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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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