Eclipse 3.0 released
- By John K. Waters
|On June 21, the Eclipse Foundation announced the availability of the latest version of the Eclipse Platform -- Eclipse 3.0 -- which adds an enhanced version of its Java IDE, a new rich-client platform, and the integration of Java Swing with the Eclipse Standard Widget Toolkit.
Eclipse is an open-source project that grew out of technology first developed by IBM to serve as a universal platform for integrating software development tools. IBM open-sourced its technology, and it is updated and managed by the now-independent Eclipse Foundation.
The project is known widely for its Java IDE, and the latest version comes with a number of enhancements that should make life easier for its devoted users. The Eclipse 3.0 version provides better support for code refactoring, new code-folding capabilities and the ability to use regular expressions for find-and-replace. One of the biggest enhancements is the new multithreaded UI, which now allows users to start background tasks and continue working.
Along with enhancements designed to improve productivity, this release includes features intended to make the IDE easier to learn. According to the Eclipse Foundation’s new executive director, Mike Milinkovich, Versions 2.0 and 2.1 generated a lot of feedback from users on this issue.
“We were hearing that new developers were finding that there was too much to absorb at once,” Milinkovich told ADT. “Different people learn in different ways, and we wanted to accommodate those different learning styles.”
Users can now choose documentation or guided tutorials to familiarize themselves with the IDE, or they can jump right in and figure it out for themselves, Milinkovich said.
One of the most intriguing components of Eclipse 3.0 is its new Rich Client Platform, which Milinkovich said will “transform Eclipse from an open platform for tools integration to the universal platform for application integration.
“In prior releases, people used Eclipse as an open integration platform for their tools,” Milinkovich explained. “They would assemble the tools they needed to do a particular job, and Eclipse helped to accelerate that process by making sure that, through the plug-in architecture, various tools would work together seamlessly. Now you also have the ability to use the Eclipse frameworks as a starting point for your applications.”
The Rich Client Platform includes a generic workbench that can be used with the Eclipse frameworks to construct general-purpose, rich-client apps, Milinkovich said. It also supports the Eclipse update manager, which allows users to find Eclipse plug-ins and bring them into the workbench.
“The [Rich Client Platform] is going to make a big difference to a lot of developers,” Milinkovich said.
Eclipse 3.0 also encompasses the integration of Swing, the standard Java toolkit for building GUIs, and the Eclipse version, called the Standard Widget Toolkit (SWT). The major difference between the two is that Swing emulates the platform, while Eclipse actually uses the platform it is running on. The Swing-SWT integration allows Eclipse users to bring Swing-based tools to the workbench as plug-ins.
“There has been a lot of discussion about which of these approaches is best,” Milinkovich said. “From our perspective, SWT provides an important technology and is an important innovation in the Java world, and we think that it’s helpful for building certain classes of applications. But the fact is, a significant number of Java tool providers are building tools today in Swing. And we want to lower the cost of supporting Eclipse. In order to do that, we built the Swing-SWT integration. It’s going to bring more tools to the Eclipse family of plug-ins.”
The Swing-SWT integration was something of a natural extension of the Eclipse mandate to support many languages and platforms, Milinkovich said.
“Many people perceive the Eclipse Project as synonymous with our Java tools, so there is a common perception that Eclipse is our Java IDE,” Milinkovich said, “but there are actually a lot of projects going on under the Eclipse banner; the IDE is just one. We are certainly interested in supporting other languages and other platforms besides Java.”
Milinkovich points to Eclipse’s C/C++ Development Tools (CDT) Project, which is an Eclipse-sponsored initiative to build an IDE for C/C++ developers, as an example. Another example, Hyades (named for a constellation near a famous eclipse), is expanding the breadth of Eclipse to include the entire development life cycle.
“If you look at the number of projects that are being delivered by the Eclipse Open Source Software Project at the same time,” Milinkovich said, “the fact that they have gone through rigorous testing by a very passionate open-source community that has been providing feedback to the development team; the fact that all of this functionality has been developed in an open-source manner by highly distributed teams; and the fact that this is all coming together in a very high-quality, high-performance way in the same week -- I think it’s an amazing feat of software engineering.”
Eclipse 3.0 is available today as a free download from http://www.eclipse.org and several other sites
accessible through http://www.eclipse.org/downloads/index.php
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached