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Critique of Eclipse IDE?

I wonder how many of you have tried the Eclipse IDE (www.eclipse.org), whether for Java development or something else, and if you have tried it, what did you think of a development tool like this written in Java?  Is this the future, or merely a well done one-off?  Or maybe you didn't think it was even well done.

I'd like to hear your comments.

Mitch & Murray (from downtown)
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I just started using Eclipse - I am new to J2EE so I have not extensively used other IDEs.

I tried jDeveloper from Oracle, JBuilder from Borland and Eclipse.

I opted out of JBuilder because of the $$ and jDeveloper kept freezing on me. But I was using jDeveloper on WinXP - Oracle seems to lock up Windows pretty much.

I settled on Eclipse as it has tight integration to WebSphere - IBM sent me a free developers copy.

And best of all - it is not a memory hog.

As I mentioned above - I am new to J2EE and have not worked on any commercial projects - just little modules to learn the fundamentals.

On a seperate rant - when I was search for info on J2EE and IDEs etc; I found that alot of info was pretty dogmatic - it was hard to find unbias and rational opinions. Also there seems to be lots of vaporware in J2EE.

Ram Dass
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I like the Eclipse ability to hot-swap code into a running debug session.

I dislike the slower speed compared to other IDEs and editors.

Right now I'm using IDEA due to its better refactoring, code browsing, and overall editing features.

I still miss the hot-swap feature though.

Another feature I liked was the ability to keep multiple project directories open at once. IDEA sort of lets you do it, but each project is in a different frame (which I find harder to navigate).

NathanJ
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

The next version of IDEA (Aurora) supports hot swap.

Nick Brosnahan
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I think you will enjoy either of IDEA or Eclipse as excellent development environments for java.  I have been using Eclipse for over a year and really enjoy it.  The refactoring abilities of both environments are great time savers!

Scot
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I've used the WebSphere v4.x version of Eclipse and was rather disappointed.

While it was functional and one of the better java-based editors I've used, there were basic problems with freezes and lockups related to the auto-completion popups. Also basic cursor handling was very-very poor. Specifically the editor had no concept of column positioning and moving from line to line using the up- and down-arrow keys resulted in seemingly random caret placement within the line.

It's a beginners mistake, one I made when I wrote my first editor, but mine was not part of a three-thousand dollar software package.

I'm sure it has gotten much better. The further away from IBMs hands the better. They do great systems work and basic research, but their UI/interface work and ability to complete a polished product is simply non-existant.

Brian
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

The thing that always gets me about these IDEs is that
you have to define everything as a "project" before you
can use any of their cool tools.  Personally I like an editor
that just plays nicely with the file system and the command
line.

Mike
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I have worked with a wide range of Java IDEs (we do work for a number of the major IDE vendors and have our own development tools), and my hands-down favourite is IDEA.

That said, Eclipse is technically a very good IDE too - but I have never been able to bring myself to like it because it forces a weird workspace/project metaphor on you. IDEA, on the other hand, just gets out of your way and lets you get your job done. The people at IntelliJ have put a lot of thought into IDEA and it really shows.

This is not to say that there aren't other good IDEs out there - JBuilder is still quite decent product, for example.

The original poster asked about IDEs being written in Java - Swing has come a long way since the early days. It now actually performs quite well. So yes - I think you'll see more of them in the future (although the future of SWT is hard to judge, since it was a response to a problem that no longer exists).

Burninator
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Too slow for real project development.

Dino
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

My typical compilation times are less than five seconds, and menus pop up instantaneously, as well as autocomplete.  I have 1GB memory, but looking at the system I see that only 166MB is being used.

Scot
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

how does it compare to netbeans?

 
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I use it quite a lot, and the only complaint I have is that the extended workspace metaphor requires a fairly big adjustment to grok--you really have to work with it for a while before it feels comfortable.

Everything else is great--I have no problem with the speed of the interface or the popups, and the CVS integration is excellent.

