Michael R. Head (suppressingfire) wrote,
Michael R. Head

Eclipse 3.3 first thoughts

The new Eclipse release is out. I had missed it, but maybe that says more about what I've been doing lately than anything else (I haven't touched any Java or C code in a few months).


I've been using Eclipse for quite a long time. I've written a few plugins here and there and watched the platform grow and evolve. 3.2 had gotten just about all the major features in place for doing java (desktop) app development. Web app development has long trailed behind, for any of the reasons that many others have documented. Fortunately, I don't do much of that these days, so it's not much of a weakness for me.

I'm mostly doing performance and benchmarking of Java and C code for XML, so the base Eclipse platform works pretty well.

Here are the things I'm looking forward to using in the new release:

Mylyn (formerly Mylar). This is a task tracking plugin that connects up to bugzilla (if you like). Apparently if you tell it you're working on a particular task, it'll track your changes and associate them with the selected task. Sounds interesting, if a little complicated. I'm most interested in the bugzilla integration, though. We never implemented it for Insectivore, and I wish we had, because it is really convenient to be able to have that public task list right in the IDE. I did find a couple bugs right off the bat, though: 195863 and 195864.

TPTP 4,4.0. This is the profiling and plugin that I've had limited success with in the past (the major problem being that its JRE plugin had limited compatability with modern JVMs, since it used the unsupported JVMPI interface). With any luck, it'll work fine with Java6 on the AMD64 architecture, but I haven't checked the changelog yet. So far, it has seemed tuned more for a large organization with lots of systems to monitor. This release should make it easier for individual developers to use. I'm also interested to see how the integration with BIRT (for creating reports and graphs) is coming. I'm happy using R for analysis, but it would be interesting to be able to dump some nice graphs of memory usage and code hotspots out without having to do a lot of data manipulation.

CDT 4.0. I've got some C code to work on now, so I'll be interested to see how that's come along. It looks like support for GCC on windows has improved, but that's not so important for me. The code formatter is finally there, which is a good thing. I'd like to see autotools supported right in CDT, but at least red hat has been working on that. I'd also like to see some TPTP and CDT integration, but that can wait until CDT is as slick as JDT.

Things I don't like:

First, selecting a download package is getting complicated. There are 5 different choices, and at different times I fit into each of the 5 categories. Here's what I'd like. One option for base, without any DTs, just the platform and the update manager (which really needs a makeover!), and a kitchen sink alternative which packages up all the parts.

Secondly, the update manager is still really rough. It's more like a tool for plugin developers than IDE users. I need a task-oriented plugin manager where I can check a box to install the C tools and another box to get profiling tools.

Thirdly, perspectives, views, and editors is getting old. Perspectives in particular. The concept is nice technically, but I think it needs to be reworked in terms of the end user. Visual studio seems to work a bit better in this regard, though of course it's not a plugin-based system. Another thing, there are too many tabs in the interface. It's too busy.

Hopefully the platform for 4.0 will be able to shed some of the historical gunk that's built up. There really are too many actions. I believe a re-examination of all the different navigation and search features would yield a simplified way of accessing everything. The "ctrl-3" action search interface might be the way to go, but that'll need to be improved significantly.

That's all for now. I've got some coding to get into.

Update: What Eclipse needs is a "start page" (not the welcome screen, but an editor that appears when the workspace starts without any other editors and perhaps when there are no projects in the workspace). It should have a short list of user tasks, such as "create a java graphical application", or "create a C++ project", or "find new features". Visual Studio has a nice start page that's perhaps a bit busy, but it does keep the user from getting empty-screen-itis.

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Tags: c, eclipse, java, programming

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