'' button. Usually near the run & debug buttons. Select ''External Tools...'' from the pull down. It brings up the launch configurations for external tools (ant integration is one) and in there you can set up or delete the ant configurations.

    The performance of the Ant editor is the most annoying, however I''ve been getting intermittent problems so I''m willing to live with it for now.

    In M7 there was a whole reworking of the way key bindings worked but it got scrubbed because too many people did not like it. I''m hopeful that it will make it back in to post 3.0 builds (on the way to 3.1 and 4.0). This is clearly a hot topic because there are 97 bugs with ''key bindings'' in their descriptions.

    Alan Ezust 04/23/04 12:06:29 PM EDT

    Where are these cheatsheets? I can''t find em.

    The ant launch configurations are created when you say
    "run ant..." instead of just run. Then, you create a new build configuration where you choose which targets you want built. If you just right-click and select "run" it will run the default configuration, but as soon as you create multiple ones, it asks you which one you want to run. Definitely tedious.

    They should allow you to still single-click to run the default run configuration. That would be a good feature request.

    I looked a long time before I could figure out hwo to remove /edit those extra ant configurations. I finally found it, and I wanted to post where it is, but I tried again and I can''t find it now. I wonder if it disappears depending on which perspective/view you are in. in any case, it should be a menu choice in the ant view.

    The ant editor has some other funky things about it that I don''t like, so I use XMLBUDDY when I am editing ant files.

    I''ve been so frustrated trying to get Ctrl-A working as an emacs key - going to the left side of the editor window. It seems I''ve had to define it in a bunch of different contexts but it still doesn''t work from Java editing mode.

    Still, eclipse has a lot of potential. I just wish they had done the keyboard-action-context bindings better (like the way it''s done in Jedit - with each plugin coming with its own bindable actions, and one place/context where you can assign them all).

    scot mcphee 04/22/04 05:41:22 PM EDT

    I have been using m8 since the day it was released. I have found the Ant editor to be extremely slow. Sometimes a second a keystroke slow. It has many nice features but attention has to be paid to the performance now.

    Big projects with lots of source directories cause it to wig out eventually and sometimes crash.

    There are some other minor annoyances. E.g. Ant run. When I run another target it often creates a second (or a third...) launch config. Next time you go to run the build it stops and asks you which config it wants you to use. I haven''t quite been able to figure out the rules under which it does this, but it''s often enough to be very boring.

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