Justin Johnson
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Actually I do love Eclipse. It's way faster than netBeans, it's not expensive as JBuilder and as for IDEA... I never tried it.
And the plug-in architectures allowes you to extend the IDE in any way you want.

RP
Thursday, September 11, 2003

We use JEdit and Ant, both written in Java and free. For design I recommend TogetherJ. These tools serve most of our needs, provide excellent development performance and we don't even need to think about any "heavy" IDE, like Eclips.

Evgeny Gesin /Javadesk/
Thursday, September 11, 2003

"(although the future of SWT is hard to judge, since it was a response to a problem that no longer exists). "

Could you please clarify what you mean by that?

Chris Welsh
Thursday, September 11, 2003

If you want the lowdown on Eclipse SWT vs. Swing, read http://www.mail-archive.com/jug-discussion@tucson-jug.org/msg00355.html

Some choice quotes (but please read the full article):

"Ignorance at Sun's management, combined with Amy's
ruthless politics led to the mess we have today. "

"At IBM we hated Swing from day one.  Big, buggy, and looks crap."

"However, the OTI folks found that Swing was so badly broken deep down in the way it reads windows events that we couldn't even get interoperability between SWT (the S initially stood for Simple although it was later changed to Standard ) and Swing."

"Sun however got totally pissed off about this.  They have NetBeans which they want to do the same thing as Eclipse with and they complained to IBM senior management."

"As for the user community, whatever IBM and Sun's ultimate motives, I always find it interesting that those who love Swing say stuff like "Once you have spend years mastering it, you can use it properly" which is basically a way of them trying to justify and defent their hard earned niche expertise, whereas SWT fans say "Wow - this is fast, acts native and works with XP skins, etc.. and is small and light"."

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, September 11, 2003

Eclipse is faster than Netbeans. I've found that I code much more effectively with Eclipse than I did with JEdit.

The project/workspace metaphor was a little bit difficult to get used to at first. I've opted out of using other IDEs in the past because they required something similar. But I decided to tolerate it in Eclipse because it doesn't interfere with working on the files in the workspace outside of Eclipse (you just have to refresh the project from the filesystem when you start Eclipse up again).

The things that you get out of the workspace setup that I didn't really get from JEdit are:
- Great CVS Integration including a good diff tool
- Refactoring support (IDEA is even better at this, but I can't afford it and in a free trial I found it hard to get used to the UI)
- A task list that turns all of my comments that begin with // TODO into a neat list of items that I can search and filter so they don't get lost

Things I liked better about JEdit:
- A wider variety of commands for manipulating text
- Slightly better auto-generated Javadoc comments (not perfect, but better) and the ability to generate them as soon as you declare a method
- The QuickNotepad plug-in. Eclipse has scrapbook pages, but there are times when I want to open a random file that's not part of the workspace and then I need a non-Eclipse editor.

As far as memory usage goes, I don't think Eclipse is significantly worse than JEdit. It does freeze up on occasion, but then again everything on my computer slows down when I run Weblogic's EJB compiler so it may not be Eclipse's fault.

One area where Eclipse could improve a lot is their help system. When I started using it, especially the CVS tools, it was often hard to figure out exactly what effects a given command would have on my files (in particular whether or not things would get overwritten). I made backups and then started experimenting, but it was still frustrating.

Beth Linker
Thursday, September 11, 2003

I like Eclipse a lot! The best part to me is the great plugins.

I currently use:

Weblogic Plug in
SourceSafe
UML
XML

They're great!!!!

GenX'er
Thursday, September 11, 2003

Getting slightly off-topic here: folks should realize that there are many sides to the SWT vs. Swing debate. Here are a few pointers:

The "undisclosed source" referenced in the above email (from Just me (Sir to you)) may have been full of it:

http://blog.xesoft.com/jon.lipsky/blog/Java/?permalink=an_good_read_swt_vs.html

Comparing SWT and Swing: Discusses performance in a different light than most of the "it feels faster to me" anecdotes masquerading as data. Comments here are also a good read:

http://cld.blog-city.com/read/15428.htm

Diego Doval, who makes the Swing-based messaging client Clever Cactus (and has a lot of GUI development experience), recently tried out SWT and posted some interesting thoughts on it:

http://www.dynamicobjects.com/d2r/archives/002315.html

I have next-to-no GUI development experience so take it with a grain of salt, but it seems to me that SWT's manual garbage collection (sorry, manual component disposal) just tosses aside one of the largest benefits of Java over C/C++.

Chris Winters
Thursday, September 11, 2003

I've spent the last six months working on a Swing contract. While I admire Swing's architecture, and agree that with enough time you can put together very effective and satisfying models (the M of MVC), I still find that doing the nitty gritty GUI can be a real pain. For instance, I recently tried to implement a "lazy" in-cell-editor combobox (by lazy I mean you populate the contents of the combo when you drop it down). This took me three full days to get right. And thank god we are using jdk1.4.1, because with prior versions of Swing, it was effectively impossible. This would have taken me 2 minutes with delphi.

Chris Welsh
Thursday, September 11, 2003

I'm using Eclipse and am quite satisfied with it.  Things I like:

- Good keyboard navigation/controls (I detest UIs that force you to use the mouse for common actions).

- JUnit integration is splendid, and really encourages TDD.

- 95% of the time, Eclipse lets me do what I want to do "my way" without getting in my way.

- Well-designed UI.

- Plugins.  I'm using only a few, but it's nice to know that if I need to do something that isn't natively supported, there's a decent chance a plugin will exist to help me.

- Fairly rapid release cycle with useful additions in each release.

- Java quick-help, quick-fix and refactoring is very helpful.  It's especially nice to have all errors/problems show up in the editor and the problems list -- it encourages me to "just write code", trusting in Eclipse to show me all the dumb mistakes I'm making along the way.

Things I don't like:

- The initial learning curve for projects/workspace concepts was a bit steep at first -- though it's a pretty short hill to get over.  (I understand it's more approachable nowadays.)

- Odd crashes from time to time.  (Pretty rare overall though.)

- Overall, it makes good use of screen real estate, but in some areas there could be some improvement.

Overall, I have found it to be an excellent product.

-Thomas

Thomas
Thursday, September 11, 2003

I use Eclipse at work and really enjoy it.

For those who have used IBM's Visual Age for Java in the past, when using Eclipse they will notice many "Visual Age-isms" in it, not surprising since Eclipse is an IBM Open Source project.
Technically speaking, it is the IDE that Visual Age should have been to begin with.

I wouldn't nessarily say that it is the wave of the future but I do think it is the best Java IDE out there that doesn't cost anything.

Avrom Finkelstein
Thursday, September 11, 2003

Chris Winters: Thanks for those great links!

Chris Welsh: My comment that SWT is a response to a problem that no longer exists was a reference to the primary reason that IBM created SWT - Swing performance used to be quite poor, so rather than work with it, the Eclipse people created their own GUI toolkit.  If I recall correctly, another big issue was preserving native L&F as much as possible.

Swing performance has improved  greatly since then (sorry, can't think of any hard benchmarks off the top of my head), so now the issue is not as pressing as it once was.  What this means in terms of future marketshare of SWT -vs- Swing, I'm not sure - but if I had to bet I would be inclined to put my money on Swing.

Burninator
Thursday, September 11, 2003

Do most developers use Eclipse on Windows or Linux?

Mm
Thursday, September 11, 2003

I use Eclipse on both platforms; on Linux (SuSE 8.0) at work, and on Windows (SE) at home. The Linux (Motif) version has a few problems, like no mouse wheel support and no printing. But regardless what OS it's running on, I find it increases my productivity enormously. One thing I found -- if running Eclipse on a Linux system where you can see Windows partitions on the same machine, it doesn't work too well to open a Linux Eclipse project using the files on the Win file system.

John Webber
Monday, September 15, 2003

Have you ever tried to edit a C file and then to resize the editing window? It turns to be so slow that you have to exit from eclipse or have a long break!!!

Ali Baba
Monday, March 08, 2004

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